There are many and increasing threats to biodiversity. To protect the plants and animals that share our world, we need to understand what they need to survive – and ideally, thrive – in a warming, more crowded world. And we need to better understand how meeting those needs can align with other societal values.

To do that, our scientists conduct ecological research to elucidate conservation problems, test hypotheses and solutions, and monitor results. We collaborate with the scientific community to inform and review our work, and share our findings with scientists and conservation practitioners around the world.

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Science

Invasive Ant Removal

How can we eliminate a large-scale infestation of invasive ants – and how would we know when we have?

Marine | Technology | Science

Closing the Abalone Data Gap

Can putting technology in the hands of citizen scientists transform how abalone are managed?

2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Adapting the bioblitz to meet conservation needs

Parker, S.S., B.V. Brown, B.S. Cohen, N.S. Fraga, J.J. Knapp, Z. Principe, J. Moore, G.B. Pauly, J.M. Randall, T.A. Wake

A bioblitz is a collaborative, rapid field assessment that takes place in a given location over a short period of time. This paper discusses how bioblitz events involving experts are being used to meet the needs of conservation. The authors discuss the best practices for…

2018 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Partnerships in Fisheries Management

Wilson J. , McGonigal, H., Dempsey, T., Gleason, M., Rienecke, S.

Fisheries management in California is a complex, resource intensive process that is limited by funding and staff capacity. In this report, Conservancy scientists and colleagues identify ways in which non-governmental organizations and individuals, including fishermen, can engage in aspects of management. The report suggests that…

2018 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Guidance for Preparing Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Rohde, M.M., S. Matsumoto, J. Howard, S. Liu, L. Riege, E.J. Remson

California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 is landmark legislation that empowers local agencies, known as groundwater sustainability agencies, to sustainably manage groundwater resources for social, economic and environmental benefits. SGMA also includes specific requirements to identify and consider impacts to groundwater dependent ecosystems

2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Using ricelands to provide temporary shorebird habitat during migration

Gregory H. Golet, Candace Low, Simon Avery, Katie Andrews, Christopher J. McColl, Rheyna Laney, Mark D. Reynolds

Migratory birds face great challenges due to the climate change, conversion of historical stopover sites, and other factors. To help address these challenges, the launched a dynamic conservation incentive program to create temporary wetland habitats in harvested and fallow rice fields for shorebirds migrating…

2018 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Introduction to the Special Issue on the Flora and Vegetation of the Islands of the Californias

John J. Knapp, John M. Randall

The islands off the Pacific coast of California and Baja California, from the Farallones in the north to Isla Natividad in the south, are within the California Floristic Province. Their shared flora is distinctive and rich in endemic genera, species, subspecies, and varieties not found…

2017 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Patterns and magnitude of flow alteration in California, USA

Julie K H Zimmerman, Daren M. Carlisle, Jason T. May, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Theodore E. Grantham, Larry R. Brown, Jeanette K. Howard

The importance of the natural flow regime to stream and river health has received growing attention in recent years. Understanding natural flows and patterns of flow alteration is an important first step in improving the management of California’s rivers and streams for human and ecosystem…

2017 | Freshwater | Science | Data

California Natural Flows Database

Julie K.H. Zimmerman, Daren M. Carlisle, Jason T. May, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Theodore E. Grantham, Larry R. Brown, Jeanette K. Howard

The Nature Conservancy and the United Stated Geological Survey (USGS) partnered to generate estimates of natural flows (expected streamflow in the absence of human modification) in all the streams and rivers in California (1950-2015). For more details on the methods and results see  Patterns and…

2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Amargosa River Expert BioBlitz 2017 Final Report

Parker, S.S., B.S. Cohen, N. Fraga, B. Brown, J. Cole, W. Chatfield-Taylor, K. Guadalupe, G.B. Pauly, D. Cooper, M. Ordeñana

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy co-organized an “Expert BioBlitz” to explore a 26-mile stretch of the Wild and Scenic Amargosa River, located in the heart of the Mojave Desert. The event was designed be a rapid-response, high return-on-investment method for the collection of high-quality field…

2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2017 Annual Report

The Nature Conservancy deploys science to help overcome major challenges facing people and nature. In today’s fast-paced world, turning threats to nature into opportunities for conservation requires agility. The Conservation Science Catalyst Fund enables our science team to mobilize quickly — and produce the information…

