CNDDB News Blog

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  • 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
  • August 30, 2019

Can you believe September is practically here? Another summer season is slowly winding down and we appreciate everybody enduring the heat to capture these awesome photos! There were a lot of great Online Field Survey Form photo submissions this month making it hard to choose just two. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Burrowing owl in an open field

Athene cunicularia – burrowing owl

Submitted by Juan Hernandez, Hernandez Environmental Services

Juan discovered this pensive burrowing owl near the shore of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. Burrowing owls are a California Species of Special Concern known to nest underground in burrows that are often created by ground squirrels. They are site faithful and will return to the same burrow to nest every year. These charismatic owls suffered declines in population due to development and habitat reduction, but have been known to adapt to agricultural areas, especially in Imperial County. Thank you, Juan, for this incredible photo!

closeup of white maple-leaved checkerbloom flowers

Sidalcea malachroides – maple-leaved checkerbloom

Submitted by Veronica Yates, Mattole Restoration Council

This fascinating perennial, more commonly known as maple-leaved checkerbloom, was found along a cattle trail on the coastal bluffs in the King Range National Conservation Area. It is listed as a 4.2 (limited distribution in California) in the California Rare Plant Ranking system. Veronica's initial concern for the small population was that cattle activity along the trail may be harmful to the plants. However, S. malachroides has been shown to thrive in disturbed areas and is often found where logging has occurred. Regarding the cattle Veronica suggests, “perhaps their impact provides the plants space to exist.” The plant may sometimes be confused for others, but its flower helps it stand out. According to Veronica, “Had it not been for the elegantly unique white mallow flowers, I doubt we would have noticed it!” If you find yourself in the North or Central Coast regions from April to August, keep an eye out for this amazing flower. Thank you, Veronica, for all the hard work you do and the fantastic photos you send.

Do you have some great photos of rare plants or wildlife detections? Submit them along with your findings through our Online Field Survey Form and see if your photos get showcased!

Categories: Contributor Spotlight
  • August 26, 2019

Joseph Belli is a lifelong Californian currently living along Pacheco Pass in central California. He earned his MS in Conservation Biology from San Jose State University. He’s particularly drawn to at-risk species, and while his expertise lies with herps, he is also fascinated by mammals and birds. Since 2001, Joseph has contributed over 270 field survey forms to CNDDB.

Joseph is a self-described freelance wildlife biologist, working or volunteering on conservation projects that he finds meaningful. In the early 2000s he conducted a presence/absence survey for aquatic herptiles in Henry W. Coe State Park, which covered all the park’s ponds and streams from five watersheds. This study provided crucial baseline data for species of concern including California red-legged frogs, California tiger salamanders, western pond turtles, and foothill yellow-legged frogs, especially regarding breeding habitat. Other favorite projects have included an ongoing volunteer commitment to link opens in new windowthe condor program at Pinnacles National Park, and link opens in new windowthesis work monitoring western pond turtles in upper Coyote Creek, an intermittent stream in Santa Clara County (says Joseph, “Spoiler alert: turtles are way more mobile than you think!”).

Drawn to field work by an abundance of curiosity about the natural world, Joseph also appreciates doing something of importance for conservation and restoration, and the chance to see something new every day. To aspiring biologists, he advises: “Find a job that’s rewarding so that work doesn’t feel like work. Sometimes, higher-paying work or positions don’t satisfy the soul.”

CNDDB would like to thank Joseph for sharing his data with us, and for his dedication to preserving our state’s biodiversity. We encourage you to check out his book, The Diablo Diary, a collection of 25 natural history essays centered on the Diablo Range in central California. Find it at Santa Clara County libraries, ask your local bookseller, or search for it online.

Categories: Contributor Spotlight