Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘California Delta’

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a large, and highly complicated place. With all the rivers and other waterways, all the history, all the endangered species and habitats, all the people, and all the threats on the horizon, it can be daunting for anyone to begin to learn about. Where to start?

Well, a Sea Grant Fellow working at the Delta Protection Commission has created a good answer to that question. Heidi Williams received a fellowship from an organization called California Sea Grant to work in the area of science communication. She spent her one year fellowship at the Delta Protection Commission where she worked to create virtual tour of the Delta. This broad introduction to the the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is called “A Beginner’s Guide to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” The whole digital “Guide” can be found here, and it makes for a very interesting and well assembled read that includes an overview of many of the topics that make the Delta such a complex place to work and live. it also includes quite a few sources which allows for further reading and exploration.

Tule Elk

Tule Elk in Suisun Marsh (cover photo from the “Guide”)

Even thought it is called a beginner’s guide, I will guarantee that anyone who reads through all the materials that have been assembled in this “Guide” will learn something.

 

 

Read Full Post »

This is a link to a blog post I wrote for the UC Davis-USDA Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project website. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (the agency I work for) gets funding from the USDA to control Arundo infestations in the Delta.

Arundo (which I have written about previously here) is a highly invasive plant that causes bank destabilization, increased fire hazard, increased water use, and excludes native plants and animals. The Delta Conservancy has been coordinating with a the Sonoma Ecology Center and the USDA to apply treatments of herbicides and/or insects that are specific Arundo parasites to eliminate Arundo from as much of the Delta as possible. This work began last summer/fall at the Brannan Island State Recreation Area, as site that is owned by California State Parks and which has a lot of Arundo.

Read Full Post »

Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for just over two years, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations can submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals, in the fall of 2016 we received our second round of proposals, and we are currently reviewing our third round of proposals as I write this (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2018, and 2019). I am very involved in reviewing these proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements, two (-and-a-half) times. This is the exciting part because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for two of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals and all four from the 2016 batch. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. The most recent grant funded project to be signed is one called the Restoration of Priority Freshwater Wetlands for Endangered Species at the Cosumnes River Preserve Project. It will restore about 110 acres of high priority wetlands in the Horseshoe Lake unit of the Cosumnes River Preserve. The main focus is to remove water primrose from Horseshoe Lake and build up the banks of the lake to provide habitat for Giant Garter Snakes. It is the one I will focus on in this post.

The Restoration of Priority Freshwater Wetlands for Endangered Species at the Cosumnes River Preserve Project was proposed by a the Sacramento County Parks Department. The site of the project is an area in an area of the Cosumnes River Preserve just east of CA-99 and a little north of Galt, CA in Sacramento County. This area of the Preserve is close to one of the largest remaining populations of Giant Garter Snake, which is a federal and state listed endangered species. The project area also has a large egret, heron, and cormorant rookery, and also provides habitat for many other species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Prop 1-1608_Photos1

Project site in the Cosumnes River Preserve showing extensive growth of invasive Water Primrose.

The project will remove thousands of pounds an invasive, aquatic plant called Water Primrose (Ludwigia peploides) that is currently clogging the lake and surrounding waterways. By removing this vegetation, a large area of open water will be created that will improved the water quality and habitat quality of the lake. All the removed plant mass will be piled along parts of the lake sides. This will decompose and increase the elevation of these areas making them into uplands habitat that Giant Garter Snakes need for when they go dormant in winter. Some of these raised areas will also be planted with oak tree to increase the area of the rookery.

Over the next three years that the Delta Conservancy will be funding this project. It will be amazing to see this habitat come into being.

PrintThis project has a budget of $942,631 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

As of this writing, we are in the midst of our third cycle of proposals, and are discussing the fourth. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

Read Full Post »

IMG_20170829_091735[1]Along with about 125 other scientists, researchers, and managers, I spent most of last Tuesday attending the Delta Invasive Species Symposium hosted on the U.C. Davis campus and organized by the Delta Stewardship Council, U.C. Davis, and the Delta Interagency Invasive Species Coordination Team.

