My broad focus as a cooperative extension specialist is the health and productivity of coastal habitats. This region is of critical importance for the state both from the perspective of coastal habitats providing necessary ecological services and also being an importance source of economic activity for the state. From fisheries and aquaculture to coastal tourism, these coastal areas bring many billions of dollars or revenue into the state. However, many valuable coastal habitats are at risk from a range of human-mediated stressors including habitat loss, invasive species, contaminants, overexploitation and other processes. As a cooperative extension specialist, I use my knowledge and expertise to help solve important questions regarding coastal natural resources in California at the intersection between human needs and sustainable natural resource management.
Preventing Species Invasions
Much of my recent work has followed my specific expertise in invasive non-native species. Invasive species cost the United States more than $100 billion annually, and California spends many millions on invasive species in aquatic systems alone. My efforts have focused on the needs of agencies and stakeholder groups as well as many associated industries that must grapple with the management problems caused by invasive species in coastal areas. My work with my outreach staff has focused on preventing new introductions of invasive species in California. Prevention of new introductions and rapid identification and eradication of newly established invasions is by far the most cost effective means of managing invasive species. A critical step in the prevention of future invasions is to educate industries involved in the sales and distribution of coastal invasive species including the aquaria and pet trade, seafood importers, landscape contractors, nurseries and aquatic plant dealers, seafood importers, bait dealers, and others, about the costs and consequences of unwanted introductions. These industries often sell non-native species that have the potential to become pests if they are introduced to the waters of California. My work in this area has involved developing a program called RIDNIS (Reducing the Introduction and Distribution of Non-native Invasive Species), which focuses on this broad range of non-ballast water pathways for invasion. For more information on the workshops, industry and consumer recommendations, educational products and other aspects of this project, go to the RIDNIS website.
Coastal Restoration and Management
Another part of my cooperative extension efforts have been devoted towards developing partnerships among resource agencies and stakeholder groups interested in restoring coastal habitats. My extension work has dove-tailed with my applied research and involves close collaboration with many organizations that have plans for restoration of native oysters, eelgrasses and native salt marsh plants. These involved working with state (California Ocean Protection Council, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Invasive Spartina Project) and federal agencies (National Park Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service) and local groups (Marin Rod and Gun Club, Tomales Bay Watershed Council, Hog Island Oyster Company) to develop plans and protocols for restoring native oysters in San Francisco Bay and Tomales Bay. My work here has been to provide my expertise and work and helping these groups further their goals and to assist stakeholder groups and local business with their concerns.
An important focus of my extension and outreach education program has been to provide technical assistance to agencies and other groups trying to restore populations of native Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) in San Francisco Bay and other regional estuaries. California estuaries have been heavily impacted by human activities resulting in loss of habitat, invasion by non-native species, inputs of sediments and contaminants and other stressors. Restoring native oysters is an important method for improving estuarine ecosystem function. Several partners led by the California Coastal Conservancy have secured funding for a multimillion dollar project to restore extensive new areas of eelgrass and native oyster bed habitat in San Francisco Bay. Although approved but not funded during this review period, this project will be by far the largest restoration project of its kind in San Francisco Bay to date. My work with Dr. Chela Zabin on this project has been critical for developing the initial plans for this project. As part of the planning process, together with Dr. Zabin, we have completed a comprehensive analysis of methods and evaluation of potential restoration sites as well as a summary of available methods for the San Francisco Subtidal Goals Project commissioned by several agencies including NOAA and the California Coastal Conservancy. Our report involves recommendations and projections for native oyster restoration over a five, ten and 50 year period.
Coordinating Prevention and Control of Eurasian Mussels
Eurasian mussels (zebra and quagga mussels) have been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the economy of the Great Lakes region. Now recently established in California, these invaders threaten to disrupt the water distribution systems that support both irrigated agriculture (valued at more than $30 billion) and the drinking water supply for southern California (greater than 20 million people). The state has already spent more than $10 million on preliminary measures to contain further spread, although statewide efforts have been lagging behind efforts at the local level. In order to focus attention on threat posed by Eurasian mussels and to bring together and better coordinate local control efforts, I worked with several ANR Specialists and Advisors (G. Giusti, J. Cassell, C. Culver, L. Johnson, S. Drill) to organize and convene a conference on Eurasian mussels “Dreissenid Mussel Summit” jointly sponsored by CALFED, CDFG, RREA as well as endowment funds supported by the Alexander and Elizabeth Swantz Endowment http://ucanr.org/sites/musselsummit/Agenda/. This conference brought together a range of scientists and managers from California and elsewhere in the west to discuss approaches and coordinate efforts to prevent future spread of zebra and quagga mussels. The conference resulted in a set of recommendations for monitoring and managing spread via recreational boating. More recently with RREA support, we have also worked with focus groups and Spanish language and cultural experts in Northern and Southern California to develop messages in Spanish in order to more effectively prevent the spread of Eurasian mussels in California. We are currently working on adapting these messages for diverse media sources including text messaging, internet websites, and cell phone applications.