Solstice on the Shoreline

From the ancient Egyptians to the Ohlone living here in the Bay Area, many cultures experience winter as a powerful time of ritual, reflection, and renewal. The season officially begins Thursday, December 21st – with a solstice! The term translates to “sun stands still,” as the sun appears to pause in its incremental journey across the sky.
All smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Our dedicated volunteer group was all smiles for Solstice on the Shoreline!
Save The Bay decided to mark this changing of the seasons by planting seedlings with some of our most dedicated volunteers and donors. Through their labor and their generosity, this diverse community had already given richly to support our programs. But on last Saturday’s Solstice on the Shoreline event, they dug right into soil to help out even more. Former board members joined avid gardeners and corporate partners to put on gloves, pick up trowels, and protect our Bay.

 

Along the way, Donna Ball and Kenneth Rangel of our Restoration team explained how our staff cleans seeds and sanitizes soil using somewhat simple tools. They made clear these tasks can be both intricate and time-consuming without advanced technology. However, as we build the support necessary to cover this equipment, Save The Bay staffers remain plenty resourceful in their push to create habitat. 
 
Meanwhile, high winds and incredibly hard ground never phased our passionate participants last weekend. Our restoration staff used an auger – a drill bit that can create holes in the ground – to start each of our planting spots. Then, our lively group got to work (sometimes wielding pickaxes!). In the end, we carved a warm bed to lay the young seedlings.
 
Building community to share Save The Bay’s story is a key part of my role as Events & Outreach Manager. I’m thrilled that the events I design and host can genuinely boost the health of San Francisco Bay. Witnessing that “A-ha” moment on a volunteer’s face as they begin to understand their own role in protecting our Bay is incredibly rewarding. After all, my own positive experiences as a student and educator are a major source of inspiration as I work to connect – and expand – Save The Bay’s community.
 
Save The Bay is a resource for learning, scientific exploration, rejuvenation, and above all, making memories.  With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe in the Bay air, take a calming walk along its shores and rejuvenate your soul.  We are ready to start building a year’s worth of amazing events and gatherings for 2018. I look forward to seeing you at Blue, our Bay Brunch Cruise on Earth Day (April 22, 2018), and Bay Day, our region-wide celebration for San Francisco Bay, on October 6, 2018.

 

You and your family can also join one of our public programs for free throughout the year. Save The Bay relies on thousands of volunteers annually to make progress on our many wetland restoration projects. Check our calendar often as spaces fill quickly. We can also create dedicated private restoration events for your group or company. Contact Jack Wolfink at jwolflink@savesfbay.org to learn more.

 

Powerful Results, Positive Trends: California’s Bag Ban One Year Out

A little over a year ago, California voters became the first in the United States to approve a single-use plastic bag ban. With the passage of Proposition 67, Californians took a stand to protect our state’s diverse and fragile environmental systems from being further harmed by plastic bag litter. One year later, we are proud to say that the ban has been successful in reducing the amount of plastic that reaches local waterways and harms wildlife and water quality.

Data from Coastal Clean-Up Day shows that there has been a 72% decline in plastic bag litter from 2010, and plastic bags now account for only 1.5% of total litter compared to 10% seven years before. Furthermore, it cost the state $400 million, or about $10 per resident, to clean up littered bags prior to the ban.

Far from going unnoticed, California’s plastic bag ban set a trend. Hawaii decided to implement its own statewide bag ban, and municipalities across Massachusetts and Washington have taken the same step to protect waterways and wildlife. While many states have yet to follow our example, Californians should be proud of the fact that we have proven ourselves once again to be leaders in protecting both local and global waters from toxic plastic pollution.

Welcome Silas, our new Restoration Project Specialist

Silas Ellison (far right)
Silas Ellison (far right) joins Save The Bay’s restoration team as a Restoration Project Specialist after a career driven by conservation and education efforts in the Bay Area.

The imminent threat to biodiversity here in the Bay Area has driven my career in conservation, and it’s what makes me so excited to join the restoration team at Save The Bay as their new Restoration Project Specialist.

V Lab 1
My work to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog is one of the many roads that have led me to further my conservation career here at Save The Bay.

