San Francisco Bay is a bountiful haven for wildlife. Walking along the bayshore can reveal coverts of coots paddling along lagoons and shallow bays, perhaps joined by a raft or paddlingof different duck species. Walk along any of San Francisco Bay’s many marshes, and you could find herdsof curlews and flingsof dunlin probing through mudflats at low tide in search of a consortiumof crabs. You may stumble upon a sedgeof bitterns or herons slinking through the rushes, tules (and yes, sedges) of the Bay’s wetlands in search of a hoodof snails to eat. You may even pass a charmof finches or a hostof sparrows on your walk along the trail. Perhaps a scurry of squirrels will scurryacross your path on your wildlife safari? If you’re really lucky, you may even see a congregationof plovers, like the threatened Snowy Plover, amongst the salt flats.
Further out into the Bay, pods of seals, dolphins and whales feast on the schoolsand shoalsof fish lurking under the bays waters. Along the shoreline there may even be a rompof otters chowing down on bedsof oysters or herdsof sea urchins.
A glance upwards to the sky reveals ever more wildlife. A trip over the San Mateo or Dunbarton Bridge provides a perfect viewing spot for a podof pelicans, and you can often find flightsof cormorants perched on electrical towers.
As the temperature rises in the afternoon you may find a kettleor castof hawks catching the warm updrafts in search of prey. Or perhaps you’ll stumble upon a wakeor committeeof vultures feeding on carrion? You’ve likely seen skeinsof Canada Geese flying overhead on their migration north; if not a gaggleof them can often be found roaming our parks and soccer fields.
Even the urban bay reveals plentiful wildlife. Our cities are havens for squabblesof seagulls, mischiefsof rats, or kitsof pigeons. It’s not uncommon to find an unkindnessof ravens or a murderof crows either. Perhaps you’ve even seen a glitteringof hummingbirds visiting your bird feeder?
Jeff loves the sense of purpose Save The Bay programs provides his classes as they connect with local wetlands. “There’s always a goal for each day – mulch this section, remove this invasive plant.” Jeff says the hands-on activities truly stick. “I’m always thrilled at how much they remember trip to trip – details about estuaries and watersheds.”
Trash is just one topic his students mull over long after they’ve helped clean up the shoreline. “When they see that a lot of that is food wrappers from sewers – it stays with them. Plus, I can take that and go off on a tangent about harmful plastic!”
Jeff, meanwhile, is planning a trip somewhere tropical. “My wife just got her scuba diving certification, so I want to take her somewhere warm for her first dive!”
We’re wishing Jeff, his wife, and our caring community a safe and happy New Year.
P.S. Save The Bay and Alaska Airlines have teamed up to make your vacation dreams a reality this holiday season. When you donate at least $250*, you’ll be automatically entered into a drawing to win fourround-trip airline tickets to anywhere they fly! Your generous support will help us meet our $100,000 goal and protect the Bay we love. Thank you.
From the ancient Egyptians to the Ohlone living here in the Bay Area, many cultures experience winter as a powerful time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. The season officially begins Thursday, December 21st – with a solstice! The term translates to “sun stands still,” as the sun appears to pause in its incremental journey across the sky.
Save The Bay decided to mark this changing of the seasons by planting seedlings with some of our most dedicated volunteers and donors. Through their labor and their generosity, this diverse community had already given richly to support our programs. But on last Saturday’s Solstice on the Shoreline event, they dug right into soil to help out even more. Former board members joined avid gardeners and corporate partners to put on gloves, pick up trowels, and protect our Bay.
Along the way, Donna Ball and Kenneth Rangel of our Restoration team explained how our staff cleans seeds and sanitizes soil using somewhat simple tools. They made clear these tasks can be both intricate and time-consuming without advanced technology. However, as we build the support necessary to cover this equipment, Save The Bay staffers remain plenty resourceful in their push to create habitat.
Meanwhile, high winds and incredibly hard ground never phased our passionate participants last weekend. Our restoration staff used an auger – a drill bit that can create holes in the ground – to start each of our planting spots. Then, our lively group got to work (sometimes wielding pickaxes!). In the end, we carved a warm bed to lay the young seedlings.
Building community to share Save The Bay’s story is a key part of my role as Events & Outreach Manager. I’m thrilled that the events I design and host can genuinely boost the health of San Francisco Bay. Witnessing that “A-ha” moment on a volunteer’s face as they begin to understand their own role in protecting our Bay is incredibly rewarding. After all, my own positive experiences as a student and educator are a major source of inspiration as I work to connect – and expand – Save The Bay’s community.
