By

Elyse DeFranco
About the author

Elyse writes about wildlife ecology and environmental science for Estuary. Her background as a wildlife biologist often leads her to stories about the joys of scientific discovery and the ways that people interact with, and about, the environment. She currently writes from a floating abode in the San Francisco Bay, where the neighbors occasionally nest on her roof. Some of her writing and photography can be found here.

Articles by Elyse DeFranco

Reconnecting Mill Creek to its Watershed

For thousands of years, Coho salmon and steelhead returned to spawn in the cold waters of Mill Creek, part of the San Vicente watershed in the mountains above Santa Cruz. This ended when a mining and logging company dammed the creek in the early 20th century. Now, an ambitious conservation initiative has succeeded in removing the dam, bringing people together across local land trusts, Native American groups, regional agencies, and researchers from multiple universities. Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah...
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Scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to predict how ecosystems will respond to sudden and rapid changes such as extreme droughts, wildfires, and flooding.

Writing in the June 2021 issue of San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science, a group led by environmental economist Richard Norgaard note that due to the increasing pace of ecological change associated with a warming world, models derived using past data are less able to provide reliable predictions, particularly as extreme events create conditions outside historic reference points. This has global implications for environmental management, but the authors—many of whom have served on the Delta Independent Science Board—center their focus on...
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Loss of wetland habitat in the Delta has reduced net primary productivity by 94%, but achieving current restoration goals could restore 12% of this loss.

In a new study published in the September 2021 issue of Science of The Total Environment, researchers modeled net primary production of the Delta under historical and contemporary conditions in order to project the potential benefits of restoration. The loss of net primary productivity—the amount of energy available to pass up the food chain—associated with human modification of the Delta since the early 19th century has reduced the energy available to support biodiversity and ecosystem services. Using the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Historical...
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Bay Trail Retreat at Bothin Marsh

The Bay Trail connecting Sausalito and Mill Valley is a bustling pathway where recreational bicyclists, bike commuters, and pedestrians all mix amidst the bayfront marsh scenery of the Bothin Marsh Open Space Preserve. Around thirty times per year, though, this scene looks dramatically different, as high tides flood the area with seawater, making the path impassable. Experts say this demonstrates how vulnerable the path and marsh are to sea-level rise, and an ambitious new project is underway to re-engineer the...
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