2023 San Francisco Bay Area National Parks Science Symposium
Together with our partners at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Point Reyes National Seashore Association, and Presidio Trust, the San Francisco Bay Area Network will host an in-person symposium on November 8th, 2023, at the Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco.
Check-in will begin at 8:30am, and the symposium will conclude with a social hour/poster session from 4:15-5:15pm. View our draft agenda here and please stay tuned for abstracts.
Registration is free but space is limited. Register early to secure your seat!
Eco-memory: The power of the past to help us forge a sustainable future
Ecological memory refers to the way in which past conditions and events–like droughts or forest fires – experienced by populations or ecosystems inform their current and future responses. Though primarily a natural sciences term, at this year’s symposium, we will apply it more broadly to explore what we’re learning from our own memories, datasets, and experiences about how to forge a more sustainable future for our parks.
Note that parking at the Presidio is paid parking, and there is a lot located adjacent to the Golden Gate Club. You can also park at the Main Post or other public parking areas at the Presidio. The cost for parking permits ranges between $2.50 to $3 per hour and between $12.50 to $15/day. Government vehicles do not need to pay to park.
Food & Drink
We invite you to bring your own re-usable beverage container. Snacks and light refreshments will be provided throughout the day, but please also plan to bring your own lunch. Alternatively, there are food truck vendors beside the Main Parade Lawn and behind the Presidio Visitor Center, about a 7-9 minute walk from the Golden Gate Club. Picnic areas abound in the same vicinity and throughout the Presidio.
Request for Proposals
The proposal submission period has ended, but you may still review the Request for Proposals here.
2021 Virtual Science Symposium
The Science Symposium is a biennial event that presents a rare opportunity for park staff, volunteers, and partners across a wide variety of communities and disciplines to explore important topics in science, research, and natural resource conservation. 2021's theme was Bouncing Back: What our evolving relationships with nature and each other mean for park science."
Watch the full recording of the 2021 symposium now, or click the links in the program below to stream specific talks and sections!
9 – 9:10am
Welcome – Jena Hickey, Program Manager, San Francisco Bay Area Inventory & Monitoring Network
SESSION 1: MONITORING FOR A SHIFTING FUTURE TOGETHER
9:10 – 9:30
Plenary Speaker – Lisette Arellano, Community Science Program Manager, One Tam
9:30 – 10:10
Restoring and maintaining urban wildlife in the midst of uncertainty and change: Perspectives from San Francisco’s Presidio – Jonathan Young, Wildlife Ecologist, Presidio Trust
The role of long-term monitoring in understanding impacts from wildfires – Stacey Ostermann-Kelm, Program Manager, Mediterranean Coast Inventory & Monitoring Network
Resilient Monitoring: Tools for detecting long-term trends amidst uncertainty – Ben Becker, Science Advisor, Californian Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit, NPS/UC Berkeley
10:10 – 10:30
10:30 – 10:40
SESSION 2: TAPPING INTO THE POWER OF PARKS TO CONNECT PEOPLE WITH SCIENCE AND NATURE
10:40 – 11:00
Plenary Speaker – Christine Lenhertz, CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
11:00 – 12:00
Finding Common Ground: the challenges and rewards of community partnerships in conservation & restoration work – Amelia Ryan, Vegetation Ecologist, Pinnacles National Park & Brent Johnson, Vegetation Ecologist and Regional IPM Coordinator, Pacific West Regional Office
Advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to cultivate a resilient conservation community – Fernando Villalba, Regional Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager, Pacific West Region
Remembering the Forgotten: The power of storytelling – Shelton Johnson, Community Engagement Specialist & Interpretive Ranger, Yosemite National Park
|12:00 – 12:20
|12:20 – 12:30pm
Conclusion – Jena Hickey, Program Manager, San Francisco Bay Area Inventory & Monitoring Network
Talks and Speakers
Session 1: Monitoring for a shifting future together
Plenary Speaker - Lisette Arellano, Community Science Program Manager, One Tam
What does long-term monitoring mean in the context of starting with an altered baseline or without a baseline? While we can’t go back in time, we are learning to make decisions within the current social and ecological context—even as this context continues to change. In light of considerable unknowns in both our past and future, how can the park science we do today better meet this dynamic moment? How can community science be a tool for deep, place-based knowledge that can shape our collective future?
Dr. Lisette Arellano works at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy as the Community Science Program Manager for the One Tam collaborative. Her team supports the health of Mount Tamalpais through a variety of community science activities that aim to address ecological data gaps, implement long-term monitoring, provide meaningful educational opportunities, and promote curiosity and participation in a wide range of audiences. She is an ecologist, naturalist, educator, and storyteller with broad interests.