Save The Bay is a resource for learning, scientific exploration, rejuvenation, and above all, making memories. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe in the Bay air, take a calming walk along its shores and rejuvenate your soul. We are ready to start building a year’s worth of amazing events and gatherings for 2018. I look forward to seeing you at Blue, our Bay Brunch Cruise on Earth Day (April 22, 2018), and Bay Day, our region-wide celebration for San Francisco Bay, on October 6, 2018.
You and your family can also join one of our public programs for free throughout the year. Save The Bay relies on thousands of volunteers annually to make progress on our many wetland restoration projects. Check our calendar often as spaces fill quickly. We can also create dedicated private restoration events for your group or company. Contact Jack Wolfink at email@example.com to learn more.
I have loved salt marshes ever since I first stepped into one during a college wetlands class in Washington. I breathed in earthy scents. I felt mud squish beneath my boots. I watched birds fly low over the water. Now, the Bay wetlands nourish my spirit, and I am truly grateful they are the place I call home.
As the Habitat Restoration Director at Save The Bay, I am proud that my work leading volunteer and education programs can directly benefit nearby wildlife. Our efforts provide critical habitat for endangered species like the salt marsh harvest mouse. But we never lose sight of the big picture.
Recently, we collaborated with other scientists on the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project – an innovative levee that mimics wetland habitats. Our expert restoration team joined more than 5,000Save The Bay volunteers to construct the site’s giant outdoor nursery and plant more than 70,000 native seedlings.
The potential benefits are profound, since wetland marshes act like sponges, soaking up water as it rises. If replicated, this horizontal levee model could provide extensive flood protection and create thousands of acres of habitat around San Francisco Bay.
Right now, our Bay faces a triple threat of pollution, sea-level rise and habitat loss. Scientists estimate it needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to be healthy and sustainable. Today, only 40,000 acres exist.
San Francisco Bay is home to more than 7 million people and is the largest, most valuable estuary on the West Coast. Facebook’s headquarters is located right on the Bay’s beautiful shoreline, and the company has shown its commitment to protecting local habitat and ecosystems —from the innovative 9-acre green roof at its Menlo Park campus to its broader efforts in the Bay Area.
By sponsoring Bay Day 2017, Facebook is helping people all around the Bay celebrate its iconic role in our community, and inspiring us all to better protect this shared natural wonder. Bay Dayis San Francisco Bay’s new regional Earth Day. This Bay Day – Saturday, October 7th – is an opportunity to inspire positive environmental actions by connecting communities with immersive, Bay-themed educational and recreational activities.
At Save The Bay, Facebook’s platforms are vital to everything we do, from spreading the word about the Bay-spanning events this Bay Day to engaging citizens with our vision of a clean and healthy Bay.
This Saturday, October 7th, Facebook’s sponsorship is supporting volunteer restoration events in Redwood City and Palo Alto, and a total of 70 community events around the Bay. And for people and families who can’t make it to one of these public celebrations – Facebook helped us launch My Bay Day Adventure Guide, an interactive, online guide to experience Bay Day from your mobile device. I love how the My Bay Day experience helps people to discover the Bay in a new way, through each of our senses, and hope you and your family enjoy it too.
Save The Bay is proud of our partnership with Facebook, and we are grateful for all the company does to protect San Francisco Bay and the communities that call the area home. Together, we can ensure a healthy and resilient Bay for generations to come.
Bay Area residents have united in recent decades to protect the natural places we love and embrace the human diversity that makes our region vibrant. Save The Bay’s achievements prove the power of many different voices joining in common cause. Now acts of hatred and rallies for intolerance show that unity is needed more than ever.
Not long ago, we drove wildlife to extinction by damming rivers, cutting down forests, tearing down hillsides for minerals, and almost filling in San Francisco Bay.
Yet we united to save majestic redwoods, scenic shorelines, eagles, elephant seals, and sea otters. Just last year more than 70 percent of Bay Area voters chose to tax ourselves to restore more of San Francisco Bay. Natural open space has made us healthier and richer, and our healthier Bay is central to our quality of life and economy.
Not long ago, we exterminated native tribes, locked neighbors in internment camps, redlined neighborhoods, and outlawed interracial marriages. Yet we grew to embrace people from many cultures and beliefs to build a region of innovation, creativity, and collaboration that others seek to emulate. Less than a decade after San Francisco declared couples of any gender may marry, it’s now legal throughout the U.S. Our tolerance makes us stronger, and there is beauty in our variety.