It was a very interesting symposium that included talks, posters, and a terrific panel discussion. Topics covered a wide range of invasive species ecology, invasive species management techniques and efforts, the effects of invasive species on natural communities and human society, and how invasive species are likely to be effected by climate change.

There are a huge number of invasive species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This list includes plants like Water Hyacinth and Giant Reed, vertebrates such as Northern Watersnake and Stripped Bass, invertebrates like Asian Gypsy Moth and Spotted Lanternfly, and many many others.

Dealing with the effects of these invasive species, and attempting to control their populations, costs millions of dollar every year.

Given these high costs, prevention is without doubt the best technique when dealing with invasive species. The costs of measures that are undertaken to prevent an invasive species from entering an area, the Delta for example, are certainly going to be less than the costs of controlling that species once it becomes established. Many efforts are being undertaken in the Delta to keep new invaders from entering. This is especially important because many invasive species are currently found near the Delta, that could become huge problems in they show enter the Delta system. Nutria are an example of this. The Nutria is a large rodent native to South America. A population was established in the southern Sierra in the hope of crating a source for furs, but the furs of Nutria did not catch on in the market place, and the effort was abandoned. The Nutria that had been released were hunted and almost completely exterminated in the 1960s, but small numbers have started showing up along the Merced and  San Joaquin Rivers. If those populations are allowed to grow and spread, they will cause massive damage to the Delta ecosystem because of the feeding habits of Nutria which can leave extensive tracts of wetlands denuded of vegetation.

The next best technique is early detection and rapid responses. If an invasive species is expanding its geographic range, having lots of observations of where it is occurring is immensely useful. Knowing exactly where, when, and how many individuals are out there can mean that, with a swift response, it may be possible to control their numbers. This is where the value of citizen science networks is particularly dramatic. There is no way that professional biologists will be able to cover a whole area at small enough detail and high enough frequency to realistically be able to watch for any and all invasive species. But with online databases and citizen scientists out in the field, there may be enough eyes to pick up on new invasive arrivals. Projects like eBird, Calflora, and others allow individuals to add their observations together to form an enormous and very thorough observation net.

One reason that tracking and responding to invasive species is so important is the effects that they have on native species. Competition with invasive species is the second most common reason for species to be placed on the Endangered Species List (behind habitat destruction), and invasive species interactions are a contributing factor for listing 1/3 of all listed species!

And it is only going to get worse. Global climate change is opening up large areas that used to be unlikely places for invasive species to get a foothold. Alaska is just such a place. Historically, places like Alaska had harsh enough environments that, generally speaking, only species that had evolved with those conditions did well. With the warming climate, these harsh conditions that have protected such areas are becoming less harsh. Elodea is an aquatic plant that is often considered an invasive due its rapid growth rates and its tendency to exclude other species from an area. Historically, it was not found in Alaska at all, but in the past few years has started to appear in parts of the state.

All in all, I learned a lot at the symposium. There are definitely a lot of threats and dangers posed by invasive species in the Delta and many more from invasive species that are not currently present should they enter the Delta ecosystem. But there is also so much that can and is being done by dedicated professionals in the field, and also by communities and citizen scientists who care about the natural ecosystems in which we all live.

Read Full Post »

Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for about a year and half, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations can submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals, and in the fall of 2016 we received our second round of proposals   (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements, twice. This is the exciting part because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for two of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals and three from the 2016 batch. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. The most recent grant funded project to be signed is one called the Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project, and it will restore about a mile of creek bank from the dry, open, barren ground that it is now to a healthy, vibrant, shaded native riparian corridor. It is the one I will focus on in this post.

The Three Creeks Parkway Restoration Project was proposed by a non-profit organization called American Rivers. The site of the project is an area in the city of Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County where Marsh Creek is joined by Sand Creek and Deer Creek (the three creeks referenced in the project name). This stretch of Marsh Creek runs through a pretty urban environment, and at the moment, there is very little growing there.

Prop 1-Y1-2015-019_Photo

Confluence of Marsh, Deer, and Sand Creeks in Brentwood, Contra Costa County. Photo courtesy of American Rivers.

