2014 Presentations

The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness
SPEAKER: Mary Ellen Hannibal

Mary Ellen Hannibal will present on the importance of connecting landscapes, people and ecosystems. Drawing on research from her most recent book, The Spine of the Continent:  The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness, Hannibal will present a real history of America’s habitat, the animals within it, and the people who study them (with great photos!).  Hannibal will also reference her current work on extinction for a series on the subject for the New York Times.  Corridors and connectivity are among our best strategies for stemming species loss, which is not only a moral and emotional issue, but a major driver of global ecosystem change.

Mary Ellen Hannibal is an award-winning journalist focusing on social, geographic, and scientific dimensions of saving nature. The Spine of the Continent has been called a “thoroughly satisfying gem,” and “indispensible.”  Currently a Stanford Media Fellow, Hannibal’s next book, about citizen science, will be published in 2015.

Overview of the Natural History of Bat Species Found Along the California Central Coast
SPEAKER: Dave Johnston

Dave Johnston will give a brief overview of the natural history of Central Coastal California’s bats and how that knowledge can be used to help conserve bats. Dave will then discuss some of his research that helps address questions related to some of the major conservation issues. An increasingly important issue for bats is wind energy turbines and recent research at Montezuma Hills and Altamont Pass wind energy areas suggests that we may have underestimated the numbers of bat fatalities in California in the past. Dave will also show how he and his team have found that the location of turbines can also make a difference in potential impacts to bats. Dr. Johnston will then present some of his team’s research on bats at the California Valley Solar Ranch photovoltaic project in the Carrizo Plain where preliminary data suggest that PV panels likely have mostly positive effects on foraging bats.

Dave Johnston is an Associate Wildlife Ecologist at H.T. Harvey & Associates and a board member of the North American Society for Bat Research. Dave has spent over 20 years investigating impacts to bat populations from post construction wind and solar energy projects, urbanization, and transportation issues. Currently, he is studying the long-term post construction impacts on bats and birds at two major solar energy facilities: California Valley Solar Ranch (photovoltaic) in eastern San Luis Obispo County and Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (solar flux) is eastern San Bernardino County. He is the lead author for the California Bat Mitigation Techniques, Solutions, and Effectiveness for the State of California and for many other technical reports and scientific investigations. Dr. Johnston has on-going bat projects in Hawaii, California, Belize and Mexico. He frequently speaks at professional bat research meetings and has been featured in public television productions of Nature and Quest.

Overview of the Natural History of Bat Species Found Along the California Central Coast

Rewilding Pleistocene Desert Tortoises into the San Joaquin Valley and Carrizo Plain
SPEAKERS: Joseph Stewart and Barry Sinervo

We will be discussing our latest ecophysiologist models of species distributions for desert tortoises which forecast extinction of Gopherus throughout its range in the Mojave and Sonora deserts. One possible solution to this potential extinction event is to re-wild tortoises to the Central Valley of California and the Carrizo Plain, where
fossil tortoises were found 38 kya (in the McKittrick oil pools). We have deployed data loggers hooked up to copper models to measure the suitability of the thermal habitat in the Central Valley and a population viability model premised on impacts of climate on current demography to project habitat suitability of the tortoise now and into the future (2080). We also explored New Mexico and the Great Plains as potential refugia, given
the fossil record of Gopherus in these locations in the Pliocene, Miocene, Oligocene and Eocene.

Joseph Stewart (presenter) is a PhD student in the Sinervo Lab at UC Santa Cruz, where he studies the impacts of climate change on a suite of climate sensitive species, including the blunt nosed leopard lizard. Joseph completed a M.S. degree at the University of Nevada in 2013, where he assessed historical and projected future range contraction in the American pika.

Barry Sinervo (co-presenter) is a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he uses mechanistic approaches to model impacts of climate change on global herpetofauna. He is an adroit academic, with over 100 peer-reviewed publications, and a masterful lizard catcher.

Rewilding Pleistocene Desert Tortoises into the San Joaquin Valley and Carrizo Plain

Using the CNPS vegetation map to predict the presence and abundance of a rare bird species in the Carrizo Plain National Monument
SPEAKERS: Geoffrey R. Geupel and Leo Salas, Ph.D.

The San Joaquin population of the Le Conte’s Thrasher (including the Carrizo Plain) is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Primary threats to this population include habitat loss and degradation attributed to conversion due to development, agriculture and fire. Yet over the past decade, there have been few studies examining what factors determine its presence and abundance, the basic information needed to manage the threats and develop restoration plans. For the past four years, Point Blue has collaborated with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to survey the resident population within the Carrizo Plain National Monument to better understand its ecological needs during the breeding season. Together with a new detailed vegetation map developed by the California Native Plant Society, we are using this newly gained knowledge to develop a landscape scale ecological model of the species’ presence and abundance across the Monument. We developed a population estimate for the species within the Monument.  We will present the results of the landscape ecological model and its relationship with vegetation type and cover, and highlight the priority areas for Le Conte’s Thrasher monitoring and conservation. We will also propose means to establish a closer integration of CNPS data products with the large bird monitoring datasets in the California Avian Data Center.

