Switzer Fellows Continue to Lead on Bay-Delta Ecosystem Management
Last October a number of Fellows and colleagues convened at the 8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference in Sacramento, California. A primary objective of the conference was to enhance connections between the science and management communities of the Delta to ensure a two-way flow of information on Delta environmental issues. Fellows at the conference included Stuart Siegel, Katrina Schneider, Jessica Davenport, Caitlin Crain, and Andrea Shephard.
2005 Fellow Caitlin Crain, Marine Conservation Consultant:
California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem is fascinating. The Bay itself is the largest estuary on North America’s west coast, is home to a dependent and burgeoning human population, and is one of the most heavily degraded estuaries world wide (think loss of at least 85% of historic wetlands and the world’s most invaded estuary). And then there is the Delta. Once a vast inland tidal freshwater wetland system, the Delta lost 98% of its historical freshwater wetlands when waterways were diked to prevent flooding what has become the most productive agricultural lands in the U.S. and which have since subsided significantly below mean sea level (see A Delta Transformed by the San Francisco Estuary Institute).
Add to this fascinating ecological system vitally important and contentious freshwater wars (Governor Brown has proposed construction of two tunnels to divert water from the Delta and Bay to southern California) and historical droughts, rapid human population growth and multiple agency jurisdiction and the San Francicso Bay-Delta ecosystem is one of the most confounding and relevant human-ecological system of our time. The 8th biennial Bay Delta science conference brought together scientists and managers trying to crack this nut - communicating across landscapes (fresh to salt water), miles (the Sierras to the coast) and agencies (academic to state and nonprofit). It was an excellent opportunity to hear the state of knowledge and current efforts underway and learn about the immense challenges yet to overcome to sustainably protect this ecosystem into the future.
1997 Fellow Jessica Davenport, Program Manager at Delta Stewardship Council:
It was wonderful to see so many Switzer Fellows at the Bay Delta Science Conference this year! The conference lived up to its theme, “Making Connections.” As a Program Manager at the Delta Stewardship Council, my mission is to promote and track efforts to conserve and restore habitat while balancing the needs of flood protection, farming, recreation and tourism in the Delta, as well as the need for a reliable water supply for the large portion of the state that depends on the Delta and its watershed. I was very happy to find that several talks and sessions provided valuable information about how to move forward in my work. I was also pleased to see that scientists, managers, and consultants all seemed to be aware of each other’s work and how their piece contributed to a larger whole. There was a strong consensus about the need to continue weaving the web of connections among agencies and stakeholders, artists and scientists, tweeters and data architects.
Juliet Lamont, Fellowship reviewer for the Switzer Foundation; owner, Creekcats Environmental Partners; Lecturer, SF State University:
Environmental work can be daunting. Lots of battles, lots of obstacles, and right now, some very difficult political challenges. This conference was a breath of fresh air, and a chance to hope. I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area since the late 80s, and here we’ve made some incredible progress with respect to wetlands and watershed restoration, habitat enhancement, and water quality improvement. But continually counteracted by development pressures, climate change & drought, and trends like fisheries and bird collapse throughout the western states. This conference was about moving forward, bridging good science together with effective policy and programs, and building an integrated, Delta-wide approach to ecosystem restoration and water quality improvement. In this arena, if we plan and act in silos, or forget that the Delta and the SF Bay are one system - despite their differing ecological characteristics - we will lose a chance to ensure this larger ecosystem’s long-term health. And we will lose one of the critical, unique biological systems that exists this state, and in this country. I think this is why so many Switzer fellows are drawn to this effort; it is exactly the type of approach - and vision - that Switzer promotes and supports. And now we get to work on these problems together, using the skills and innovation and passion that led us to this field in the first place.