We still face big hurdles to create an equitable and just society in the Bay Area. We can tackle climate change, pollution, growing inequality and continuing discrimination if we continue to stand united, embracing our diversity. Hate and violence won’t take us to that better place.
Let the Bay Area and all of California be a model to the rest of the nation. Let’s show that together we can overcome the tough challenges before us by putting care, kindness, and love first. When we do that, we can build a healthier Bay and Bay Area for all the people and wildlife that call this place home.
Sunny skies greeted hundreds of Facebook interns as they poured onto the pathway leading to the three-acre restoration site at Bair Island. More than 350 enthusiastic volunteers were met by equally delighted restoration scientists and fellows from Save The Bay, ready to start the day.
In our second year hosting Facebook’s interns on the shoreline, we made history completing our biggest program ever. In just one day at Bair Island, volunteers accomplished what it would take one of our restoration team members more than 100 days to do!
Once a thriving tidal marsh, the 3,000-acre Bair Island was drained in the 1800s and later transformed into salt evaporation ponds. It was rescued from development in the 1980s by a group of concerned citizens, Friends of Redwood City. Bair Island is now home to over 150 species of birds and wildlife and is protected as part of the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge.
A long-running rehabilitation process has been underway to restore Bair Island. Save The Bay’s project is a part of a regional effort to restore Bair Island, including restoration partners the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, among others.
Yesterday, volunteers worked on Inner Bair Island to help us prepare the site for planting by removing 3360 lbs of invasive Stinkwort and Wild Mustard. With generous support from the Bently Foundation, this three-acre site will be the future location of a leading-edge pilot project to accelerate native plant establishment in the transition zone. Our work will increase habitat for fish and wildlife, improve water quality, and contribute to crucial flood protection for local communities facing increasing risk from sea level rise.
Building community and bringing people closer together is at the core of Facebook’s mission, and a strong synergy with Save The Bay’s mission to connect people to San Francisco Bay and the Bay Area’s sustainable future. Yesterday, 350+ interns were able to connect to each other and their environment, giving them a brand new view of the Bay only minutes away from Facebook’s campus.
Yesterday at Bair Island was a highlight of a growing partnership. We are also thrilled to announce Facebook’s lead partnership in Bay Day 2017, our Earth Day for the Bay.
Volunteers are a huge part of achieving our restoration goals and working towards a climate-resilient Bay. With wind in their hair, 700 hands in the dirt, and 100 days of work achieved in one day, Facebook interns made critical progress towards a healthier Bay. Thank you Facebook for bringing your energy and muscle to help restore Bair Island!
While Save The Bay is known primarily for policy and advocacy work, our restoration and education programs have grown immensely in the past twenty years. In addition to restoring the Bay’s wetland ecosystem by planting transition zone species, we also grow all of the plants ourselves in our native plant nurseries at the MLK Jr. Shoreline in Oakland and the Palo Alto Baylands in the Peninsula.
When I first joined the team as the Nursery and Habitat Restoration Fellow at the beginning of 2017, I knew planting native species and teaching students about Bay ecology would be a large part of my job. But, I never thought I’d learn as much as I did about plant disease.
One of the biggest threats native plant nurseries face today is the spread of plant pathogens, partially as a result of increased global trade and transportation. Right now in the Bay Area, the invasive pathogen that is on everyone’s radar is a genus called Phytophthora.
There are currently over 150 different documented species of Phytophthora worldwide, some of which are lethal to many native plant communities in our state. This water mold, or oomycete, causes a plant’s roots to rot which kills the entire organism.
One well-known example is Phytophthoraramorum, or more commonly referred to as Sudden Oak Death, has killed over three million oak trees in California. Another more recently identified species is Phytophthora tentaculata, which was first spotted in California in 2012 on a sticky monkey-flower (Diplacus aurantiacus). Although more research needs to be done, researchers don’t know all of the plants that P. tentaculata can live on, it is highly likely that many California native plants can act as its host.
Unfortunately, the cost of eradicating Phytophthora once it has spread into wildlands is very high and the process is extremely difficult. But, if left untreated and uncontrolled, Phytophthora activity could increase and cause even more harm to native plant communities throughout California. In other words, transmitting Phytophthora to a restoration site would be a worst case scenario. That’s why prevention is key.
