Science for a Blue Planet

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

Science News: Guatemala, Spain, A Record Capture, and more

Photo: Participants at the December Migratory Shorebird Project workshop in Guatemala. Credit: Migratory Shorebird Project.

Building Capacity in Guatemala

We are excited to welcome Guatemala as the 13th and most recent country to join the Migratory Shorebird Project! Initiated in 2011, the Migratory Shorebird Project is the largest ongoing coordinated survey of wintering shorebirds on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, and is a cooperative effort of conservation science organizations and agencies led by Point Blue. Our overall goal is to conserve shorebirds and wetlands from Alaska to Chile by connecting communities, standardizing data, and applying science across the Americas.

In December of 2019 Point Blue sponsored and organized a Migratory Shorebird Project training in El Paredón, Guatemala. During the two and a half day workshop led by partners from Costa Rica and Colombia, 25 participants representing over five different organizations and agencies from across Guatemala, learned shorebird identification, counting techniques, and Migratory Shorebird Project protocols. Many of these trainees will participate in surveys across Guatemala this winter.

Read more in our recent blog post.

Working Lands Group Director Dr. Libby Pozig about to give her presentation at COP25.

Point Blue in Madrid

Point Blue brought our work to the global stage at the end of 2019 at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference, COP25, in Madrid. We attended as an official ”observer organization” and were among over 2,000 other non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations from around the world. We were represented by our CEO Mani Oliva, our Working Lands Group Director Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Porzig, and our Board Chair Geoffrey Gordon-Creed. Libby gave a well-received presentation on the work of STRAW, climate-smart restoration, the Migratory Shorebird Project, and protecting our shorelines at a session focused on biodiversity and climate adaptation in wetland ecosystems organized by Wetlands International. The gathering helped to energize those, like Point Blue and supporters like you, that are actively doing something about climate change now. In the words of our Board Chair Geoffrey Gordon-Creed, “We do exactly the kind of sound science needed to point the way to a safe climate future and healthy, thriving ecosystems. And our partnerships with farmers, ranchers, students, teachers, land managers, federal and state agencies, and many others show that we don’t need to wait for national climate policy to keep making progress.” Read more from our CEO in his blog post.

The oldest known Orange-crowned Warbler! Processed, photographed, and admired by Megan Elrod and Kathleen Grady

Record Capture at Palomarin

“How long do birds live?” This is one of the most common questions asked by visitors at our Palomarin Field Station in Bolinas, CA where the public can observe our scientists as they track bird populations through bird banding. Our science helps determine the answer to this question and others like it. On Tuesday, November 12th, 2019, an ordinary bird banding day at our Palomarin Field Station became extraordinary! Biologists Megan Elrod and Kathleen Grady captured, in Megan’s words, “the oldest known Orange-crowned Warbler in the universe!” It was first banded on September 5, 2008 as an unknown-aged bird, making it at least 11 years and 4 months old when re-captured in November. It is, in fact, the oldest known Orange-crowned and the second oldest-known North American warbler (there is a Louisiana Waterthrush that was reported at 11 years, 11 months old), per the US Bird Banding Lab website. It’s data discoveries like these that not only stoke our wonder and fascination, but also highlight the importance of long-term studies. Longevity (i.e., survivorship) of a bird is an important piece of the puzzle in determining the health of a population and its surrounding environment. It can add to our knowledge of what limits survival, which has conservation implications. Want to know more? Come visit our Palomarin Field Station, see bird banding in person, and chat with Megan or any of our other Point Blue staff and intern biologists that use banding to study birds and their environments. Learn how to visit or bring your class or group on the contact & visit us section of our website.

Photo: The Orange-crowned Warbler at Palomarin who is at least 11 years old. Credit: Megan Elrod/Point Blue.

An illustration from the guide of common fungus species found on rangelands.

Life Belowground Beautifully Portrayed

Dig in and nerd out on rangeland soils in this beautifully illustrated and accessibly written guide: Life Belowground on the Range, an introduction to the soil communities that support California’s Rangelands by Point Blue’s Chelsea Carey and Mel Preston. Read more about the guide in our recent blog post.

Photo: An illustration of fungus species found on rangelands. Credit: Mel Preston.

News Bites

Under Our Feet. Learn about the impact our biologists are having on private lands and see an example of the important relationships they form with landowners by viewing this six-minute video created by Point Blue Partner Biologist Luke Petersen.

