CNDDB News Blog

CNDDB logo


Sign up to receive new posts by email.


    • September 23, 2019

    Creekside Science staff monitoring San Mateo thorn-mint
    Photo Credit: Christal Niederer. Caption: Creekside Science staff monitoring San Mateo thorn-mint.

    Field biologist Christal Niederer is proof that many paths lead to careers in conservation science. Christal’s first career and degree were in journalism. She recalls: “I was working in book publishing at a beautiful building that backed up to open space. Bobcats, deer, and brush rabbits would come right up to the window. I finally realized I wanted to be outside where they were! I made the switch and never regretted it.”

    Christal has worked at Bay Area-based environmental consulting firm Creekside Science since 2005. She helped the firm’s founder and chief scientist, Dr. Stuart Weiss, grow the business to where it soon supported full time staff. Creekside Science’s five scientists work on projects ranging from rare plant surveys to restoration. Bay checkerspot butterfly reintroduction and monitoring are key components of the firm's work.

    Currently, Christal is most proud of Creekside Science’s San Mateo thorn-mint (Acanthomintha duttonii) recovery project. “When I started working on this project in 2007, there was only one known location of this tiny annual forb, which dipped down to 249 individuals in 2008. It could have so easily blinked out, but with help from a huge host of partners (USFWS, CDFW, San Mateo County Parks, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Friends of Edgewood, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Yerba Bioadvocacy, and many others) there are now six extant locations, with about 25,000 wild individuals counted this year. I truly believe if nobody had taken this on, the plant would soon be extinct. Passive recruitment at some of my sites is really high and it’s just so exciting to watch these plants thrive in the right spot.”

    Christal contributes regularly to the CNDDB, especially in association with Creekside Science’s reintroduction projects. “It feels good to know you’re the current expert on a particular occurrence, especially if you’ve led a project to reestablish that taxon. Having your report change the occurrence from ‘presumed extirpated’ to ‘extant’ feels really good. I’m always amazed how much information is in the CNDDB when I need to look something up. We’re all so lucky to have this resource, and we need to take the time to keep it current.”

    Don’t wait—take time today to link opens in new windowsubmit your field data to CNDDB and help us keep this resource up-to-date!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • September 16, 2019

    left: western spadefoot adult; right: closeup of the back foot
    Left: Western spadefoot (Spea hammondii) adult; Right: The “spade” on its back foot.

    Today we explore the spadefoot an amorphously shaped creature with bulging eyes and catlike vertical pupils. California is home to three species of spadefoot toads: Couch's spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii), western spadefoot (Spea hammondii), and Great Basin spadefoot (Spea intermontana). Though commonly referred to as toads, spadefoots are not considered “true toads” since they lack parotoid glands behind their eyes. Spadefoots are named after the harden black "spade” on their back feet used for digging burrows in the soil. They typically spend most of their lives underground and emerge to breed in ponds.

    The CNDDB tracks two of the species, Couch’s and western, and both are a California species of special concern. Western spadefoots are found in the Central Valley and along the south coast. They frequently breed in temporary ponds, such as vernal pools, that are formed by winter rains. Couch’s spadefoot ranges in the desert throughout the southwestern United States and occur in the southeastern corner of California. They are triggered by summer monsoon rain events to emerge and breed in rain-filled pools. This species is adapted to extremely dry conditions, and tadpoles are known to metamorphose within 8 days in a race against evaporation!

    These squishy and soft friends protect themselves by secreting toxins that make them unpalatable to predators. There have been accounts that adult western spadefoot secretions smell like peanut butter, but don’t spread them on toast! Spadefoot secretions are known to cause eye irritation and runny noses in humans, so keep that in mind if you come across one. If it is a western spadefoot or Couch's spadefoot, be sure to share your findings with us through our Online Field Survey Form.

    Categories: Education and Awareness, Taxon of the week
    • September 9, 2019

    Number of Element Occurrences in Current Distribution: 93,733
    Number of New Element Occurrences Added Since Last Distribution: 233
    Number of Element Occurrences Updated Since Last Distribution: 220
    Number of Source Documents Added: 1,363

    Taxa we've been working on:


    • Caulanthus californicus (California jewelflower)
    • Ceanothus cyaneus (Lakeside ceanothus)
    • Ceanothus impressus var. impressus (Santa Barbara ceanothus)
    • Chlorogalum purpureum var. reductum (Camatta Canyon amole)
    • Clarkia jolonensis (Jolon clarkia)
    • Eremalche parryi ssp. kernensis (Kern mallow)
    • Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii (San Diego button-celery)
    • Isocoma menziesii var. decumbens (decumbent goldenbush)
    • Monardella stoneana (Jennifer's monardella)
    • Monolopia congdonii (San Joaquin woollythreads)
    • Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei (Bakersfield cactus)
    • Piperia candida (white-flowered rein orchid)
    • Sidalcea keckii (Keck’s checkerbloom)
    • Sidalcea malviflora ssp. patula (Siskiyou checkerbloom)


    • Ambystoma californiense (California tiger salamander)
    • Callophrys mossii marinensis (Marin elfin butterfly)
    • Erethizon dorsatum (porcupine)
    • Gambelia sila (blunt-nosed leopard lizard)
    • Pandion haliaetus (osprey)
    • Polioptila californica californica (coastal California gnatcatcher)
    • Prosopium williamsoni (mountain whitefish)
    • Rana boylii (foothill yellow-legged frog)
    • Rana draytonii (red-legged frog)
    • Spea hammondii (western spadefoot)

    Categories: Monthly Updates