Monday, April 28, 2014

Climate Change and Conservation – Visualizing Our Future

By Tom Greco, Communications Specialist

Land and water managers in the Bay Area can now better prepare for the impacts of a shifting climate thanks to new research released by Pepperwood’s TBC3 (Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative). TBC3 co-chair and UC Berkeley professor Dr. David Ackerly will share highlights of this ground-breaking research at a free lecture on Friday, May 2, 2014 at Pepperwood.  The lecture begins at 7pm, preceded by an open house and light refreshments starting at 6:30pm. No advance registration is required. For directions please visit
View of morning fog and the Mayacamas Mountains facing north as seen from Pepperwood's Three Tree Hill

Pepperwood’s TBC3 is a group of over 30 interdisciplinary scientists producing research that may just change the face of conservation planning in our region.  By “downscaling” the most widely-recognized international climate projections, TBC3 has created a set of high-resolution climate futures for the 10 Bay Area counties that include the most recent data from the International Panel on Climate Change released mid-April. This means that land and water managers can now see how climate variables like precipitation or temperature are likely to change over time for their local areas of interest. 
Screen capture from the Bay Area Open Space Council's
Conservation Lands Network Explorer website, which
now hosts the new research released by TBC3

Users can choose from a range of different climate scenarios, such as ones that assume higher or lower rates of global carbon dioxide emissions. The potential uses for TBC3’s research include long term planning for water resources, open spaces, agriculture, and emergency preparedness.  Sonoma and its neighboring counties have just been awarded a “Climate Ready” grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to apply TBC3 data to local government’s efforts to prepare for potential climate change impacts.

At his lecture on May 2, Dr. Ackerly will draw on his background in plant ecology and TBC3’s latest research to describe the potential impacts of climate change on Bay Area forests, chapparal and grasslands. How are the Bay Area’s landscapes likely to change, and will the native plants we are familiar with be able successfully adapt to changes that will occur? Dr. Ackerly will also discuss the new long-term research plots at Pepperwood designed to monitor forest change over time. Dr. Ackerly recently partnered with the Santa Rosa Junior College on a National Science Foundation proposal to engage local college students in this “Climate Smart” research at Pepperwood.

Dr. Ackerly (left) and TBC3 researchers survey a location at
Pepperwood for one of 50 long-term forest monitoring plots 
Dr. Ackerly is a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley and co-chair of TBC3. His lab studies plant ecology and evolution, with an emphasis on the native plants of California. His current work examines potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity conservation and land management, with a focus on the Bay Area. Dr. Ackerly is developing a new model that provides a probabilistic approach to modeling patterns of vegetation in California, and how these patterns may shift in the face of climate change.

Pepperwood is a leader in forging solutions to advance the health of Northern California’s land, water and wildlife.  Pepperwood’s Dwight Center for Conservation Science produces cutting-edge research, provides comprehensive environmental education for all ages, and facilitates an innovative citizen science initiative. We use our 3,200 acre nature preserve as a living laboratory to engage students, volunteers, and scientists in applied conservation. Our singular focus is applying science to safeguard the future of nature for generations to come.

Pepperwood is located at 2130 Pepperwood Preserve Road approximately midway between the towns of Santa Rosa and Calistoga off of Franz Valley Road and adjacent to Safari West. Please carpool as parking is limited. For more information about Pepperwood and its programs, please visit

Nature Photography with Gerald and Buff Corsi

Gerald and Buff Corsi in Yosemite, CA
By Sandi Funke, Education Director

Gerald and Buff Corsi are world-class photographers whose works have been featured in National Geographic and other prestigious publications. On Sunday, April 27th they taught an Introduction to Field Photography class at Pepperwood, covering basic camera techniques as well as providing some tips and tricks based on their experiences. We asked them a few questions about their photography: 

Acorn Woodpecker © Gerald & Buff Corsi
You both had careers prior to pursing nature photography full time. How did you originally get into photography? 

