All Blog Posts

Subscribe Syndicate content to our feed or sign up to receive monthly e-mail newsletters by sending an e-mail to sfbaynps (at)

Monitoring Documents Mission Blue Butterfly at Sweeny Ridge for First Time in Decades


Endangered mission blue butterflies like this one are monitored at sites around the Bay Area.
Endangered mission blue butterflies like this one are monitored at sites around the Bay Area.
Photo by Will Elder/NPS

Land managers across the Bay are monitoring endangered mission blue butterflies as this year's season progresses. So far, the butterflies have been seen at San Bruno Mountain, the Marin Headlands, Alta Avenue near Marin City, Milagra Ridge, and Sweeney Ridge above Pacifica. The Sweeney Ridge observation is especially exciting, as this species had not been formally documented at the site since the early 1990s. Monitors expect to see more mission blues at other sites as the season continues. Contact for more information.

With Coho Spawning Season Over, 2017 Smolt Monitoring Begins


Adult male coho with a green tag at the base of its dorsal fin.
A male adult coho salmon moving upstream to spawn in Redwood Creek. Look closely and you will see the green tag below the dorsal fin designating this coho as a male hatchery-reared salmon.
Photo by Sarah Carlisle/NPS

The coho and steelhead spawning season wrapped up with less spawning activity than expected on Olema Creek in Point Reyes National Seashore. On Redwood Creek in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, however, spawning activity more than doubled since the last generation of this spawning cohort. This jump was due to the Redwood Creek Coho Salmon Rescue and Captive Rearing Project’s release of 106 adult coho back into the creek on December 9. Of the 47 live coho counted during Coho and Steelhead Monitoring Program surveys on Redwood Creek, 40 of them were hatchery-reared.

Given the extremely wet winter, it remains possible that a lot of spawning activity went undetected on both creeks. It can take over a week for creeks to return to optimal survey conditions after a large storm, and even then coho and steelhead redds (nests) are left blending in with the creek bed such that they’re nearly impossible to find. Snorkel surveys this summer will count recently hatched juvenile coho and provide another measure of the winter’s spawning activity.  

In the meantime, the smolt trapping season is already underway. Smolt traps briefly capture coho and steelhead smolts heading out to sea so that the monitoring staff and volunteers can measure and count them before sending them on their way. So far, the Olema Creek smolt trap has captured a total of 551 coho smolts, with over 500 of those captured in the last week. On Redwood Creek, the primary trap has captured 24 coho smolts and 28 steelhead smolts, mostly during the first week of trap operation. A second Redwood Creek trap has only captured one coho smolt to date. All three smolt traps will be in operation until the end of May.

A more detailed summary of spawning activity this past winter is now available online. Contact Mike Reichmuth for further questions.

Preliminary Lupine Diversification Study Results Summary


Yoseline Castillo with the Parks Stewardship program plants lupines as a part of a study aiming to find out how to sustain endangered mission blue butterfly host plants in the face of a fungal pathogen.
Yoseline Castillo with the Parks Stewardship program plants lupines as a part of a study aiming to find out how to sustain endangered mission blue butterfly host plants in the face of a fungal pathogen.
Photo by Gina Shearn/Parks Conservancy.

The fungal pathogen Colletotrichum lupini has had devastating effects on the preferred lupine host species of the endangered mission blue butterfly. The Lupine Diversification Project aims to protect populations of these butterflies at Milagra Ridge by introducing multiple host plant species to decrease the overall susceptibility of the site's lupines to the pathogen.

During the 2014/2015 planting season, staff, interns, and volunteers planted 416 silver lupines (Lupinus albifrons) and 268 summer lupines (Lupinus formosus) at Milagra Ridge to:

  1. Diversify the lupine population with summer lupine, which has been shown to be less susceptible to the fungal pathogen.
  2. Expand the lupine footprint at three mission blue butterfly-populated areas by planting silver and summer lupine.
  3. Plant silver and summer lupine as infill in areas where lupine survivorship was the highest based on survivorship results from 2013/14.