2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecosystem management and land conservation can substantially contribute to California’s climate mitigation goals

D. Richard Cameron, David C. Marvin, Jonathan M. Remucal, Michelle C. Passero

Combatting climate change will require using all available tools, especially those that contribute to other societal and economic goals, such as natural resource protection and energy security. Conserving and managing natural and agricultural lands to retain and absorb greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are tools that have…

2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Testing a Remote Sensing-Based Interactive System for Monitoring Grazed Conservation Lands

Lawrence D. Ford, H. Scott Butterfield, Pete A. Van Hoorn, Kasey B. Allen, Ethan Inlander, Carrie Schloss, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Miriam Tsalyuk

The Nature Conservancy developed RDMapper, a web-based tool that uses satellite-based productivity estimates, rainfall records, and compliance history to identify easement properties at risk of being below the required level of RDM. TNC successfully used RDMapper in 2015 and 2016 to predict compliance across ~47,000…

2017 | Marine | Technology | Science | Video

Aquaculture by Design, Tomales Bay

Serena Lomonico, Robert Jones, Torrey Johnson, Sarah Newkirk, Sarah Lummis, Kirk Klausmeyer, John Finger, Terry Sawyer, Richard James

Aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important global food source. With this growth comes urgent, unanswered questions about the interactions of aquaculture operations—both positive and negative—and ecosystems. This video describes a collaboration between the Conservancy, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Hog Island Oyster Company aimed at…

2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Novel fine-scale aerial mapping approach quantifies grassland weed cover dynamics and response to management

Carolyn M. Malmstrom, H. Scott Butterfield, Laura Planck, Christopher W. Long, Valerie T. Eviner

Invasive weeds threaten the biodiversity and forage productivity of grasslands worldwide. However, management of these weeds is constrained by the practical difficulty of detecting small-scale infestations across large landscapes and by limits in understanding of landscape-scale invasion dynamics. This study demonstrates the application of a…

2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Mark D. Reynolds, Brian L. Sullivan, Eric Hallstein, Sandra Matsumoto, Steve Kelling, Matthew Merrifield, Daniel Fink, Alison Johnston, Wesley M. Hochachka, Nicholas E. Bruns, Matthew E. Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey, Nathan Elliott, Leslie Martin, John W. Fitzpatrick, Paul Spraycar, Gregory H. Golet, Christopher McColl, Scott A. Morrison

What if instead of buying habitat, conservationists could rent it when and where nature needs it most? The Conservancy is using predictive models of shorebird movements, data from the citizen science program eBird, and NASA satellite wetland habitat data to create a habitat marketplace of…

2017 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Managing diversions in unregulated streams using a modified percent-of-flow approach

Darren W. Mierau, William J. Trush, Gabriel J. Rossi, Jennifer K. Carah, Matthew O. Clifford, Jeanette K. Howard

The California water rights system often dis-incentivizes water management that benefits both nature and people by directing the timing of diversions to the summer when water is the most scarce. It makes more sense to divert water in the winter when it is plentiful, and…

2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

A bustle in the hedgerow: Woody field margins boost on farm avian diversity and abundance in an intensive agricultural landscape

Sacha K. Heath, Candan U. Soykan, Karen L. Velas, Rodd Kelsey, Sara M. Kross

This paper discusses the potential for on-farm habitats along field margins as a conservation strategy within intensively cultivated landscapes. Specifically, the study examined the effects of woody field margin vegetation on winter and breeding season avian communities within diverse farm fields of California's Central Valley,…

2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Spatially biased dispersal of acorns by a scatter-hoarding corvid may accelerate passive restoration of oak habitat on California’s largest island

Mario B. Pesendorfer, T. Scott Sillett, Scott A. Morrison

An individual jay can cache thousands of oak seeds per year, and in so doing provide oaks a means to disperse long distances. This ecological process can be especially important in restoration of degraded habitats – like Santa Cruz Island, CA, which experienced over 150…

2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Equipping the 22nd-Century Historical Ecologist

Scott A. Morrison, T. Scott Sillett, W. Chris Funk, Cameron K. Ghalambor, Torben C. Rick

Historical records can provide information critical for conservation. Yet, societal investment in collection and curation of museum archives is widely recognized to be insufficient, which is a trend that disadvantages conservationists today and into the future. In response, this essay calls for a crowdsourced initiative,…