Presenters: Geoffrey R. Geupel, Director, Emerging Programs and Partnerships Point Blue Conservation Science

Leo Salas, Ph.D. Senior Scientist, Climate Change and Quantitative Ecology Point Blue Conservation Science

Leo assists in the design, analysis and visualization of data for many projects for Point Blue across all research programs.  He also develops and maintains analyses and visualizations of data at the California Avian Data Center, and coordinates the Avian Knowledge Network.  Leo obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Ecology at the Universidad Simon Bolivar, Venezuela, where he studied the annual cycles of birds. His Masters is from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, studying tapirs in the Venezuelan Amazon, and his PhD, also from UMass, for which he researched arboreal marsupials in Papua New Guinea. After graduating from UMass Leo held jobs in Panama, Indonesian Borneo and Papua New Guinea, before coming to Point Blue. Besides publishing on the research subjects for his university degrees, he has publications about work on tree communities, spectacled bears, orangutans, and biodiversity. He also has extensive experience on data analysis and programming in several languages.

Le Conte’s Thrashers Guiding conservation in the Carrizo Plains

Introducing the Carrizo Plain Conservancy
SPEAKER: Neil Havlik, Ph.D., President, Carrizo Plain Conservancy

The Carrizo Plain Conservancy is now in business! This presentation will provide attendees with a brief history of the lead up to the Conservancy’s initiation, how the board of the Conservancy envisions its work unfolding and how those assembled can contribute toward increasing conservation outcomes on the Carrizo Plain. The 2013 Colloquium’s General Assembly minutes will be provided and further action steps will be devised to main- tain the considerable momentum achieved.

The Carrizo Plain Conservancy’s mission is to create new conservation initiatives and facilitate on-going conservation and restoration efforts on the Carrizo Plain through collaboration with public and private organizations. CPC goals include pursuing resource enhancement projects such as restoration of Mustang Springs, working with the County to implement the Cal Valley Lot Acquisition Program and other such conservation projects, and providing public education and research opportunities through partnerships.

Neil Havlik is the former Natural Resources Manager (now retired) for the City of San Luis Obispo, which position he held for seventeen years.  In that position he directed the creation of a public open space system for the citizens of San Luis Obispo which currently includes a dozen properties open to hiking and biking, plus a large number of conservation easements on farming and rangelands in the area.  A graduate of Cal Poly, Neil earned his doctorate at UC Berkeley in 1984 while working for the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland.  He later served as executive director of the nonprofit Solano Land Trust in Fairfield before returning to San Luis Obispo in 1996.  He served on the Monument Advisory Committee for Carrizo Plain National Monument for ten years and is currently the president of the newly formed Carrizo Plain Conservancy.

Introducing the Carrizo Plain Conservancy

Panelists: Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of The Spine of the Continent, Landon Peppel, Preserve Manager at Wind Wolves Preserve, Dave Hacker, Staff Environmental Scientist at California Department of Fish and Game, Daniel E. Meade, Principal Scientist at Althouse and Meade, Inc.

Landon Peppel is the Preserve Manager for The Wildlands Conservancy’s, Wind Wolves Preserve, a 93,000 acre non-profit nature preserve in an ecologically unique region where the Transverse Ranges, Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, western Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley converge. Landon has additional experience with endangered species habitats across the southern valley while working part-time as a level-II blunt-nosed leopard lizard surveyor for a local San Joaquin environmental consulting firm. Prior to employment with The Wildlands Conservancy, he worked with the Minnesota DNR conducting fishery and aquatic vegetation surveys on standard and sentinel lakes for the SLICE (Sustaining Lakes in a Changing Environment) program. His background in public access comes from working for the USDA-FS on a heavily used OHV area on Colorado’s Ramparte Range, south of Denver. Landon holds a B.A. in Biology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. At college, Landon studied white-tailed deer winter habitat corridors as part of a multiple year undergraduate research project with Dr. John Gianinni.

Dave Hacker graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in March of 1998. Continuously since then, based in San Luis Obispo, Dave has worked throughout California’s Central Coast on biological inventories, impact assessments, and mitigation projects, both independently and at State agencies. Since 2008, Dave has been working for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a regulatory capacity on utility-scale renewable energy projects, including the solar projects in the Carrizo Plains. Email Dave

Dave Hacker – Carrizo Connectivity
2014 Carrizo Colloquium Panel – Habitat Connectivity, Landon Peppel
Report On Health Status Of Residents In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties Living Near The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Reactors Located In Avila Beach, California

Carrizo Plain Corridors

Corridors and connectivity are becoming recognized as key to species survival. As part of the visioning process for the Carrizo Plain, we have assembled a panel of experts to address what is being done and what remains to be done to establish lasting corridors connecting the Carrizo with other large conservation areas throughout the state.