2014/2015 Planting and Survivorship Summary
The 1.5-year survivorship of lupines planted in 2014/15 is 56% for silver lupine and 19% for summer lupine. Survivorship of silver lupine increased by 210% and the survivorship of summer lupine increased by 850% from those planted in 2013/14. Better site selection, immediate caging to protect the plants from predation, maintenance regime, and plant health may explain these improved survivorship rates. Overall, silver lupine survivorship results exceeded the best success rates reported by Park Stewardship between 1993 and 2003; however, establishing summer lupine continues to be the biggest challenge. Two mission blue eggs were seen on two of the recently planted silver lupines, indicating that the butterflies are taking advantage of the new host plants.

2015/2016 Planting Summary
2015 was a challenging year for summer and silver lupine seed collection, and for the first time, lupine collected from Oakwood Valley was allowed to be planted in Milagra Ridge. The goal for this planting season was to infill and augment existing lupine patches. The 353 L. albifrons and 263 L. formosus planted between late December through late March are being monitored now.

Contact Christina Crooker to learn more about this project.

MARINe Rocky Intertidal Data Now Available for US West Coast


Data on intertidal areas all along the West Coast are now available from the MARINe program website. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.
Data on intertidal areas all along the West Coast are now available from the MARINe program website. Photo by Jessica Weinberg/NPS.

Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are partners in the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), a consortium that monitors rocky intertidal systems along the west coast of North America. Network partners use common metrics to track long- and short-term changes in intertidal ecosystems. The monitoring data also help track impacts from oil spills, shipwrecks, invasive species, disease, and climate change. Data and detailed site information from the entire set of West Coast sites are now available for viewing. You can also search a variety of species and ecological community metrics that are part of the long-term monitoring programs.

Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-Level Rise Science


A King Tide along San Francisco's waterfront in January 2017 portends what future sea level rise might look like. 
Photo by Dave R.
A King Tide along San Francisco's waterfront in January 2017 portends what future sea level rise might look like. Photo by Dave R.

This report, initially adopted in 2010 and updated in 2013, provides guidance to state agencies for how to incorporate sea-level rise projections into planning, design, permitting, construction, investment, and other decisions.

The latest version, just released this month, reflects recent advances in ice loss science and projections of sea-level rise. It also includes new information on the expected sea level changes that will occur based on different greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

Key findings include:

  • Projections of future sea-level rise under high emissions scenarios have increased substantially over the last few years, primarily due to improved understanding of mass loss from continental ice sheets.
  • The rate of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets is increasing. These ice sheets will soon become the primary contributor to global sea-level rise, overtaking contributions from ocean thermal expansion and melting mountain glaciers and ice caps.
  • Ice loss from Antarctica, and especially from West Antarctica, causes higher sea-level rise in California than the global average. For every foot of global sea-level rise caused by loss of ice from West Antarctic, sea-level will rise approximately 1.25 feet along the California coast.
  • After 2050, sea-level rise projections increasingly depend on the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • With very successful mitigation efforts there is a 67 percent probability that the Bay Area will experience sea level rise between 1.0 foot and 2.4 feet by 2100. However, if no significant mitigation efforts are taken, that rise increases to between 1.6 and 3.4 feet.
  • While model results have revealed the potential for high rates of ice loss and extreme sea-level rise during this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, the precise magnitude and timing of substantial Antarctic Ice Sheet contributions to rising sea levels is uncertain.

See the full report for additional information about these projections and recommended actions.

Events & Announcements


Register Now! 2017 Science and Natural Resources Symposium

On May 11th, the San Francisco Bay Area Network of national parks will host its 7th Science and Natural Resources Symposium at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio. This event is open to park staff, volunteers, and partners from a wide range of disciplines.

This event is quickly filling up, so register soon!

This year’s symposium will highlight examples of the many ways the San Francisco Bay Area National Parks are working to meet their mission. Regardless of what is happening in the world around us, this mission remains the same. However, striving to meet these lofty goals requires adaptability in the face of political, natural, and demographic changes that may be beyond our control. It compels us to use the best available science to inform resource management. It challenges us to go beyond what we have done in the past to engage new audiences in new ways. And, it calls for us to consider how we work with others for the benefit of all.

