One of the exciting aspects of my fellowship this summer has given me the opportunity to see the work supported by the California State Coastal Conservancy on the ground. Project monitoring not only gets me out of the office and away from a computer screen but has allowed me to travel to all 9 of the San Francisco Bay Area counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, and Marin), most which I had never visited before. Because of this, I’ve come to understand how large the Bay Area really is, with its many different landscapes and communities (and traffic).
I have been able to see wetland restoration at Bair Island, Eden Landing, and Sears Point, hike several Bay Area Ridge Trail and Bay Trail segments (including some summits), and visit various community-based restoration and enhancement efforts.
The State Coastal Conservancy’s mission is, “… to preserve, protect, and restore the resources of the California coast, ocean, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Our vision is of a beautiful, restored, and accessible coastline, ocean and San Francisco Bay Area.” (See more). To achieve this mission, the State Coastal Conservancy awards grants to partner organizations that carry out projects to achieve its goals. These projects include restoration, enhancement, and public access up and down the coast of California as well as the San Francisco Bay Area. Other Conservancy programs include the California Coastal Trail, Explore the Coast, and the Climate Ready Program.
One important aspect of Conservancy projects is monitoring. According to the Conservancy’s strategic plan, “Monitoring will be essential to provide indicators of stressors and to inform land managers of the need to alter management practices to increase resiliency.” (Find strategic plan here).
I specially have monitored various 20-year contract projects throughout the Bay Area. These projects are monitored every 5 years until their contract is up. I am essentially looking to see if the project improvements are still there and if the project is still meeting its intended goal. I take note of trash, graffiti, invasive species, erosion, public access, ADA accessibility, facilities, signage, and more depending on the specific nature of the project and determine if a follow-up site visit is necessary. Monitoring will become increasingly important as we enter a world of climate change. Ensuring that projects will still meet their intended goals as sea levels rise, extreme weather events occur, and more may be trickier and require changes in management practices or locations of facilities and access points. For example, current coastal access points may be one day inaccessible due to sea level rise. This underscores the importance of monitoring going forward and highlights the potential need for more rigorous monitoring for longer time frames in the face of climate change. Adaptive management is a key theme that comes to my mind for the future of the Bay Area projects — redefining what success is under future unpredictable climates will be essential in achieving a resilient San Francisco Bay Area.
Here are some photos from my project monitoring adventures!