Restoring and maintaining urban wildlife in the midst of uncertainty and change: Perspectives from San Francisco’s Presidio
Jonathan Young, Wildlife Ecologist, Presidio Trust
For better or worse, the Presidio of SF has been, and still is, undergoing significant change. Following over 20 years of foundational ecosystem restoration, a new chapter of focused wildlife restoration has begun, with the intentional reintroductions of lost species. But what does it entail to bring lost species back to an urban landscape that is different from what it was and what it will be? With many impacts of the Anthropocene manifesting locally in this small urban “island,” the need for applying scientific progress is accelerating in real-time. With future socio-environmental dynamics remaining a moving target, we must embrace novelty. Our values, goals, and actions must remain adaptable, and we must revisit them consistently. This presentation will focus on several examples of scenarios currently unfolding in the park, and discuss major questions and implications for present and future wildlife in the Presidio.
Jonathan Young was born and raised on the outskirts of L.A. county. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Diego State University, he moved to San Francisco. He then began his long-term relationship with the Presidio of San Francisco. Starting as a volunteer habitat steward, Jonathan worked his way through several Presidio natural resources internships while completing his Master’s degree at San Francisco State University studying urban amphibian conservation and disease ecology. Upon the completion of his studies, he was hired by the Presidio Trust as the first dedicated staff member with the sole focus on wildlife. Since then, he has been developing the Presidio’s wildlife program, which includes surveying, monitoring, managing, and restoring the diversity of animals found in the park.
The role of long-term monitoring in understanding impacts from wildfires
Stacey Ostermann-Kelm, Program Manager, Mediterranean Coast Inventory & Monitoring Network
Changes in climate and land use caused by human activities have lengthened California’s wildfire season and resulted in increases in the burn area and severity. Climate model simulations predict that continued warming and drying trends will lead to further increases in extreme fire weather conditions throughout the state. Long-term monitoring programs, such as the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program, can provide data to understand natural resource responses to fire. In recognition that fire is a key driver of vegetation change in southern California, the Mediterranean Coast I&M Network included a plan for post-fire monitoring in the terrestrial vegetation monitoring program.
After each fire event in the network parks, the frequency of monitoring within the fire perimeter is increased and a supplemental, fire-specific monitoring protocol is implemented. The benefits of this approach include having a probabilistic sampling design ready to use immediately post-fire, standardized post-fire monitoring over time, and the availability of pre-fire data for comparison. Given predictions of increasing fire risk for much of the western U.S., how can other monitoring programs incorporate post-fire monitoring and how do we synthesize data across programs to improve our understanding of the impacts of wildfire on natural resources?
Stacey Ostermann-Kelm, Ph.D., has worked with the NPS Inventory and Monitoring program for the last 15 years. Stacey completed her M.S. at Oregon State University in wildlife science and her doctorate at U.C. Davis in conservation ecology, with a focus on large mammal ecology and genetics. She is especially interested in sampling design and providing science to park managers to assist with the conservation of nature.
Resilient Monitoring: Tools for detecting long-term trends amidst uncertainty
Ben Becker, Science Advisor, Californian Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit, NPS/UC Berkeley
How are factors like climate change, covid, wildfire smoke, excessive heat, and changing financial realities affecting how we do park science? How will our field work change? How will the way we maintain and analyze our datasets need to evolve? What evolving technology or tools can we use to deal with uncertainty better? How can we uphold our mission to conduct long-term natural resource monitoring while remaining flexible and making the best of our current context?
From 2001 - 2020, Ben was at Point Reyes National Seashore in a variety of roles including Marine Ecologist and Chief of the Science Division. His focus is developing and delivering scientific information to inform NPS and partner management goals across ecosystems, species and stakeholder interests. As the current NPS Science Advisor and Research Coordinator for the NPS Californian Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit at UC Berkeley, he works with partners to implement science education and internship programs to train the next generation of scientists. He performs research and monitoring on marine food webs, seabirds, pinnipeds, estuaries, and several threatened and endangered species in Northern California. Favored tools include stable isotopes and study designs that can answer a specific question well rather than a broad question poorly. Ben received his degrees from UCLA (BA), Yale (MS), and UC Berkeley (PhD).
Moderator: Erik Grijalva, Supervisory Vegetation Ecologist, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Erik Grijalva, Ph.D., has 20 years of experience working in natural resource management and restoration with a focus on plans and invasive species. Erik completed his Ph.D. at University of California Davis, where he studied restoration ecology. He is particualry interested in restoration and conservation in urban settings.
Session two: Tapping into the power of parks for connecting people with science and nature
Plenary Speaker - Christine Lenhertz, President & CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Engaging everyday people with science every day is a critical part of solving global conservation challenges. It's also clear that there is an inseparable connection between parks, environmental justice and social justice. How can we embrace the challenging and powerful role of parks in connecting people with science and science to people? What assumptions about how we do our science work need to be challenged? In this talk, current Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy CEO Christine Lehnertz will draw from her unique experience working both within and alongside the National Park Service to welcome more people into the work of stewarding our parks.