See the event agenda, presentation abstracts, and register for this event here.

Regional Partnership Award Given for Snowy Plover Work

Gary Page, Principal Scientist at Point Blue Conservation Science, received an award from the NPS Pacific West Region Director for Partnerships for his lifetime of work on western snowy plover research and protection at several parks in the region. His many accomplishments include guiding parks through bird population assessments, oil spills, the recovery of threatened species, and the restoration of coastal ecosystems. He was a champion for their listing under the Endangered Species Act, and led the USFWS Recovery Team for the species. His work has ensured western snowy plover survival at Channel Islands, Golden Gate, and Point Reyes, and a sustained breeding population at Point Reyes. Many of his methods have also become the sound science for understanding and assessing the role of shorebirds in coastal ecosystems.

UC California Naturalist Immersion Program at Point Reyes

This program utilizes a combination of science curriculum, guest lecturers, field trips, and project-based learning to immerse students in the diverse natural world of the 70,000 acres that make up Point Reyes National Seashore. Students are able to experience the seashore in ways the casual visitor cannot, working in areas less traveled and alongside some of the California's most knowledgeable naturalists. Instructors are experts in their field and provide an inside look into the diverse wildlife, natural resource management, and large scale public interpretation in the park.

Click on the links below for more detailed information and to register:

California Naturalist Rustic Adventure - Clem Miller Ed Center - Week Immersion: May 7-14

California Naturalist Local Edition - Morgan Horse Ranch - Saturday Lecture Series: September 23, 30 October 7, 14, 21

Amah Mutsun Speaker Series

The UC Santa Cruz American Indian Resource Center hosts the Amah Mutsun Speaker Series, with a talk coming up on May 20:

Native Histories, Colonial Lives, and the Archaeology of Post-Misson Landscape in California. An archaeological and historical overview of California’s “Indigenous hinterlands” as critical sources of power and social resiliency.
1–3 pm
Kresge Town Hall

Looking at locations around San Francisco Bay where Native people found safe harbor from the missions, the talk will explore the very latest discoveries from an ongoing project investigating a post-mission trading post at Tomales Bay. Here, eyewitness accounts suggest Indigenous Coast Miwok people and others continued traditional hunting and gathering practices, they held dances and mourning rituals, and they participated in the hide and tallow trade.

Upcoming Park Academy Classes

  • Soil Health Series: Understanding Growth Media & the Chemistry of Soil (Rescheduled) – May 2, 1–4 pm
  • One Tam Event: Wildlife Picture Index Workshop – May 4, 1 – 4 pm
  • Soil Health Series: Composting Methods & Biological Properties of Soil (Rescheduled) – May 5, 1 – 4 pm
  • Wildflower Walk at Fort Funston – May 6, 10 am – Noon
  • John Muir Laws: Drawing Mammal Heads & Faces – May 9, 12:30 – 2 pm
  • Alcatraz Historic Garden Tour – May 12, 8:20 am – Noon
  • Botany Series: Plant Families in the Field (Mori Point) – May 13, 8 am – 12:30 pm
  • One Tam Event: Wildlife Picture Index Workshop – May 18, 1 – 4 pm
  • Wildflower Walk at Presidio Coastal Bluffs – May 20, 10 am – Noon
  • One Tam Event: Wildlife Picture Index Workshop – May 23, 1 – 4 pm
  • Alcatraz Historic Garden Tour – May 26, 8:20 am – Noon

Classes are free for NPS and Conservancy staff and volunteers. For more details or to register see their website.

Upcoming Field Institute Classes

The Point Reyes National Seashore Association's Field Institute has many classes coming up, including:

