Science Spotlight

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  • July 3, 2020

CDFW is a department with about 1,200 employees in scientific classifications, spread from Yreka in the north to Blythe in the southeast. Their expertise spans a broad spectrum of subjects – wildlife management, fisheries management, marine issues, habitat conservation and restoration, veterinary science, pathology, genetics, invasive species and so much more.

Coordinating the efforts of a department with such a wide range of specialties is no small task. But back in 2006, CDFW released its Strategic Initiative, which laid the groundwork to do just that. The document outlined the strategies and actions that the department should take in order to increase its effectiveness across the board. One specific goal was to expand the department’s scientific capacity – to establish best standards and practices, to improve access to scientific literature, and heighten visibility and awareness of scientific efforts.

CDFW Science Institute was launched in May 2012 as the means to accomplish those goals. Initially, it was led by a team of dedicated scientist that put the Science Institute on the map with a public website, a scientific lecture series, science symposium, policy and guidance documents on scientific practice, and ultimately hiring a Science Institute Lead in 2018. Since then, the Institute has grown to include a committed scientific staff of five employees who work to support CDFW’s scientists and scientific efforts.

CDFW’s Science Advisor and Science Institute Lead, Christina Sloop, points out that climate change and biodiversity conservation are two issues that affect all facets of the department -- yet specific resources on these topics are not readily available to many field staff. The Science Institute employs staff who are specifically trained to advise on these topics, and can provide a statewide, long-term perspective.

“We are ready to provide guidance and help connect the dots when climate change or biodiversity conservation principles could be incorporated into a study or a project,” Sloop explains. “We play a departmentwide facilitation role, so CDFW’s scientists and scientific programs can better respond to these challenges and be as efficient as possible as they work to support our important mission.”

CDFW recently published the link opens in new windowScience Institute Progress Report 2018-2019 (PDF), which highlights the tools developed so far. The 2020-2025 Science Institute Strategic Action Plan will be released this summer. This document reflects input from the CDFW science community and lays out goals and strategies to guide the Science Institute’s priority actions in the next five years. Each year, the plan will be reassessed, reevaluated and updated as necessary, in order to keep one step ahead of current challenges. “Our goal is to be proactive and anticipatory rather than reactionary,” Sloop said. “We’ll always be on the lookout for new ways to build capacity, promote transparency and foster scientific excellence.”

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Media Contact:
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Categories: Science Spotlight
  • November 28, 2017

an orange butterfly with black spots stands on a yellow flower, amid green and purple succulents
Native to the California coast and the California/Nevada state line, the Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly feeds on the nectar of the monardella flowers.

a tiny shorebird with a light brown coat, black beak, and white underside, standing on wet beach sand
One of 33 species of birds listed as threatened or endangered by the State of California or the federal government, the western snowy plover is in jeopardy of disappearing from the dunes.

patches of green vegetation live on a coastal ridge full of dead, beige beach-grass
in 2017, two years after treatment, the southwest side of the herbicide treatment area shows little regrowth of invasive plants.

Sandy dunes along the California coast often feature hardy European beachgrass and a succulent, freeway iceplant, that many assume is part of the native flora. However, these groundcover plants were originally introduced in the 1800s by Gold Rush settlers who were hoping to keep sand from moving to the nearby roads, railroads and land. Today, they are invasive species that out-compete the native plants and the animals that live there.

Over the years, the invasives took over the native Tidestrom lupine and beach layia, causing them to be placed on the federally endangered species list. The endangered Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly and the threatened snowy plover are dependent on native plants like these, and today, they too are in jeopardy of disappearing from the area.

“Snowy plovers naturally select open areas to nest so that they can more easily spot predators,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Laird Henkel. “The European beachgrass spreads quickly making the dunes less desirable as a place for these birds to nest.”

Scientists determined that removing these invasive plants would be the best way to restore the dunes and the ecosystem that depends on them. To this end, CDFW awarded $54,000 in Environmental Enhancement funds to a project on the Point Reyes North Great Beach, located in Marin County, to restore the native sand dune plants on a 13-acre area in 2015. The fund committee selected the Point Reyes application because of the success of their previous dune restoration projects.

Point Reyes National Seashore staff oversaw the removal of the invasive plants on the dunes. Their contractors spray-treated the dunes with an herbicide and uprooted the invasives by hand; they worked during times of low winds and no rain, to protect other natural plants, wildlife, nearby farms and the public from overspray.

Point Reyes scientists monitored the treated area with an easy-to-use mapping tool called photo point monitoring – an effective method of monitoring vegetation and ecosystem change. Visual surveys and the mapping program showed just a one-to-three percent regrowth of the invasive plants over time, while previous restoration projects showed much more regrowth.

“The project area represents a vital link between earlier restoration efforts near Abbotts Lagoon and new restoration efforts at the AT&T cell tower area, enabling the park to move closer towards its goal of several miles of dune habitat not wiped out by invasive plants such as European beachgrass and iceplant,” said Point Reyes National Seashore Ecologist Lorraine Parsons.

CDFW-OSPR and the Point Reyes staff consider the project’s first objective – eradicating invasive European beachgrass and ice plant – a success. Earlier this year, scientists noticed in treated areas the reappearance of wild cucumber. The reappearance of other native plants such as the mock heather, California blackberry and yarrow, and wildlife is the second objective, the success of which will be determined over time. Other treated areas in the region show beachgrass breakdown and increased native dune scrub and mat species after six years.

Photos courtesy of Point Reyes National Seashore and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Top photo: The Point Reyes National Seashore staff oversee contractors spray-treating the dunes with an herbicide.

Categories: General