In addition to following a set of best management practices recommended by plant pathologists, Save The Bay is now leading a movement to tackle Phytophthora prevention head-on, using innovative and scientific techniques including:
reconfiguring our nurseries and updating porous surfaces so everything can be sanitized
requiring all nursery visitors to spray the bottoms of their shoes with an isopropyl alcohol solution to avoid tracking in contaminated dirt
mobilizing volunteers to help clean the pots used to grow and transplant our native species during community restoration events.
To further reduce the risk of plant-killing pathogens from invading our nurseries, we searched for a clean, uncontaminated soil source to use (ideally before the start of the 2017 planting season). During our search, we quickly realized that a Phytophthora-free soil currently doesn’t exist in the market. So, we decided to start making our own!
Together alongside Save The Bay’s Nursery Manager Jessie Olson, we worked together to invent a solution that would allow us to heat large quantities of moist soil at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes with steam — an environment that would kill any present water mold.
Using a design pioneered by The Watershed Nursery as a guideline, we rigged together parts from a propane barbecue, steel trash can, and other heavy duty materials to create a soil treatment system. You know the cooling process is complete when you smell that fresh and organic compost smell!
Constructing a closed heat treatment system like this, let alone three, is a huge milestone that many nurseries in the region have not yet reached. Although it required some trial and error to assemble and operate (who knew you could cut copper pipe with a PVC pipe cutter?), this was an exciting cutting-edge project for me to be part of.
Best of all, starting this season we will be able to propagate all of our new seedlings in our clean soil! Or put another way, in laymen terms, Save The Bay now has the cleanest dirt in the Bay Area!
Carrizo Plain National Monument! Anza Borrego Desert State Park! Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State National Reserve! Even a Nursery Manager can lose hours in envy, glazing over thousands of seasonal wildflower photos shared on social media. Without the time or means, it can be easy to feel FOMO (fear of missing out) during this extraordinary drought-free year, but our Bay is also home to numerous show-stopping wildflower species that are benefiting from the rain as well.
At Save The Bay’s nurseries, we grow several native species whose flowers are worth seeking out on your exploratory hikes around the Bay. Here are some of my favorite native Bay flowers that are in full bloom now:
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
Eye-catching and charismatic, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) is found in various plant communities all over California. This blue to purple-flowered perennial is yet another native species with a deceptive common name – it is actually not a grass, but is more closely related to the iris.
Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus)
In showy bloom all over our restoration sites is sticky monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), a native shrub species beloved by pollinators and human wildflower enthusiasts alike. Though I like to joke that their blooms are a shade of orange alarmingly close in color to Mac & Cheese, I always appreciate its joyful presence. Sticky monkey flower is extremely drought tolerant, but seems to be appreciating the deep-root watering it received this year. It’s also popular with local pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
California Melic Grass (Melica Californica)
Let us not forget the unassuming inflorescences of some of our native grass species – I know that I am not alone in my love for a remnant coastal prairie. My personal favorite is California melic grass (Melica californica) with its jewel-like, burgundy striped florets.
Purple Needle Grass (Stipa pulchra)
Another beloved species grown in Save The Bay’s nurseries is purple needle grass (Stipa pulchra). This common perennial bunchgrass is not only stunning when viewed in its native plant communities, but it was also crowned our official State grass in 2004. You can spot this grassland species at beautiful Bayfront parks like Coyote Hills Regional Park in Hayward and the Presidio Coastal Bluffs in San Francisco.
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
It wouldn’t be a wildflower report without a shout out to the ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – our state flower. The genus of this species was named after the German botanist Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz. I recommend spending a minute longer closely studying the poppy this year – it is a remarkably beautiful flower.
But wait, there’s more!
Early spring wildflowers aren’t the only celebrities of our restoration sites! Many species bloom in the summer and fall, providing color to the transition zone and a food source for our animal and insect neighbors during the drier months. I particularly look forward to the cotton candy tufts of our native buckwheat species (Eriogonium nudum and E. fasciculatum) throughout the summer in upland plant communities.
Last year we were also treated to a stunning floral display from marsh gumplant (Grindelia stricta). This deep yellow, sunflower relative can be seen in the tidal marsh and transition zone, lending cover for protected animal species during high tides.
Sign up for one of our restoration work events to see some of these species in their full glory. You can also catch them earlier in the restoration cycle by aiding our propagation efforts in the nursery in the next few months. We are entering into transplanting season for plants that will be outplanted next winter.
Allow me to bend your ear with an old Buddhist fable. There once was an old monastery with a garden out back. One day, the head monk heard an assortment of shouting coming from the garden. Upon inspection, the monk observed that all the squashes were fighting. The wise master asked them to calm down and touch the tops of their heads. The squashes were surprised to find vines attached to their tops. They all followed their vines back to one big plant. The squashes celebrated joyfully with the realization that they were part of the same interconnected family.