I feel so lucky to be part of this effort to restore critical habitat for the 100+ threatened and endangered species that call the Bay Area home.  Together with our dedicated volunteers and supporters, I know that we can restore the 100,000 acres of tidal marsh that experts believe the Bay needs to support a fully-functioning ecosystem.

Biodiversity on our planet is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis.  Extinctions are occurring faster than at any point in the past 65 million years—amphibians, for example, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than the historical average.  Extinctions have become so common and so widespread that a new consensus is emerging among scientists:  we are in the middle of the world’s sixth mass extinction.

I saw these effects firsthand when I was studying disease ecology and amphibian declines in the Vance Thomas Vredenburg Lab at San Francisco State University.  As a graduate student and lab manager, I collaborated with a team of government agencies and academic institutions to establish new populations of the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, which has been devastated by invasive species and infectious disease (approximately 96 percent of these frog populations have been completely wiped out!).  I also used advanced molecular technology to study the community dynamics of bacteria and other microbes that live on the frogs’ skin.  I am fascinated by the interactions in an ecosystem that range across scales, connecting the tiniest of micro-organisms and their hosts to large-scale forces like tides that shape entire landscapes.

V Lab 2
Over the past several years, I’ve also had the opportunity to help protect several different habitat types around the Bay Area that include Presidio in SF and Mount Diablo State Park.

I am very excited to help our community to make these kinds of connections through our public and educational volunteer programs.

Earlier in my career, I worked as a middle school math and science teacher at a low-performing, under-resourced school in East Palo Alto.  Seeing students’ eyes light up as they learned about the natural world was truly an inspiration, and it’s one of the experiences that made me decide to pursue a career in conservation.  I am especially delighted that some of our primary restoration sites, like the Palo Alto Baylands and Bair Island, are located so close to East Palo Alto. This position provides me with an exciting opportunity to re-engage with these students in the area, and to help connect communities to the thriving Bay ecosystem right outside their doorsteps.

It has been so fun and energizing to work with so many people at our public volunteer programs over the past three months, and I look forward to meeting many more amazing volunteers at upcoming work days.  I strongly encourage anyone who has not yet had a chance to volunteer with Save The Bay this season, to come help plant the 35,000 native seedlings that we are planning to install before the end of the rainy season!  Together we can restore the Bay’s tidal marshes, fight against the sixth mass extinction, and preserve the incredible biodiversity of our beloved San Francisco Bay.

Fighting Climate Change Deniers at the Local, State, and Federal Level

Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.
Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond. Photo by Dan Sullivan.

It’s a new year, which in the case of 2017 means a new Congress and a new administration in Washington, D.C. Many of us in the Bay Area have a palpable sense of unease about what the impending changes in the federal government mean for the Bay and the environment more broadly. And on no issue is this concern felt more deeply than the fight to address climate change and its impacts.

Environmental advocates in the Bay Area – and California as a whole –  are determined and prepared to advance this fight, and we at Save The Bay are doing everything we can to ensure that climate change remains front and center in regional, state, and federal agendas over the coming years.

Here is what we are doing to make this happen:

On the local level

As the Bay Area rapidly grows in the coming years, we can help ensure that the growth happens in a way that minimizes the impact on the Bay and adapts to climate change. This is the aim of our new Bay Smart Communities Program, which promotes investment in green infrastructure, low-impact development, transit-oriented development, and increased affordable housing along the Bay. These “smart growth” components have a number of significant climate change-related benefits, including:

  • Reducing vehicle emissions and harmful pollutant runoff into the Bay by building higher density housing – particularly affordable housing – and commercial developments near public transit, allowing people to work in the same communities in which they live, thereby facilitating decreased vehicle use;
  • Conserving fresh water and slowing the flow of rain water by building “green streets” and plumbing systems that filter pollution from rain water and provide opportunities for its capture and local reuse; and,
  • Increasing urban green space, which enhances recreational space, encourages people to walk or bike instead of drive, and reduces urban heat islands that lead to higher local energy consumption.

