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: Restoration Impact, Preparing for Sea Level Rise, and More

Creating Climate-Smart Ambassadors

Point Blue’s Isaiah Thalmayer leading a workshop session. Credit: Ryan DiGaudio/Point Blue.

Restoring degraded and damaged lands can be one of the most powerful methods to prepare for and combat climate change. And through our climate-smart restoration framework, we help practitioners incorporate anticipated climate change into their project planning. This fall we conducted three workshops for practitioners, landowners, and our own staff to help increase the scale of climate-smart restoration. In total, we trained over 50 people and over 95 percent of attendees reported that they would use the concepts and skills in their work. We’re grateful to the Resources Legacy Fund for supporting us to put on these workshops! You can find materials from the workshops on the Restoration page of our website in the “Guiding Restoration” section.

Transition Zone Guidance

Biologist, Kathleen Grady, surveying transition zone habitat. Credit: Megan Elrod/Point Blue.

The areas where San Francisco Bay’s tidal marshes meet grasslands, shrublands, and oak woodlands are called transition zones. This special zone is where many species, like the endangered California Ridgway’s Rail, take refuge when tides are high. These zones of refuge will become more and more important to marsh wildlife as sea levels rise. We’ve done extensive field-based science to identify what transition zone characteristics support higher numbers of birds and made that information— as well as a framework for assessing transition zones— available to restoration practitioners. For example, we found that taller plants benefit marsh birds and recommend choosing plants for restoration projects that grow 50 to 100 cm tall (1.5 to 3 ft). You can find the full list of recommendations and assessment framework on our website.

Water Conservation Leadership

California Central Valley wetland habitat. Credit: Ryan DiGaudio/Point Blue.

As everyone knows, fresh water is a crucial resource, especially in California. At Point Blue we’re using our scientific expertise to find water solutions that work for wildlife and people. This year, we’ve initiated new projects to integrate water for ecosystems into the implementation of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. In one example, we’ve led the development of a tool that estimates how much water is needed for managed wetlands for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other wildlife in the Central Valley. This tool will be used to justify wetland water needs in groundwater planning processes. As part of this planning, we’re also exploring opportunities to use groundwater recharge projects as a way to generate benefits for Central Valley wildlife. Our expertise in water and wildlife is appreciated by our partners; Point Blue was recently invited to serve on the Research Advisory Committee for the Department of Water Resources Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge Program. This committee will identify research priorities for developing groundwater recharge projects that provide other benefits, like providing wildlife habitat, improving water quality, and reducing flood risk.


Discover Alaska. Saturday, May 18th – Saturday, May 25th, 2019. Explore Alaska’s coastal wilderness with Point Blue scientists as guides aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion.

News Bites

Fifty and Fabulous. If you haven’t already, please take a look at our latest Quarterly newsletter, featuring the 50-year anniversary of our work on the Farallon Islands. See also a recent article in SF Weekly highlighting what it’s like to work and live on the island.

COP24. We were excited and proud that before she left to start her next chapter, Point Blue’s CEO, Ellie Cohen, represented us again this year at the annual United Nations climate change summit (UNFCCC’s @COP24) held this year in Katowice, Poland. Visit our Twitter feed to see Ellie’s tweets from the event and check out her blog entries as well.

Informing Fisheries Policies. Point Blue Senior Marine Ecologist, Dr. Cotton Rockwood, recently testified at a hearing of the California Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. He presented Point Blue’s innovative science quantifying the deadly impact to whale populations of collisions with cargo ships  and entanglement in crab fishing equipment.

Rising Tides. Point Blue’s Julian Wood and Dr. Nadav Nur are co-authors on a new paper showing that species tied to tidal salt marsh habitat are at great risk if their habitat can’t keep pace with sea level rise.

Small Patches, Big Role. Point Blue’s Dr. Sam Veloz is a co-author on a new paper published in the leading scientific journal PNAS that emphasizes the need to include areas with small habitat patches as part of our conservation portfolios rather than solely focusing on large areas of contiguous habitat.

Restoration on a Roll. Point Blue’s STRAW program has kicked off this year’s restoration season, completing 16 of 55 workdays to date. We plant in the rainy season to ensure new plantings can thrive. View some silly and not so silly student video blog reflections here, here, here, and here.

Scientist Spotlight: Dennis Jongsomjit, GIS Specialist

Dennis came to Point Blue from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles in 2001. He is a great example of how scientists at Point Blue continually strive to grow, learn, and make greater conservation impact. He started at our Palomarin Field Station as an intern learning how to find and monitor bird nests during their breeding season. In collaboration with others he then wrote the book on nestling aging methods to help bring to light this critical period in a birds life. He’s been a coauthor on several scientific publications and lead author on a forward-thinking paper on the impacts of both housing development and climate change on bird populations. For the last 11 years he’s worked as a GIS Specialist, helping to model and map out the future for birds and other wildlife with staff across the organization and partners. His desire to keep growing called him to our Antarctic research crew to study Adélie Penguins within the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Inspired by his experience in that vast, wild place and the potential it has to teach us about the effects of climate change and what we can do about it, he’s decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science working with Point Blue Board member and SF State Professor Dr. Ellen Hines. With a grant from NASA, he and others will look at the relationship between penguin migration, sea ice, climate change, and the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area using satellite data and the field data we’re collecting with partners at Cape Crozier and Cape Royds. Here’s what he said when we asked him what drives him to keep learning and growing as a scientist:

“From the beginning what has absolutely always driven me here at Point Blue are the people that I work with. Their knowledge and desire to learn is humbling, infectious, and has pushed me to grow as a scientist. Throughout my time here I’ve worked with different projects, have seen various problems and puzzles people are trying to solve, and have done my best to help contribute in any way I could. This has driven me to keep learning so I can contribute as productively as possible to the challenges that lie ahead. And working out in the field, being face to face with the wrentits, MacGillivray’s warblers, and Adélie penguins of the world has driven me to keep going, to be a voice for these beautiful creatures and our world.”