Natural History of San Francisco Bay

Natural History of San Francisco Bay

Natural History of San Francisco Bay

Natural History of San Francisco Bay


This complete primer on San Francisco Bay is a multifaceted exploration of an extraordinary, and remarkably resilient, body of water. Bustling with oil tankers, laced with pollutants, and crowded with forty-six cities, the bay is still home to healthy eelgrass beds, young Dungeness crabs and sharks, and millions of waterbirds. Written in an entertaining style for a wide audience, Natural History of San Francisco Bay delves into an array of topics including fish and wildlife, ocean and climate cycles, endangered and invasive species, and the path from industrialization to environmental restoration. More than sixty scientists, activists, and resource managers share their views and describe their work--tracing mercury through the aquatic ecosystem, finding ways to convert salt ponds back to tidal wetlands, anticipating the repercussions of climate change, and more. Fully illustrated and packed with stories, quotes, and facts, the guide also tells how San Francisco Bay sparked an environmental movement that now reaches across the country.


This book is unusual among the California Natural History Guides. It explores not only the natural history of San Francisco Bay but also its human history and how each affects the other. It may be the first in the series to describe a place so urbanized and to focus on a body of water rather than a piece of land, though land and water here are inextricably linked in their destiny.

This guide may also be the first to have so many voices in it. As a journalist who has researched and reported on water issues for over 20 years, I have come to know dozens of scientists, agency staffers, activists, teachers, engineers, and businesspeople with a passion for the bay and its watershed. By including so many quotes and memories from diverse people, I hope I’ve captured here the intensity with which people view the bay and the amount of energy they pour into studying it, understanding it, and caring for it.

Something else that may be different in this guide, in comparison to others, is the way in which I explore my own particular interest in science and scientists, and the extraordinary ways in which they test their theories in a medium—water, waves, tides, mud—that is relatively challenging for humans to work in. I am personally fascinated by the lengths to which humans will go to learn, and I marvel at the inventions they create to enable them to measure and track the subtle changes in the estuarine environment and all that lives in it.

As I observe our millennial battle for control of nature, I am encouraged that we humans continue to seek our proper place within it. I am heartened that we can not only build a dam but also take it down, as well as by the fact that we can spend hours counting weeds, sifting bay mud for tiny forms of life, following a plastic drifter downriver, or trying to mimic nature so that we can better balance our relationship with the ecosystem.

Perhaps the human race is destined to find the meaning of life onscreen, but I, for one, am all for getting hands dirty and feet wet.

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto . . .

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