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 | Marine | Economics | Science

TNC and FEMA

How do we increase climate resilience in ways that work for people and nature?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science

Rewilding the San Joaquin Valley

40 years of science sets the course for the largest recovery of species in U.S. history

2023 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Shrub density effects on the presence of an endangered lizard of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Mario Zuliani, Nargol Ghazian, Malory Owen, Michael F. Westphal, H. Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

As The Nature Conservancy embarks on restoration planning for its Strategic Restoration Strategy, it needs detailed information on the importance of shrubs to a suite of conservation targets, including the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard. Previous collaborative work between TNC and partners revealed a threshold of…


2023 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Expanding the Role of Nature-based Solutions in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Programs: Lessons and Recommendations

The Nature Conservancy, radbridge, Earth Economics

FEMA increasingly recognizes and emphasizes the role of nature-based solutions (NBS) for building community resilience to hazards like flood, wildfire, and drought, and the agency has made remarkable progress on policies and resources to support NBS in a relatively short period. However, anecdotally it remains…


2023 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Cattle Grazing Across The Nature Conservancy in California’s Conservation Estate

Butterfield, H.S., J. Howard, Z. Principe, E. Inlander, S. Sweet, A. Craig, R. Mason, J. Knapp , M. Katkowski

For over 300 years, cattle and sheep have been grazed in California, from the Rancho era continuing to the present day. The Nature Conservancy has a long history in California and across the western United States in using cattle grazing for conservation purposes. In California…


2023 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Ear mite infection restructures otic microbial networks in conservation–reliant Santa Catalina Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)

Jasmine Lu, Emily E. Hamblen, Lara J. Brenner, Julie L. King, Bridgett M. VonHoldt, Alexandra L. DeCandia

Over 50% of federally threatened Santa Catalina Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis catalinae) develop life-threatening ceruminous gland tumors in their ear canals. Previous work suggests that tumors may result from a combination of ectoparasites, disruption of the host-associated microbiome, and host immunopathology. We found that in…


2023 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2023 RFP

Brynn Pewtherer

The Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund was established in 2000 in memory of Dr. Oren Pollak, a leading grassland ecologist and restoration pioneer, as well as an ardent champion and mentor for grassland ecology students. As The Nature Conservancy’s lead ecologist in California in the…


2023 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2022 Annual Report

Scott Morrison, Brynn Pewtherer

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…


2023 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Floristic patterns and conservation values of Mojave and Sonoran desert springs in California

Naomi S. Fraga, Brian S. Cohen, Andy Zdon, Maura Palacios Mejia, Sophie S. Parker

This paper presents novel botanical inventories of 48 desert springs as part of the Mojave Springs Research Project. The authors assess plant species composition and richness within and between springs and evaluate how botanical diversity relates to physical and hydrological parameters. The results of…


2023 | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Minimizing conservation impacts of net zero energy systems in the western United States

Grace C. Wu, Ryan A. Jones, Emily Leslie, James H. Williams, Andrew Pascale, Erica Brand, Sophie Parker, Brian Cohen, Joseph Fargione, Julia Souder, Maya Batres, Mary G. Gleason, Michael H. Schindel, Charlotte K. Stanley

This paper presents the results of the Power of Place-West project. The authors combined energy modeling with ecosystem and wildlife habitat data to determine the costs and impacts associated with deploying clean energy infrastructure across 11 states in the American West. The results of…


2022 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Assessing the effectiveness of landscape-scale forest adaptation actions to improve resilience under projected climate change

Charles J. Maxwell, Robert M. Scheller, Kristen N. Wilson, Patricia N. Manley

The authors hypothesized that mimicking the historic fire-return interval, by matching it with the combined frequency of natural disturbances (wildfire) and management (i.e., thinning and prescribed fire), will maintain forest resilience despite a changing climate. To test our hypothesis, we deployed a forest landscape simulation model, LANDIS-II,…


2022 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Foundation plant species provide resilience and microclimatic heterogeneity in drylands

Chris J. Lortie, Alex Fillazola, Mike Westphal, H. Scott Butterfield

Drylands globally, and those plant and animal species in these systems, face increasing challenges from extreme drought. In California, the most recent megadrought allowed us to document for native San Joaquin Desert plants and animals the importance of foundational shrub species for mediating fine-scale near-surface…


