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: Rising Leaders, Model Scientists, and more

Photo: Alba teaching a classroom lesson in Spanish. Credit: Emily Koller.

Rising Leader

This spring, Alba Estrada López, our RAY Fellow and Conservation Educator, accepted a second year of the RAY Fellowship working with us at Point Blue! Part of the Environmental Leadership Program, the RAY Fellowship focuses on increasing opportunities for people of color to learn about, engage with, and enter the environmental conservation sector through full-time staff positions and support from the Fellowship community.

Alba brings incredible insight and perspective to our team, and has already influenced our work in many ways. For the first time ever, our Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed (STRAW) program has led full class lessons and restoration days in Spanish, thanks to Alba. Additionally, Alba has developed new partnerships for STRAW in the Bay Area and beyond, is piloting a program aimed at uplifting the diversity found in community colleges to the environmental field, and is evolving our programs to be more culturally relevant and inclusive.

Please also join us in congratulating Alba for being recently selected as one of 15 Youth Outside 2019 Rising Leaders Fellows. The Rising Leaders Fellowship builds professional capacity while creating a supportive network of like-minded leaders through a project-based cohort series that focuses on social justice and equity in the outdoors.

Photo: Group shot of short course participants. Dr. Dybala is standing 5th from the right. Credit: Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

Model Scientist

Point Blue Principal Ecologist Dr. Kristen Dybala was selected as a participant in a 10-day “short course” on Bayesian modeling for socio-environmental data, funded by the National Science Foundation and hosted by the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Maryland. She worked with other ecology and social science researchers from around the world, learning about the theory and applications of Bayesian modeling, an approach that is well suited to combining multiple sources of data and uncertainty, and produces results that are more easily interpretable. The group worked on figuring out how to apply this modeling technique to a range of complex environmental problems, such as estimating the effects of soil carbon and fertilizer application on nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural fields, while also accounting for the variability and error in measuring soil carbon. At Point Blue, Kristy will apply her new knowledge to elevate the way we study the multiple benefits of restoration and estimate the probability of reaching conservation goals.

Photo: Partner Biologist Taylor Fridrich setting up a raptor perch with the landowner. Credit: Point Blue photo.

Helping the Birds, Bees, and Almonds

Through our collaborative partnership with the Xerces Society and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we recently designed and implemented a conservation plan for an organic almond farmer in Chowchilla, located in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The farmer we worked with was very enthusiastic about creating habitat for both the birds and the bees. Xerces Society Farm Bill Pollinator Conservation Planner Kathryn Prince supported the farmer in planning a hedgerow and wildflower strips along the edges of his orchard, and Point Blue Partner Biologist Taylor Fridrich helped him install raptor perches for biological control of small mammals. Kathyrn and Taylor are both Partner Biologists, which is a formal collaboration with the NRCS and their non-profit conservation affiliations. This is just one example of the ways our Partner Biologists are working with private landowners and other partners to enhance ecosystem health throughout California. Learn more about our Working Lands efforts here.

News Bites

Farallon Restoration Update. In a hearing with the Coastal Commission on July 10th, our partners at the US Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew their proposal to eradicate house mice on the Farallones to allow for more time to answer questions from commissioners. The Service plans to resubmit the application in the months ahead. Learn more about this issue in our recent blog post.

Tailing a Thrush. Read about our innovative songbird migration tracking work in the June 2019 San Francisco Estuary Partnership newsletter.

Soundscapes to Landscapes. Read a highlight from Occidental Arts and Ecology Center on our collaborative project to test a method to track bird diversity using community scientists and satellite data.

Ridgway’s Rails and Sea Level Rise. Point Blue is happy to have mention of our Future Marshes tool in a Bay Nature article featuring East Bay Regional Parks Naturalist, Susan Ramos. It’s about the Ridgway’s rail, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Federally and State Endangered marsh birds.

Science Events

Photo: Emma Railey. Credit: Courtesy of Emma Railey.

Doris Duke Scholar Presentation. In June we welcomed Emma Railey, Doris Duke Scholar and Senior at Cornell University, to Point Blue. The Doris Duke Scholar Program aims to increase the number of college students from underrepresented groups who are pursuing coursework and careers in conservation. Visit our Facebook page on Thursday, August 15th at 12:10 pm for a Facebook Live video of Emma’s capstone presentation.



Photo: 2018 Sand Sculpture Contest: Adult/Family Group Entry #03: Lollipop the Octopus, by Kassandra Semorile. Credit: National Park Service.

Annual Sand Sculpture Contest. Sunday, August 25, 2019 from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Join the Point Blue Marine Lab at the Point Reyes National Seashore’s 38th annual sand sculpture contest held at Drake’s Beach. We’ll have an educational table to accompany the event. More information here.





Photo: Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team. Credit: Point Blue BAT photo.

Save-the-date: 41st annual Rich Stallcup Bird-A-Thon. September 15 – October 15. Identify and record as many bird species as you can on one day in this time frame, either by sight or sound and have your friends, family, and community members sponsor you to benefit Point Blue Conservation Science. Get more information and register here.

Scientist Spotlight:

Tom Gardali, Pacific Coast and Central Valley Group Director

Originally from California’s Great Central Valley, Tom Gardali joined Point Blue as a volunteer at the Palomarin Field Station in 1993. Since then, he has worked on a wide array of Point Blue projects in his many roles, from the tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay to riparian forests along the Sacramento River to the elephant seal colonies on the Farallon Islands. In his current role as Pacific Coast and Central Valley Group Director, Tom manages teams who are doing the conservation science necessary to save birds and restore nature.

At the American Ornithological Society (AOS) meeting last month in Anchorage, Alaska, Tom’s dedication to conservation and contributions to the study of birds was recognized when he was named an AOS Fellow, a huge honor. Fellows are nominated based on their exceptional and sustained contributions to ornithology and/or service to American Ornithological Society and have included other ornithological rock stars such as Bette Loiselle, John Weins, Terry Root, and John Fitzpatrick.

We asked Tom what he’s most excited about pursuing next in his role as a conservation leader:

“Because biodiversity is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, I want to make sure that birds are a focus of local- to global conservation efforts and that Point Blue is providing the science that shows the benefits of bird conservation.”