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: Winter Science and the UN’s Declaration

The UN’s 2021 Resolution: More Restoration!

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration starts this year! Point Blue is excited to use our decades of restoration experience to contribute to this global effort. Habitat restoration is one of the major solutions to wildlife declines, the climate crisis, and human health challenges. In recent years, we’ve upped our restoration game with a climate-smart framework which helps make restoration projects resilient to climate change. The amount of work needed to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide requires a unifying thread of partnership and shared hope. That’s why we’re excited to be part of the UN’s global rallying call to connect with more restoration partners, and invite more people to be involved. One exciting step in this direction is our recent joining of the World Resources Institute-coordinated Initiative 20×20 as a technical partner. Initiative 20×20 is a country-led effort seeking to change the dynamics of land degradation in Latin America and the Caribbean by beginning to protect and restore 20 million hectares of forests, farms, pasture, and other landscapes. Read more about the UN’s exciting declaration on their website and more on our perspective in a recent op-ed in Cal Matters co-written by our CEO Manuel Oliva and our long-time partner Julie Rentner of River Partners.
Photo: STRAW Restoration at Shollenberger Park, Petaluma. Credit: Lishka Arata/Point Blue.

During Drought, Coastal Wetlands Matter

During their seasonal migrations, shorebirds, which rely on both interior freshwater and coastal saltwater wetland habitats, must respond to climatic cycles, including multi-year drought. In the Central Valley of California, drought poses a critical threat to shorebirds because competition with people for fresh water is on the rise, and climate change will likely cause future droughts to be more frequent and last longer. Coastal wetlands, which are less impacted by drought because of reliable saltwater influence, may serve as refugia for shorebirds displaced by drought. In a recent publication led by Point Blue’s Blake Barbaree, our science showed that bird abundance declined in interior habitats but was relatively stable or increased in coastal wetlands. We conclude that the management of both interior and coastal wetlands must consider drought response plans to effectively conserve populations of migratory shorebirds in central California.
Photo: Sears Point wetland. Credit: Leia Giambastiani/Point Blue.

Amphibians and Insects and E-Seals, Oh My!

It’s winter on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and that means that our new crew of biologists are tracking some very unique island fauna 30 miles west of San Francisco. Point Blue biologists began monitoring Farallon Islands wildlife in 1968 in partnership with the Refuge’s manager, the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We’re now entering our 49th year of monitoring elephant seal breeding populations, our 15th year of tracking the island’s population of Arboreal Salamander, and our 9th year of documenting the life and times of the endemic Farallon Cave Cricket. So, what are we seeing? Since the 1972 Northern Elephant Seal recolonization of the island following their near-extinction, their breeding population exploded to over 300 females in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then, several factors have caused their population on the island to decrease again, including the increased frequency of large winter storm events causing erosion of the breeding habitat. Salamander populations appear to be stable, but we see fluctuations throughout the year tied to weather. As far as we can tell so so far, cricket populations are stable year-to-year. Our continued monitoring documents and illuminates the causes of these fluctuations. Subscribe to our Los Farallones blog to get the latest on the seasonal activity, scientific findings, and in-the-field observations on the Refuge.
Photo: Baby elephant seal on Southeast Farallon Island. Credit: Point Blue.

News Bites

Coastal Solutions Fellows. We’re excited to be on the Advisory Board for a new program supporting early-career planners, developers, and scientists from Latin America to collaboratively design and implement new solutions to tackle current challenges facing coastal ecosystems and communities. Learn more on the Coastal Solutions website.

Farmers and Conservationists Working Together. In case you missed it, read about how our science and partnership is helping to support waterbirds in California’s Central Valley adapt to climate change now and into the future in this Inside Climate News article.

Why Didn’t We Have Crab This Past Holiday Season? Read a highlight from early December in the Point Reyes Light where Point Blue’s Jaime Jahncke explained what was happening behind the scenes with California’s crab fishery.

Pause for Plovers. Learn about how the pandemic-induced human behavior change affected our feathered beachgoers’ last nesting season in this Bay Nature article.

Attention all soil nerds! Check out a new video featuring three of Point Blue’s scientists talking about the results they’ve seen from compost applications and seeding practices on three California ranches.


Visit our Events page for more and links to RSVP and participate in all of the events listed below.

In the Field Live: Riparian Bird Studies. Facebook Live or our website. Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 9-9:45am. Come into the field with us at a new location! We invite you to join us virtually at our riparian study site on Pine Gulch Creek on the edge of Bolinas Lagoon. RSVP on our events page or watch the livestream on our Keystone Datasets web page.

Live from the Lab: California Sea Lion Diet. Facebook Live or our website. Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 11-11:40am. Poop….again?! You betcha. Only this time, from a mammal; specifically the California sea lion! Here in the marine lab we receive California sea lion fecal samples from the population that resides on the Farallon Islands. RSVP on our events page or watch the livestream on our Oceans web page.

Live from the Lab: 2020 Wrap and Trivia. Facebook Live or our website. Tuesday, March 9th, 2021, 11-11:40am. For our 7th and final livestream with Olivia and Rebecca as our hosts we wanted to do a little 2020 wrap up and fill you in on some of the data results from this past year! RSVP on our events page or watch the livestream on our Oceans web page.

In the Field Live: Transitioning to Spring. Facebook Live or our website. Thursday, March 18, 2021, 9-9:45am. Spring into the beginning of the breeding season with us at our second visit to Point Blue’s Pine Gulch Creek study site. RSVP on our events page or watch the livestream on our Keystone Datasets web page.

In the Field Live: Breeding Birds and Spring Migrants. Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 8:30-9:15am. Join us for this In the Field Live episode to chat about which migrants are showing up for the spring and summer and discover the wonderful world of breeding characteristics up close. RSVP on our events page or watch the livestream on our Keystone Datasets web page.