Farallon Institute Newsletter - Winter 2019

Alcatraz Island. Home to thousands of nesting seabirds that are studied by Farallon Institute scientists to understand how climate and food resources influence their populations.

Alcatraz Island. Home to thousands of nesting seabirds that are studied by Farallon Institute scientists to understand how climate and food resources influence their populations.

Around The Office

Longtime Farallon Institute employee Heather Robinson led our seabird program on Alcatraz Island for the past five years and has been an integral part of the Farallon Institute team. Heather moved away from the Bay Area in the fall but we are pleased to announce that she is continuing on as our social media coordinator, posting Farallon Institute news and other stories of ocean interest to our social media accounts.  Follow along here and send any potential stories to hrobinson@faralloninstitute.org.

 To continue and lead our 30+ year seabird survey program on Alcatraz Island, we are pleased to welcome Zofia Burr to the Farallon Institute team.  Zoe comes to us with experience working on seabird populations of the Farallon Islands, Santa Cruz, Iceland, and Norway.  She will be working on Alcatraz Island this spring and summer, so if you happen to be there with friends or family and see someone peering down onto the rocks with binoculars, make sure to say hi!

December 2018

December 2018

January 2019

January 2019

State of the Ocean - Winter 2019

After a normal summer and fall in 2018 in the California Current, the ocean was much warmer than average in December (left image, specially in central and southern areas) and in January (right image, specifically in central and northern areas). While a mild El Niño is underway, its effects are not being currently felt along the California Current and the warming we have experienced here is not directly related to it.  Similar warm anomalies have also been observed in other areas of the North East Pacific.  Warm conditions in the California Current typically lead to reduced biological productivity so we will be watching and hoping for a return to normal conditions in the near future.

Amazing data visualization (including the above images) can be found at: https://podaac-tools.jpl.nasa.gov/soto


Government Shutdown and Science

The recent government shutdown greatly impacted federal employees throughout the United States, including many of the federal scientists that we work with at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and National Park Service (NPS).  The most direct impact of the shutdown on Farallon Institute’s work, specifically, was the postponement of an oceanographic research cruise scheduled for January.  Farallon Institute’s Dr. Brian Hoover was to be collecting data on seabird abundance and distribution throughout the California Current on that cruise.  The cruise is part of one of the longest running oceanographic surveys in the world, the CalCOFI program (California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations), which has been operating since 1949.  Gaps in the collection of data for long time-series studies can imperil the efficacy of these studies and are impossible to go back and collect at a later time.  The cruise was rescheduled for February, however, with a highly reduced survey area and more limited scientific participation due to schedule conflicts.


Abalone Fishery to Remain Closed

In December 2018, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) extended the closure of the recreational red abalone fishery for two additional years, through April 2021.  The fishery had been closed for 2018 due to low food availability and “starvation conditions” for abalone.  Abalone feed primarily on kelp, whose abundance dramatically decreased over recent years due to warmer than average water conditions and an increase in abundance of purple sea urchins, which graze down any newly established kelp fronds.  The recreational abalone fishery is an important part of the northern California coastal economy and the closure is expected to have an impact of $25–50 million per year.  The closure is part of the CDFW’s efforts to ensure healthy populations and a sustainable abalone fishery in future years.  For more information please click here.


2019 International Ocean Film Festival

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, consider attending the 2019 International Ocean Film Festival, which is scheduled for March 7–11, 2019.  Each year this festival brings together ocean enthusiasts to enjoy stunning visual presentations about the ocean and the role it plays in our lives.  All the films are created by independent filmmakers, from professionals to primary school students, and explore topics of ocean adventure, marine science, ocean recreation, and coastal culture.  Films range from shorts to full-length feature films and are organized into screenings that last 2–3 hours.  Most of the films will be screened in San Francisco, but there will be opportunities to see films in Marin as well.  For more information please click the link above and we hope to see you there.