Chris brings extensive experience managing some of America’s most iconic national parks and a passion for making parks relevant and accessible to all communities. Her career at the National Park Service (NPS) included serving as Superintendent at Grand Canyon National Park, General Superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Director of the NPS Pacific West Region, and Deputy Superintendent at Yellowstone National Park. Chris also worked on environmental, conservation and science issues with the Environmental Protection Agency, including work with 26 Indian Tribes to protect their sovereign lands and waters.
Finding Common Ground: the challenges and rewards of community partnerships in conservation & restoration work
Amelia Ryan, Vegetation Ecologist, Pinnacles National Park
Brent Johnson, Vegetation Ecologist and Regional IPM Coordinator, Pacific West Regional Office
What do ranchers, hunting enthusiasts, and tribal members all have in common? They all are communities with different, deep connections to the lands around and inside the boundaries of Pinnacles National Park. Working with these various stakeholders requires the commitment of time and resources, but has proven to be an effective way to expand conservation and restoration efforts far beyond what the park staff could do alone. Find out how Pinnacles staff have adapted their approaches to find common ground with even the most unlikely partners.
Advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to cultivate a resilient conservation community
Fernando Villalba, Regional Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager, Pacific West Region
What role can scientists and natural resources staff play in advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in conservation? Fernando will offer principles, actionable practices, and a call for change to help cultivate community. While doing so, he will share his experience, perspective, and lessons learned – from starting his NPS career directly after high school and navigating the natural resources field for 20 years, to collaborating with communities and incorporating various disciplines as a biologist, to building coalitions in advancing JEDI in a broader context in his current role as Regional Youth and Volunteer Programs Manager.
Fernando Villalba started his NPS career directly out of high school through the SAMO Youth Program at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and has worked for the NPS for 21 years, including 19 years in Natural Resource Management. He has a range of experience with the organization in applying diversity, equity, and inclusion principles and practices, particularly in youth development and community science. Fernando grew up in East Los Angeles and holds a master's degree in Native American Studies and a bachelor's degree in Wildlife Biology, with a Minor in Chicano/a Studies, from the University of California, Davis.
Remembering the Forgotten: The Power of Storytelling
Shelton Johnson, Community Engagement Specialist & Interpretive Park Ranger, Yosemite National Park
How can storytelling help us build a more inclusive and resilient community, and open more doors for people to connect with and care for Nature? Shelton will take us on journey to experience the power of story. He will also share his vision for how remembering forgotten stories, including and especially difficult stories, can shed light on a more just and inclusive path forward.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Shelton began his career in Yellowstone National Park in 1987. Shelton is an advocate for bringing minorities, particularly African-Americans, to the National Parks and connecting them to the natural world. Johnson is now known for his research and publications on the history of Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American regiments of the historically segregated U.S. Army. He appeared in the Ken Burns documentary miniseries The National Parks: America's Best Idea and has published a historical novel called Gloryland.
Moderator: Yakuta Poonawalla, Community Programs Manager, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Yakuta was born and raised in India, and her love affair with nature began during her first trek to the Indian Himalayas at the age of fifteen. Since that initiation, she has continued to develop her relationship with the natural world, and has worked with various non-profit organizations, in India and the US to reconnect, inspire, and cultivate love and respect for the environment.
She currently works for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy where she leads community stewardship initiatives that create a safe space for exploration, provide healing, and inspire people to find their connection with nature. Through land and water stewardship activities, interpretation and storytelling, she engages communities in conversations about the natural and cultural history of public lands, indigenous wisdom, and justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. She hopes to continue to have deeper dialogues about the climate crisis to seek collaborative paths forward, and mentor the next generation of conservationists and earth stewards.
Looking to follow up on learnings from the 2021 Science Symposium? Here are some resources for keeping the conversation going:
- Discover the name of the anscestral peoples of lands around the world with this Map and Territory Acknowledgement Guide: Native-Land.ca | Our home on native land
- In this talk, Jonathan Cordero, Chair of the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone, and Gregg Castro, Principal Cultural Consultant, discuss the cultural and spiritual significance of Land to the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples: We are OF the Land \ Ohlone Land Acknowledgement Series - YouTube.
- Decoloniality and anti-oppressive practices for a more ethical ecology | Nature Ecology & Evolution
- Google Maps tool for exploring redlining:
- Fernando's reading list:
- Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy
- The Future of Nature: Writing on a Human Ecology by Barry Lopez
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Priviledge, and Protection by Dorceta E. Taylor
- Watch Ranger Shelton portray a Buffalo Soldier
- Learn more about Ranger Betty Reid Soskin
Last updated: November 6, 2023