It's been a lifelong interest for both of us. We actually met in a photo workshop about 40 years ago at the California Academy of Sciences.

What do you find most rewarding about nature photography? 

We find ourselves looking more closely at nature's beauty. 

Why would you recommend nature photography as a hobby? 

It takes us to interesting places with new experiences on each trip and makes us appreciate the variety of life on earth.

Lioness and cub © Gerald & Buff Corsi
What is one of your most memorable photos? 

We had been in the Masai Mara (Kenya) for several weeks and had the chance to watch and follow a lioness with her three newborn cubs--from the place she gave birth to them to eventually bringing them to her pride and introducing them to their father. The photo we enjoy most from that was the lioness carrying her littlest cub which seemed to need a ride from mom sometimes. 

Is there a photo you missed and wished you had gotten? 

Many photos have been missed for various reasons. We've been fortunate to be able to return to favorite places and try again.

Anything else you would like to add? 

Nature photography is a great hobby, but in today's market, unfortunately, not necessarily a financially rewarding career.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Protecting Our Butterflies with Liam O'Brien

Liam O'Brien
By Sandi Funke, Education Director

For some of us our personal story could be told as a travel log. For others, our life history would be best captured as a mystery or maybe a romance. For Liam O’Brien, a Bay Nature 2014 Local Hero Award Winner for Environmental Education, his story is best told through natural history - specifically through three very attractive butterflies: the Western Tiger Swallowtail, the Coastal Green Hairstreak and the Mission Blue.

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus),
© Christopher L. Christie
Western Tiger Swallowtail
The Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) is a very common butterfly that can be found in woodlands, by creeks, and even in urban areas. For something so widespread it is anything but ordinary. This showy butterfly is quite large with sloped yellow and black wings tipped with small patches of red and blue. It’s this gorgeous insect that lured a successful professional actor off the stage. After a Western Tiger Swallowtail flew into Liam’s urban yard his life was changed forever. He left the stage and began searching for all of the remaining butterfly species left in his county. Little did he know, this was just the beginning of a twenty year love affair with butterflies!

Coastal Green Hairstreak
Coastal Green Hairstreak (Callophrys viridis), © Scott Cox
The story of the Coastal Green Hairstreak (Callophrys viridis) is a story of islands. Not islands surrounded by water, but instead islands surrounded by concrete. Coastal Green Hairstreaks are small iridescent green butterflies which mate in the spring. The females then disperse after mating looking for plants on which to lay their eggs, which in San Francisco are only Coast Buckwheat and Deer Weed. Sadly these small dune dwellers cannot fly but a few hundred feet. A city guy himself, Liam brought the idea of The Green Hairstreak Project to fruition. Through an organization called Nature in the City, The Green Hairstreak Project brought citizens and decision makers together to develop a corridor of linked habitats in San Francisco that provide food in terms of host plants for Coastal Green Hairstreak caterpillars. Since 2006, community members have planted thousands of these native host plants. Liam was instrumental in getting this amazing project initiated, creating acres of native butterfly habitat and beautifying San Francisco while helping to save this butterfly.

Mission Blue (Plebejus icariodes
missionensis), © Liam O'Brien
Mission Blue
Liam’s determination to ensure San Francisco is home to butterflies did not stop with the Coastal Green Hairstreak. He has also worked to help save the endangered Mission Blue (Plebejus icariodes missionensis). This small butterfly only occurs in Marin and southern San Francisco counties. It is small, grayish blue with spots on the outside of its wings and a pleasing amber hue on the inside.  Mission blue caterpillars rely entirely on lupines for food. Liam is working to survey this rare butterfly and relocate individual butterflies to more suitable habitat where the populations are threatened because of development.

Pepperwood is pleased to be hosting Liam O’Brien for a class on butterflies on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Click here to register or learn more. 

You can learn more about Liam’s work and projects at

Keywords: Butterflies, Coastal Green Hairstreak, Mission Blue, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Pepperwood, Liam O'Brian, Conservation