People, like the squashes in the beginning of the tale, often forget that they are connected to nature and each other. We repeatedly pollute and destroy natural environments that we perceive as unrelated. But scientists and ecologists have come to understand the connectivity of all living organisms and their related natural environments. The world is really just a bundle of overlapping ecosystems. To hurt one, is to hurt the other.
Ecopsychologists seek to understand why human behaviors continually damage the earth. If self-preservation is one of our most embedded natural instincts, then why would we consciously hurt ourselves? In other words, why are we constantly hurting natural environments that will in turn hurt people? Like the squashes, are we simply unaware that we are connected to nature?
To answer these questions, we’ll turn to the original ecologists—the Buddhists. Many in this tradition argue that our anthropocentric and self-centered mindsets create a lack of feeling and connection to the natural world, leading to the delusion of separation. This rift then creates a fragmented self, separate from other things. Conflicts then arise in this fragmented state, between the “self” and the “other.”
We all could use a tall glass of ecoliteracy
Chances are you probably won’t be able to find the word “Ecoliteracy” in the dictionary. Ecoliteracy is just a modern scrunching together of two words: Ecology—relations and interactions between organisms and their environments, and Literacy—the state of being literate. Ecoliteracy can plainly be defined as the ability to comprehend the many interrelated natural systems that maintain the earth. Educators in the field of ecoliteracy, aim to teach awareness and comprehension around ecological communities, emphasizing human behaviors and impacts. So how can we become ecoliterate?
Get ’em while their young
If children are like sponges, then adults are like faucets. Meaning—that while children absorb and learn at incredible rates, what they absorb is often determined by what we expose them to. David Orr, a distinguished environmental studies professor, suggests that our meager comprehension of ecosystems and sustainable practices, are the result of poor education, and that we particularly fail to teach young students about being a part of nature. As the digital age and growing urbanization of the world increases, children experience longer periods of isolation from natural environments. Author Richard Louv, credited with inspiring a worldwide movement in re-connecting children back to nature, describes today’s child as experiencing a kind of “nature deficit disorder.” The lack of natural exposure and experiences for children often negatively affects their individual growth and our overall society.
It’s not enough to just provide students with classroom lectures, books or computer programs—when teaching environmental relationships. They may learn intellectually, but lack a genuine connection to the natural environment. Young people need the experience of nature to feel connected to it. Research suggests, that teaching children about the environment at a young age leaves lasting influences that remain into adulthood. Children need this connection with nature to prosper mentally and physically, as individuals and as communities (Witt & Kimple, 2008).
The San Francisco Bay wetlands
It can be hard to find and connect to nature in cities and urban areas. Luckily, the San Francisco Bay Area is crammed with green spaces and places to experience wildlife. The Bay Wetlands are rich in biodiversity, teeming with wildlife and hundreds of plant species. By walking or biking the Bay Trail with family, kayaking along the SF Water Trail with friends, or even just having a picnic at McLaughlin East Shore Park, one can experience a variety of wildlife and local vegetation, not to mention impressionistic like sunsets and tranquil waters. The Bay Wetlands are considered the heart and lungs of the Bay, boasting over 400 native species.
So how can we get children to both learn about and experience the Bay Wetlands? The Bay currently needs 100,000 acres of tidal marsh to be considered healthy. Restoration efforts from organizations like Save The Bay, are currently maintaining 45,000 acres of healthy marsh, with plans for restoring another 30,000 acres. Save The Bay’s Restoration Education Programs are designed to get educators, middle and high school students out into nature. Our curriculum not only meets STEM requirements, but also provides students with the opportunity to get their hands dirty and restore the Bay Wetlands themselves. This immersive outdoor experience strengthens one’s connection to the environment, providing children with the enrichment they need to develop into healthy nature-loving adults.
Just a big kid yourself? Not to worry. Save The Bay also engages volunteers, schools and businesses in shoreline restoration and scientific monitoring. Whether you’re a large corporation looking for some team building exercises, or just a small family looking to support your local community, Save The Bay offers a variety of hands-on activities from planting to shoreline cleanup.
Unlike squashes, humans don’t have vines attached to the tops of their heads. Because we have trouble tracing our interconnectedness back to a source, we often accidentally hurt each other and the surrounding world. But, by becoming more ecoliterate and re-connecting back to nature, we begin to see our hidden vines, and discover our connection to each other and the beauty around us.