The day finally came when I had to say goodbye to all the good people at the Conservancy. I learned so much while there. It was a bit of a bittersweet moment because I’d like to think that I’d get a chance to work with everyone again in the future but you never know what life has in store for you. That’s worth a second of contemplation: I never know what life has in store for me. What I did know was that I would soon be headed down the One back to Monterey to finish up my studies. I really missed the serenity of the coast and just in case I had forgotten the wonders the ocean has to offer, there was a humpback blowing in the water close to the shore of Bean Hollow State Park if anyone cared to notice. I did notice as I stared off into the setting sun. I couldn’t help but notice; I had never seen a whale so close to the shore! And up until a year and a half ago, I had never seen a whale in California waters. What had I been doing all this time?
But on to Conservancy projects and last days. Most of my time this summer, was spent helping out the county of San Mateo with their Vulnerability Assessment for sea level rise. Consultants are hired to do the analysis, but since the Our Coast Our Future flood map had yet to input data on the southern coast of San Mateo County, I decided to offer the county a case study in this area. After a scope of the coast, I realized Pescadero Marsh had the greatest biodiversity. Not only is it contributing vital ecosystem services as a marshland, it is also home to a number of threatened and endangered species. I am so glad I got the chance to delve into the details of this magical wonderland. Pescadero, has pretty much been in my backyard for years and I had been oblivious to what it was that made it so special. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard a tale or two over the years but I had no idea what was in store.
I visited the spot a few times over the summer. First to wonder around the marsh. I got a better idea of the habitat of the steelhead, the California red-legged frog, the San Francisco garter snake and the tidewater goby: species I decided to include because of their connectivity and status. The steelhead is threatened throughout California, but in this particular area there have been a number of fish kills putting it at greater risk. Over 17 years, 14 years have seen fish kills. No one knows exactly why but it could have to do with late breaching of the sandbar causing anoxia or lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. The tidewater goby on the other hand, is sensitive to tidal waters, yet the mix of both tidal waters and fresh water is so important for adequate levels of dissolved oxygen and saline. Each species is susceptible to different levels. The snake preys on the frog and both require similar habitat which should have low saline levels.
There are so many stories to tell about Pescadero. Being a marsh it is nothing less than complex and one can devote their life to the intricacies that make it up. Indeed, there is a Pescadero Lagoon Science Panel that does just that. But if you don’t delve deeper, you should at least take a visit. The marsh is to the east of the One and to the west, the beach of course. See how many creatures you can spot in just one day!
My final day was actually spent in Pt. Richmond. The Conservancy is involved in the Invasive Spartina Project otherwise known as ISP. Spartina is native cordgrass, with similar powers that keep places like Pescadero in check. It helps with tidal flooding and is habitat to California’s endangered Clapper Rail. However, as the story goes cordgrass from the east coast was introduced to the Bay in the name of being helpful and havoc ensued. So much so, that today it is only possible to identify a native from an invasive through genetic testing as the two created a whole new breed. Learn more about it here: http://spartina.org/ . What happened on my last day was to go to the ‘native’ nursery where the native cordgrasses are growing and separate the plants so they would reproduce. Reproduction is exactly what you want to happen because the alternative is an unwelcome growth of invasives choking the Bay.
As expected the work was hard and muddy, but the folks that gathered from the Conservancy and the Project seemed to enjoy it. There was laughter and delicious cookies to share at the end of the morning.
I’ve loved every minute of this fellowship experience. There were so many other stories I didn’t get the chance to write about, but I hope I’ve opened the door for other Center for the Blue Economy Fellows in the future. There is always something happening with the Coastal Conservancy and so much to take away. Thank you all that were involved in my summer!