The project will dig out the steep banks of the creek on both sides and reshape them into more gentle slopes with small floodplains on either side. This will help reduce the risk of flooding and also create a bunch of floodplain habitat that is a rare thing in the Delta. After reshaping the banks, the new contoured will be planted with hundreds of native trees, hundreds of native shrubs, and thousands of native understory plants. As these plants all grow, they will create habitat for birds and other wildlife, shade the water in the creek keeping it cooler and more hospitable for native fish, and create a lovely trail for people to use. This stretch of restored creek will also connect other parts of the creek that have already been restored and so make it easier for animals and plants to disperse up and down stream.

Over the next three years that the Delta Conservancy will be funding this project for, it will be amazing to see this habitat come into being.

PrintThis project has a budget of $836,409 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

As of this writing, we are getting ready to open our third round of proposals which will then require review and scoring. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

Read Full Post »

Several months ago, I was approached by a friend of a friend from grad school. He is working as an undergraduate adviser at U.C. Davis and had noticed a prominent gap in the thinking of the undergraduates he was advising.

Most of the undergraduates who are pursuing a degree in biology are doing so with a view towards entering the human health fields. Be it a doctor, sports medicine consultant, pharmacist, or other related field a majority of the undergrads getting biology degrees are aiming for working with human health. Some of these undergrads had looked far and wide at the various careers open to them and had picked on of these fields, but many said that they were not really aware of any non-human health related careers that one could get into with a biology degree. So, this adviser decided to do something about that. He has been interviewing professionals in biology related careers but that have nothing directly to do with human health, and that is where I came into his view.

He and I met at a site a little south of West Sacramento and talked about what my job is like, how I got into it, and what I would suggest other people think about if they were interested in doing something similar. The video of the interview has just gone live on YouTube, and this is the link. Overall, I am pretty happy with how the video came out. I really wanted to show that a job working with the natural world could be fun and rewarding and worth looking into, and I think I did that fairly well. After watching the video a couple of times, however, I have found that I am not fond of the sound of my own voice.

Thanks to the College of Biological Sciences for creating these videos and putting them out there so that others can get a better sense of the full range of possibilities that are included in biology.

Read Full Post »

 

Celebrate the 27th Annual Creek Week 2017

We Are Creeks

The 27th Annual Creek Week splashes off on April 21st with county-wide educational activities, creek tours, and an April 29th cleanup day and volunteer celebration.

The Sacramento Area Creeks Council invites you to participate in cleaning area creeks in conjunction with Creek Week 2017. The fun begins April 21st when Creek Week “splashes off” for a week of county-wide educational activities, creek tours, nature walks, and more! The “Big Day” is on April 29th when volunteers remove tons of trash and invasive plants, as well as conduct water monitoring along area creeks. Then they celebrate their accomplishments later that day at Carmichael Park.

It may seem like a small act of community service, but these local activities have large-scale environmental impacts. Habitat restoration and litter removal improves wildlife habitat and helps filter pollutants before they reach the river.

Also important to note, keeping trash out of streets and waterways helps prevent flooding during rain storms by allowing storm water to flow through unobstructed storm drains and creeks.

Be part of an area-wide volunteer effort to improve and enhance our urban waterways. Trash and invasive plant removal and water quality testing all help support a healthy creek system.

The annual Creek Week event, now in its 27th year, raises awareness about sources of water pollution, and gives participants of all ages and abilities an opportunity to have a great time and feel great about protecting our environment.

Visit http://www.creekweek.net to learn more about how to volunteer and for activity locations and times. Creek clean up locations include:

  • Citrus Heights
  • Carmichael & Arden-Arcade
  • Rio Linda
  • Natomas, North Sacramento, & North Highlands
  • South Sacramento County
  • Rancho Cordova
  • Antelope
  • Folsom
  • The Delta
  • Orangevale

Volunteers must register by Friday, April 28th at http://www.creekweek.net or call one of the numbers indicated on the web site. All volunteers must complete and sign a waiver form.

The Sacramento Area Creeks Council preserves, protects, restores and maintains the natural streams in our urban communities through education, advocacy, financial support and technical expertise. Our goal is to educate the general public on the aesthetic, recreational, educational, and ecological value of our urban creeks.

Connect on Facebook at #creekweek.sac

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »