About UCMP : Education and public programs : Public programs at UCMP : UCMP's annual short course

Predicting the future of San Francisco Bay: Learning from history

Sea level fluctuations in the Bay Area? It happened before, but will it happen again? Join the experts to learn about how our knowledge of the history of the San Francisco Bay can inform our understanding of its future.

Saturday, February 6, 2010
105 North Gate Hall
North Gate Hall is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Hearst and Euclid Avenues. Hourly parking is available in the Lower Hearst Garage at Hearst and Scenic.
9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Agenda Campus parking map (pdf)




Introductory remarks


Deep (or not so deep) history of the San Francisco Bay
Doris Sloan, Adjunct Professor, Earth and Planetary Science, UC Berkeley, and Curatorial Associate, UCMP
The origins and history of San Francisco Bay are dependent on the geologic processes that created it. These processes include plate tectonics, climate, and sea level changes that have shaped the present and past bays. Today's Bay holds many surprises which are not evident to the millions who live on its shores. We will talk about the secrets hidden by its waters, the geologic processes operating on the Bay today and the human impact on its margins.
Download Doris's Powerpoint presentation.


San Francisco Bay: Interfacing ocean and rivers through time
Jere H. Lipps, Professor of the Graduate School, Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley, and Faculty Curator, UCMP
The Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay and the delta are closely interrelated through a system of water levels and precipitation, and they are always changing. For most of the past two million years, sea level was lower, world temperatures were cooler, and San Francisco Bay did not exist. The configuration of the Bay and delta developed only 4000 years ago. Changes are a response to natural variations in the Sun-Earth system that cause overall global climate to cool and warm every so often. Now human activities world-wide are generating climate-warming gases in the atmosphere squarely on top of this time of naturally high sea levels and temperature. Sea level and global temperatures will continue to rise and will impact the Bay and delta significantly.
Download Jere's Powerpoint presentation.


Historical wetlands of San Francisco Bay
Robin M. Grossinger, scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute
Before development, the Bay's shoreline was a broad intertidal landscape comprising over 200,000 acres of diverse wetland habitat types. While most were destroyed prior to 1900, their characteristics and spatial patterns are revealed in a remarkable array of historical documents. This talk will explore the historical landscape, its transformation, and how these data are contributing to contemporary restoration efforts.
Download Robin's Powerpoint presentation.

KQED's QUEST spoke with Robin about how historical ecologists are recreating San Francisco Bay wetlands that existed decades ago. Watch the video:

QUEST on KQED Public Media.


Break for lunch (on your own)


Does knowing the history of life in the Bay help us with its restoration?
Andrew Cohen, Director of the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions (CRAB)
Life in the Bay today is not as it was in the late 18th century when the first Europeans arrived on the scene. We have limited knowledge of the Bay's biota at that time or of many of the changes it has undergone since then, though we recognize that those changes have been enormous. What do we actually know about the history of Bay species now being targeted for restoration, and how should that knowledge be used to shape restoration efforts? We consider these questions by looking at three species: a mollusk, a plant and a mammal.
Download Andrew's Powerpoint presentation.


San Francisco Bay: Learning from the past, celebrating the present, preparing for the future
Will Travis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC)
Between 1850 and 1960, diking, filling, and land reclamation reduced the size of San Francisco Bay by one-third. In 1965, state legislation put a management and regulatory structure in place that has reversed the historic shrinking of the Bay, enhanced the Bay ecosystem, and advanced the economic prosperity of the Bay region. However, sea level rise from global warming could inundate vast low-lying shoreline areas and return the Bay to about the size it was in 1850. Our challenge is to provide a comprehensive regional climate change strategy that will integrate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the protection of critical regional access, the enhancement of natural resources, and adaptation to the impacts of global warming and sea level rise.
Download Will's Powerpoint presentation.


Panel discussion — your opportunity to ask questions of the experts!

About the speakers

Doris Sloan has an M.S. in geology and a Ph.D. in paleontology, both from UC Berkeley. She taught for two decades in the Environmental Sciences program at UCB, and taught classes on the geology of California and the Bay Area for UC Extension. She is the author of Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region for the California Natural History Series of the University of California Press. Her current research focuses primarily on the biostratigraphy of sediments beneath San Francisco Bay and what they can tell us about the Bay's geologic history. She also has traveled widely with Cal Alumni groups to the far corners of the Earth.

Jere H. Lipps is a geologist/paleontologist/marine biologist who studies a wide variety of problems in the history of life. These include the history of San Francisco Bay and the impending rise of sea level and temperatures, modern reef studies, the history of the Galapagos Islands over the past four million years, and the astrobiology of Mars and Europa, one of Jupiter's icy moons. His research has taken him to all parts of the world, but not directly to the planets. He is past Director of UCMP, past President of the Paleontological Society, past Chair of the Association of North American Paleontological Societies, and past President of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research. His work has been honored by receipt of the Antarctic Medal of the U.S., the naming of an island in Antarctica for him (Lipps Island), the Friends of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education, the J.A. Cushman Award for excellence in foraminiferal research, and the R.C. Moore Medal for sustained excellence in paleontology.

Robin Grossinger directs the Historical Ecology Program at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. For the past 15 years, he has studied how landscapes of the Bay Area and California coast have changed since European contact. Robin and his colleagues have developed new approaches that synthesize history and science to help understand the long-term changes to our landscapes, and the often-unrecognized opportunities and challenges for contemporary streams, wetlands, and woodlands. Current areas of focus include the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Southern California coastal wetlands, Alameda Creek, east Contra Costa County, and the Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas, to be published by the University of California Press.

Andrew Cohen is the author of An Introduction to the San Francisco Estuary and the creator of a web site on the Bay's exotic species (www.exoticsguide.org). His research focuses on the science and policy of biological invasions in marine and freshwater ecosystems. A long-time San Francisco Bay enthusiast, he helped draft California's laws on ballast water discharges (the strongest in the world), and has been awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation and a San Francisco BayKeeper Environmental Achievement Award.

Will Travis has been at BCDC, the state agency that regulates development in the Bay and along its shoreline, since 1985, first as deputy director and since 1995 as executive director. He has spent most of his career working for California state coastal management agencies and spearheaded the public acquisition of 10,000 acres of privately-owned salt ponds along the northern shoreline of San Francisco Bay so the ponds can be restored to coastal wetlands. Will has been a lecturer at universities throughout North America, and has written many articles. He has served on the boards of directors of a number of professional and civic organizations, served on the Berkeley city planning commission and was chairman of a special committee that worked with the University of California to formulate a new plan for downtown Berkeley. Will is the 2009 recipient of the Jean Auer Environmental Award. He and his wife, Jody Loeffler, are the authors of Katherine's Gift, a memoir on international adoption.

Science at Cal