  • Poppies and Prairie Falcons: The Natural History of Mitchell Canyon – May 2, 8 am – 2 pm
  • Point Reyes: A Chimney Rock – Headlands Photo Retreat – May 5, 6 pm to May 7, 2 pm
  • Birding by Ear: Tapping the Aural Dimension – May 6, 8:30 am – 2:30 pm
  • Weave a Pine Needle Basket – May 6, 9 am – 4 pm
  • Botany, Birds & Butterflies on the Bear Valley Trail – May 7, 10 am – 2 pm
  • The Magic of Black & White – May 7, 11 am – 8 pm
  • California Naturalist – Rustic Adventure – May 7, 3 pm to May 14, 3 pm
  • Habits and Habitats: The Breeding Season – May 13, 8:30 am – 4 pm
  • The Wish to Photograph – May 13, 10 am – 4 pm
  • Birdsong Hike – May 15, 8 am – 12:30 pm
  • Pastels and Natural Light – May 19, 6 pm to May 21, 1 pm
  • Tomales Point Kayak Adventure – May 21, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm
  • Annual Point Reyes Writing Retreat – May 26, 6 pm to May 28, 2 pm
  • Trees in your Watercolor Nature Journal – May 27, 9 am – 3 pm
  • Magic of Minus Tide – May 29, 7:30 am – 11 am

Point Reyes staff can register for a class at no charge, contact the Field Institute at 415-663-1200 x307 for more details.

Caterpillar Release Brings Hope for Return of Another Lost Presidio Species


Black and orange variable checkerspot butterfly caterpillar. Photo by John Hafernik/San Francisco State University.
This variable checkerspot butterfly caterpillar is one of 1,500 recently reintroduced to the Presidio. Photo by John Hafernik/San Francisco State University.

The weekend of March 10th saw the reintroduction of 1,500 variable checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona) caterpillars to the Presidio—a species not seen here since 1978 when the army transformed their last remaining habitat into a garbage dump. Thanks to recent restoration efforts, the park once again has the habitat that the butterflies need to thrive.

The caterpillars, collected from San Bruno Mountain in San Mateo County, were carefully placed onto host plants at El Polin and near Lobos Creek. The hope is that enough caterpillars avoid being eaten by hungry birds so that a couple hundred adult butterflies can emerge around mid-April and spread into nearby areas over the course of their 15-day lifespan. Presidio Trust staff plan to continue to release variable checkerspot caterpillars for the next two to three years to help create a self-sustaining population.

The butterfly is among several native species that have recently been brought back to the Presidio, including three-spine stickleback fish and western pond turtles. If successful, this reintroduction will create the second of only two sites where variable checkerspots are still found in San Francisco.

Read more in these recent San Francisco Chronicle and SF Gate articles, or contact Jonathan Young for more information.

Partnership with Local Restaurants Aims to Help Bring Back Native Oysters


Emptying water from a yellow bucket of sterilized Olympia oyster shells collected from local restaurants. Photo by Presidio Trust.
Sterilized Olympia oyster shells collected from local restaurants will be used to restore a reef at the foot of the Tennessee Hollow Watershed. Photo by Presidio Trust.

Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) were largely lost from the San Francisco Bay by the 1860s thanks to Gold Rush era sedimentation, pollution, and overharvesting. Although their larvae are still found in the Bay’s waters, a lack of hard surfaces means that the young oysters don’t have enough places to settle on and grow.

To help fix this problem, the Presidio Trust is working with local restaurants to collect oyster shells that can be sterilized and used to create reefs at the edge of the Tennessee Hollow Watershed. So far, they have collected about a third of the approximately 20 cubic yards of oyster shells they need.

Contact Bridgette Haggerty with questions or read more in the Presidio Trust’s blog.

Exciting Rare Plant Finds in Golden Gate and Point Reyes


Drooping yellow flower of Dirca occidentalis, or western leatherwood. Photo by Roxanne Foss/NPS
The rare Dirca occidentalis, or western leatherwood, was recently found in both Golden Gate and Point Reyes. Photo by Roxanne Foss/NPS.

The last month revealed two new populations of a very special plant right here in the San Francisco Bay Area National Parks. Natural Resource Management Intern Robert Hogg spotted the California Native Plant Society-listed rare plant Dirca occidentalis at Sweeney Ridge. The find marks the first time this species has been documented within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s management boundary.

Point Reyes Range Management staff Roxanne Foss and Aaron Peretz also found a new population of D. occidentalis at Cheda Ranch. Known as western leatherwood, this species is one of the rarest shrubs in California and is only found in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is also the only representative of the Thymelaeaceae, or Daphne family, in California.