Press for Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey. Get an insider’s view of our annual shorebird survey from this nicely written article in the Chinook Observer.

Life is a Flyway. Learn about the productive relationships we’ve formed with California Central Valley rice growers to ensure their fields are bird-friendly in this recent podcast episode from the California Rice Commission featuring Point Blue’s Kristin Sesser.

Communication is Key. Point Blue’s Chelsea Carey is co-author of this recent paper which argues that we should not let nuanced debate around the role soils can and should play in reversing climate change get in the way of acting now to rebuild soil carbon.


Soundscapes to Landscapes (S2L) Bird Blitzes. Join us on February 4th and/or 25th from 6-8pm at Point Blue’s Petaluma Headquarters. Be a citizen scientist and help identify bird sounds in recordings from across Sonoma County in an effort to ground truth satellite technology to assess bird diversity. No experience is necessary. Food and beverages provided. Soundscapes to Landscapes (S2L) is a science-based project that seeks to advance the monitoring of bird diversity across large areas using data from new Earth-observing sensors and advanced modeling. Learn more and how to RSVP in the latest S2L newsletter.

Photo: Recent Soundscapes to Landscapes Bird Blitz at Point Blue’s Petaluma Headquarters. Credit: Soundscapes to Landscapes.

Capture King Tide Wildlife Behaviour. King tides help us visualize what the future will look like and you can help Point Blue document how wildlife react. Take and submit photographs of wildlife reactions to King Tides on February 8th and 9th. Learn how to submit observations on the California King Tides Project website. China Camp, Gray’s Field, Rush Ranch, Santa Venetia, Point Pinole, Creekside Park, Muzzi Marsh, Bothin Marsh, Faber and Laumeister marshes, and Palo Alto Harbor are sites of particular interest. Learn more about our transition/flood zone and shorelines work.

Photo: Black Rail, Martinez Regional Shoreline, Martinez, CA. Credit: Julio Mulero, Flickr Commons.

Shollenberger STRAW Restorations. You now have the opportunity to see one of our habitat restorations unfold right outside of our Petaluma Headquarters. Our Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAW) Program has invited 600 students from 10 Petaluma schools to plant over 1,000 native plants in the marsh transition zone along the levee that stretches from our office to the Petaluma Slough. And that’s only this year! We’ll continue this work over the next three years. The restored area will provide shelter habitat for threatened species like the Ridway’s Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse as sea levels rise, along with a suite of other benefits. Read more in a recent Petaluma Argus Courier article. Stop by and check it out or get in touch if you are interested in a more in depth tour.

Photo: Petaluma elementary students planting native grasses at Shollenberger during a recent STRAW restoration day. Credit: Lishka Arata/Point Blue.

Visit the Palomarin Field Station. You can see science in action and wild birds up close all year long at our founding field station near Bolinas, CA. Find details in the “contact & visit us” section of our website.

Photo: Biologist measuring the wing of a Wilson’s Warbler at our Palomarin Field Station. Credit: Sam Snowden, former Palomarin intern.

Scientist Spotlight: Blake Barbaree, Avian Ecologist

Blake Barbaree came to Point Blue in 2012 as an Avian Ecologist to advance the conservation of shorebirds and their habitats. His current work focuses on research and monitoring of sandy beaches and wetlands, and leveraging partnerships into climate-smart conservation actions. During spring and summer, Blake can be found searching for nesting Snowy Plovers in Monterey Bay, and during the fall and winter he is usually working on science products and coordinating the Pacific Flyway Shorebird Survey as part of the Migratory Shorebird Project.

We asked Blake what draws him to working with shorebirds and what he thinks is the most important conservation action needed to save wetlands. Here’s what he said:

“I am continuously amazed by the resilience of nature, and I’m equally inspired by both land and water ecosystems. I’m drawn to work with migratory shorebirds because of how they traverse hundreds of miles over broad landscapes twice each year in search of wetland habitats at the intersection of land and water. Though shorebirds have survived and evolved over millennia, most species have declined over the past 50 years and many are still in decline. They need our help. The number one action required to save shorebirds is stopping the further destruction and degradation of their wetland habitats. Laws must also be enacted and enforced to ensure that freshwater is available to sustain inland wetlands, especially during drought. I’m happy to be in a position to do the science that can push these actions forward.”