Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Point Blue is Wired in the Wild!

Modern technology is revolutionizing the ways we understand and protect the natural world. Whether monitoring elusive wildlife from space or taking a “microbe’s-eye view” on ranchland soil, Point Blue scientists are making novel use of technological advances to assess the health of our planet so that we can develop the most effective solutions to the toughest environmental challenges of our time.

Sequencing Microbial DNA to Help Sustain Working Lands

Ben Martin and Dr. Libby Porzig sampling soil. Photo by Wendell Gilgert/Point Blue.

Thanks to rapidly advancing biotechnologies, scientists like Senior Soil Ecologist Dr. Chelsea Carey are now using DNA sequencing to determine which microbes are present in soil samples from working lands. The results help Chelsea and her colleagues infer what ecological functions microbes perform in order to better assess the condition of ranchlands and make recommendations to improve their health.

Protecting Ocean Food Webs with Satellite Imagery

Point Blue Senior Scientist Dr. Leo Salas is using satellite technology to better understand the effects of climate change and commercial fishing on species like the Weddell seal, the southern-most breeding mammal in the world. As a top predator, Weddell seals play an important role in the Antarctic ecosystem. Their populations, however, may be severely impacted by ongoing commercial fisheries. Monitoring the seals through on-site counts is logistically challenging due to their distribution throughout inaccessible areas. With help from over 350,000 volunteer “community scientists” from around the world, Leo and his colleagues are now using high-resolution satellite images to count individual seals and more accurately estimate population numbers to track change over time.

Miniature GPS Tagging Contributes to Conservation

Golden-crowned Sparrow with GPS tag. Photo by Autumn Iverson.

Outfitting birds with tiny GPS data logging devices reveals detailed information such as where they migrate, forage, and breed. In collaboration with a UC Davis gGraduate student, our Palomarin Field Station team recently deployed GPS tags on wintering Golden-crowned Sparrows in Point Reyes National Seashore and in Davis to determine where they migrate when they leave these areas in the spring. When the birds return next winter, the recovered tags will provide precise migration and breeding locations of birds from each of these populations. And working with a San Jose State University student, our biologists on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge used GPS technology to track breeding Rhinoceros Auklets, identifying previously unknown habitat and illuminating the birds’ foraging habits. This information helps our scientists understand vulnerabilities due to climate change and other stressors, and identify areas that are potentially important for conservation.

Supporting Innovations that Make an Impact

We need your help for Point Blue to leverage these and many other dynamic technologies. Please consider a gift today to support our climate-smart conservation science! Together, we can secure a healthier future for our planet, and all who depend on it.