The panel will discuss current corridor conditions through the Los Padres Forest, Tejon Ranch, Wind Wolves Preserve, Sneddon Ranch, Carrizo Plain, Bitter Creek Refuge, Poe/Wheeler Ridge and ranches in between and discuss the following concepts:

  • Establishment of over-arching management principles
  • Prioritization of habitats and populations
  • Adoption of best practices/management strategies and invasive/restoration projects
  • How to address adaptive management strategies during abnormal conditions
  • Protection of intact archaeological sites
  • Funding ideas to establish a corridor, including grants, private partnerships, prescribed grazing, organic certification, native seed and plant sales, donations, tourism, mitigation/conservation
    banking, hunting programs
  • Visioning and long-term outcomes

Pluvial Lake Carrizo: A much larger Lake in the Carrizo Plain
during the Ice-age Maximum ~20,000 Years Ago

SPEAKERS: Rob Negrini, Department of Geological Sciences, California State University, Bakersfield, CA Dallas Rhodes, Department of Geology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA Ramon Arrowsmith, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ Peter Wigand, Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, NV Manuel Palacios-Fest, Terra Nostra Earth Sciences Research, LLC, Tucson, AZ

Several times over the past million years or so, ice sheets, kilometers thick, covered roughly half of North America during ice age maxima. During these advances, the expanded ice cap was large enough to deflect the northern jet-stream storm track significantly to the south compared to its present average latitude. As a result of the associated greater rainfall, lakes in internally-drained basins (i.e., no drainage outlets to the sea) throughout western North America grew to dramatically larger sizes than is the case for modern lakes (Figure 1a). Geological investigations in the Carrizo Plain show that this particular internally drained basin also possessed such a so-called “Pluvial” lake. Evidence for the maximum size of the lake is based on aligned “slickspots”, marking the lakes highstand elevation. These features are located at an elevation of 595 meters above sea level (1952 fasl), ~12 m above the basin floor marking the greatest water depth attained by the lake. The age of the pluvial lake is based on two lines of evidence. First, the lake must have receeded before 16,700 years ago, based on an optically-stimulated luminescence age on the oldest known clay dune deposit, a geomorphic feature whose formation requires its position at an elevation above lake level. More direct dates on this deepwater event are consistent with the minimum age given by the clay dune date. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal found in deepwater sediments from the NSL-1 and SL-1A cores taken near the modern lake bottom date the lake highstand at 21-23,000 years ago, very close to the age of the maximum extent of the most recent ice age. Pollen recovered from these deepwater sediments indicate a wetter, cooler climate than today, more hospitable to plants such as juniper and sagebrush. An assemblage of ostracode species suggests lake water salinities in the range of 500-5,000 ppm, much fresher than modern waters.


Rob Negrini, Professor of Geology, California State University, Bakersfield
Negrini graduated in 1979 with a B.A. cum laude in Geology from Amherst College and in 1986 received a Ph.D. in Geology from UC Davis. He has worked as a Professor at CSU Bakersfield since the Fall of 1985 and was selected as the CSUB Outstanding Professor in 1997 and the CSU Bakersfield Outstanding Research Faculty in 2012. Negrini has published 27 papers in peer-reviewed journals including Geology, Journal of Geophysical Research, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Geophysical Journal International, etc. His research has been funded with more than $7M of grants from local industry, from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the California Department of Water Resources, and the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society. Negrini has served as both President and Vice-President of the San Joaquin Geological Society and was selected as the 2008 Educator of the Year by the Pacific Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. He currently serves as the Director of the CSUB California Energy Research Center.


Pluvial Lake Carrizo: A much larger Lake in the Carrizo Plain during the Ice-age Maximum ~20,000 Years Ago

Overview of the Carrizo Plain Ecosystem Project
SPEAKER: Rachel Endicott

Rachel will provide an overview of the Carrizo Plain Ecosystem Project. She will discuss results from the last few years and the goals of the study going forward.

Rachel Endicott is the Program Manager at UC Berkeley for the Carrizo Plain Ecosystem Project. She has worked with the study for the last four years and is currently overseeing the next phase of the study: the implementation of rainout shelters and irrigation plots to better understand the potential impacts of climate change.

Overview of the Carrizo Plain Ecosystem Project

Daniel E. Meade, Ph.D. – Principal Scientist, Althouse and Meade, Inc.

Dr. Meade is trained in the ecology and evolution of plants and animals, receiving his doctoral degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His work has investigated the biology, taxonomy, evolution, and ecology of a wide range of plants and animals. Together with LynneDee Althouse, he founded A&M in 1999.

San Joaquin kit fox presence on and near Topaz Solar Farms, San Luis Obispo County

Tom Maloney, Master of Ceremonies

Tom became the Conservancy’s first Executive Director in February 2009 with 15 years of experience as a conservationist, environmental advocate, natural resource planner and ecologist.  Most recently Tom served as the North and Central Coast Ecoregional Director for The Nature Conservancy.  In 2005 Tom joined the California Program of The Nature Conservancy.  The focus of that work was conservation planning for the Carrizo Plain National Monument and land conservation in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.  Tom holds a BA in Economics from Boston University and a MS in Resource Management from Antioch New England.  Since 1997, Tom has also served as a natural history tour guide on three continents. As a dedicated birder and naturalist, Tom loves the chance to hear about all of the great work going on at the Carrizo.