On the state Level

We are fortunate to live in a state that has led the nation in the fight against climate change. Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature have already committed to pursuing continued aggressive action regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C. In 2017 and beyond, Save The Bay will:

  • Build on the success of Measure AA by advocating for additional state funding to match our regional investment, allowing for more Bay restoration that will protect the ecosystem while also safeguarding shoreline communities against climate change-induced threats like flooding due to sea level rise;
  • Build on the success of landmark 2016 climate mitigation legislation by advocating additional policies that further reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide communities – particularly low-income communities and communities of color, who suffer disproportionately from the impacts of climate change – with the resources to minimize these emissions and improve public health, safety, and quality of life; and,
  • Support other climate resiliency legislation to benefit the Bay, including bills dealing with stormwater management, green infrastructure investment, allocation of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund monies, and water allocation and storage.

On the federal level

Despite what we expect to be a more climate-change skeptical and anti-environment leadership in Washington, D.C., over the next few years we will be more aggressive than ever in asserting the importance of federal environmental protection laws, regulations, and strong action on climate change. Already, we have:

  • Opposed the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing his record of fighting EPA action on climate change and opposing enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act – all vital laws that we rely on to help protect the Bay and its ecosystem, particularly in the face of climate change;
  • Urged our state’s newest U.S. Senator, Kamala Harris, to actively oppose Pruitt’s nomination in her capacity as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; and,
  • Discussed with our congressional partners the importance of creating a new federal program for San Francisco Bay restoration, including robust funding to match regional and state investments, both to ensure that the Bay ecosystem is protected into the future and to create a framework for addressing the growing threat of sea level rise and other climate-induced changes.

Together, we made a lot of progress on addressing climate change in the Bay in 2016, and Save The Bay is committed to intensifying the fight in 2017 and beyond.

Endangered Species Carnival

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On a Bay Discovery program, Khan Lab School students willfully pulled invasive mustard and radish to help create natural wildlife habitat for endangered species like the Ridgway’s rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. Leading up to this program, the students had already investigated the varying endangered species that live in the Bay Area. Fueled by the project–based learning approach of Khan Lab School, these students did extraordinary research on local endangered species and completed awe-inspiring projects to share their knowledge about their respective species and help protect them.

I was lucky to attend Khan Lab School’s Endangered Species Carnival, a culminating event that was designed to raise awareness and funds in their local community of Mountain View. This Endangered Species Carnival was so inspirational! I still get goose bumps when I think about the dedication and hard work that each and every student put into their project about the species they chose. Community members cashed in carnival tickets to participate in the numerous fun and educational activities centered on endangered species.

A unique carnival 

At the Maker Space, there were arts and crafts to re-create the salt marsh harvest mouse, western snowy plover, and the Mt. Hermon beetle. At the Game Center, participants learned about the Bay Checkerspot butterfly, the Delta smelt, the Bald Eagle, and the San Francisco garter snake. There was also Test Your Brain, an endangered species themed form of Jeopardy, complete with podiums and student crafted buzzers. In Colorful Caterpillars, participants hid a paper caterpillar underneath leaves to protect it from predators. The test? A robotic predator programmed by students to hunt for the caterpillar, and if you hid your caterpillar well in the environment, then it survived to become a San Bruno Elfin Butterfly! At the Save The Whales booth, gamers were given 3 ping pong balls to hit easy, medium or hard targets and learned about the threats humans impose on whales. In addition to all of these games, there was a student-engineered hover board ride, photo booths, and a delightful snack stand, complete with chocolate pacific pond turtles and snow cones.

The most moving part of Khan Lab School’s Endangered Species Carnival was the excitement and wonder in every child’s eyes about these species. They were eager to talk about their experiences throughout the school year and how we can all make a difference. The choreographed finale was easily the showstopper of the carnival. I was even inspired to buy a t-shirt printed with “Endangered Species Carnival”, and brimmed with pride thinking about how each student will affect the world around them. Last but not least, the proceeds were donated to multiple non-profits around the Bay Area that work to protect endangered species, including Save The Bay.

Help restore habitat for the Bay Area’s endangered species by signing up to volunteer with Save The Bay.