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: Iconic Species and Carbon Farming

STRAW to Assist in Carbon Farming in Marin

The Marin Resource Conservation District and Point Blue will be making a dent in reducing atmospheric carbon in Marin County thanks to a $1 million grant from the California Coastal Conservancy. The grant will support planting and fencing of riparian areas, restoration of oak woodlands, and other conservation practices on working ranches and farms over the next two years under the umbrella of “carbon farming,” an international effort to increase carbon sequestration on agricultural land. Our long-time partners at the Marin Resource Conservation District led this effort and will rely on Point Blue’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed program to implement climate-smart, community-based habitat restoration and other carbon sequestering actions on eight western Marin County ranches. As this recent Marin Independent Journal article shares, the projects are expected to cut 250 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (the equivalent of 198 cars) per year.

Photo: STRAW 2019/2020 intern Sophie Noda checks on a dogwood plant at a riparian restoration site. Credit: Jessie Ditmore/Point Blue.

Saving Iconic California Oak Trees

Oak trees are iconic to many Californians. There are about 20 species native to California and they support a significant amount of wildlife habitat, ecosystem health, and human livelihood and culture. Many of our oak populations are struggling with the loss of stewardship from Indigenous tribes, habitat conversion, and, more recently, stress from climate change-driven drought. Part of the problem with dwindling oak tree populations is the loss of genetic diversity, a trait that aids in health and survival over time. The other challenge is that blue oak acorns, the seeds which hold genetic information, cannot be stored long-term in human-made seedbanks. A recent study led by Point Blue Ecologist Alissa Fogg shares an approach to preserving blue oak (Quercus douglasii) genetics. In our novel approach, we explored the possibility of creating a living genetic seed bank in the soil in areas where blue oak is likely to persist as the climate warms. Read more about the approach and encouraging initial results in our publication brief.

Photo: Hiker and their dog exploring California oak woodlands. Credit: Maddison Easley/Point Blue.

Two Nests are Better than One for Puffin Cousins

It takes a lot of energy for a bird to find a mate, select a good nest site, build a nest, lay and incubate eggs, and ultimately keep their chicks alive long enough to fledge the nest. All the while fending off predators and trying to find food for themselves and their chicks. That’s why a lot of birds, especially seabirds, only do it once per breeding season (in the northern hemisphere, the season is usually March through August). There is one special seabird though, the Cassin’s Auklet, that consistently does it twice. This is called ‘double brooding.’ Point Blue scientists have studied this relative of the puffin extensively on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge for over half a century. In a new publication led by Point Blue Senior Marine Ecologist Mike Johns, we learn how the unusual ability of this species to double-brood helps to increase population stability over time in the face of occasional climate-driven extreme ocean and weather events. This study provides new insights into which specific areas and times of the year our conservation efforts should focus in order to support species resilience.

Photo: Point Blue Farallones Biologists safely holding a Cassin’s Auklet while performing a nest check. Credit: Mike Johns/Point Blue.

News Bites

Penguin News. Antarctic Program Leader Annie Schmidt caught a breathtaking view of a penguin’s ecstatic vocalization during a solar eclipse! See it here. And, in case you missed it, lead author and Point Blue Research Associate Amélie Lescroël and team uncovered more of the mysterious underwater world of Adélie Penguins with new technology in a recent study, giving us a hopeful edge on understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change.

California Central Valley is Key. Learn how California’s Central Valley is vital to the goal of conserving and protecting 30% of the state’s lands by 2030 in this new interactive story map that Point Blue co-created with Audubon California and The Nature Conservancy.

Visioning for Hwy 37. The California Department of Transportation and its transportation agency partners in Marin, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties, along with the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, are preparing a Planning and Environmental Linkages Study for State Route 37 and would like your input! Point Blue scientists have provided and continue to provide technical guidance on this and related activities as it pertains to bayland restoration and sea level rise planning. Please add your voice and share widely. Find more info and opportunities to engage here.

Farallon Islands Restoration. We shared our excitement in a recent blog post about the California Coastal Commission’s December decision to support the USFWS’s preferred alternative plan to eradicate non-native invasive house mice from the island. Information about Point Blue’s role and the project overall can be found here.


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