2022 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Learning to Live with Fire in Forest Communities

The Nature Conservancy

A 2022 report, Learning to Live with Fire in Forest Communities, highlights the science and benefits of fire-resilient community design.  TNC partnered with key stakeholders in the Paradise community to demonstrate how redirecting development and urban growth in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), in tandem with nature-based fire buffers…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Environmental & Historic Preservation Primer for Nature-Based Hazard Mitigation

The Nature Conservancy, FEMA, Nonlinear Ventures, radbridge, Earth Economics

To address the increasing risk of catastrophic flooding, wildfire and other climate-related threats, communities are pursuing nature-based solutions (NBS) and seeking FEMA hazard mitigation funds to support this work. Of all the required activities, the Environmental & Historic Preservation (EHP) review is often cited as…


2022 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Interspecific Asymmetries in Behavioral Plasticity Drive Seasonal Patterns of Temporal Niche Partitioning in an Island Carnivore Community

Victor Y. Zhang, Calypso N. Gagorik, Lara J. Brenner, Christina L. Boser, Tad C. Theimer, C. Loren Buck

Despite occupying similar niches in a relatively resource-poor environment, island foxes and island spotted skunks have coexisted for years through fine-scale spatial, temporal, and dietary niche partitioning. Using collar-mounted accelerometers, we investigated the activity patterns of these two insular mammalian carnivores. Our results suggest that…


2022 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Using unoccupied aerial vehicles to map and monitor changes in emergent kelp canopy after an ecological regime shift

Vienna R. Saccomanno, Tom Bell, Camille Pawlak, Charlotte K. Stanley, Katherine C. Cavanaugh, Rietta Hohman, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Kyle Cavanaugh, Abby Nickels, Waz Hewerdine, Corey Garza, Gary Fleener, Mary Gleason

Kelp forests are complex underwater habitats that provide valuable services for both people and nature. Despite their importance, increasingly severe stressors have resulted in declines in kelp forests in many regions including the North Coast of California. Given the significant and sustained loss of kelp…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

The Business of Restoration: Examining the oyster reef restoration industry in the U.S. with recommendations for how conservation organizations can increase efficiencies and decrease costs to scale restoration efforts

Elliot Hall, Bryan DeAngelis

Oyster reefs are one of the most imperiled habitats on earth. However, current rates of restoration are too slow. We must radically increase the pace, scale, and impact of restoration to recover the abundance, resilience and benefits of these invaluable coastal ecosystems. Fortunately, incredible transformations…


2022 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Blueprint for Resilience: Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

Patricia N. Manley, Nicholas A. Povak, Kristen Wilson, Kristen Wilson, Mary Lou Fairweather, Vivian Griffey

The Blueprint is a set of strategy maps that identify opportunities for forest protection and adaptation across a 2.4-million-acre region of the central Sierra Nevada. It uses a novel application of the Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) tool to evaluate spatial data layers against target…


2022 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Water balance for gaged watersheds in the Central Sierra Nevada, California and Nevada, United States

James W. Roche, Kristen N. Wilson, Qin Ma, Roger C. Bales

This study evaluated the water balance components of precipitation, evapotranspiration, discharge, and change in storage compared to measured streamflow and unregulated streamflow estimates in the central Sierra Nevada. The fifty-two watersheds varied in size and in elevation. This study found that the evapotranspiration estimates plus gridded…


2022 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Soil microbial community composition and tolerance to contaminants in an urban brownfield site

Maura Palacios Mejia, Connie Rojas, Emily Curd, Mark Renshaw, Kiumars Edalati, Beverly Shih, Nitin Vincent, Meixi Lin, Peggy Nguyen, Robert Wayne, Kelsey Jessup, Sophie Parker

This paper presents results from a study conducted at TNC’s multi-benefit stormwater management and habitat enhancement project site adjacent to the Los Angeles River. Due to a history of industrial use, soils at the project site are contaminated with heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, and…


2022 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Predictive ecological land classification from multi-decadal satellite imagery

Daniel Sousa, Frank W. Davis, Kelly Easterday, Mark Reynolds, Laura Riege, H. Scott Butterfield, Moses Katkowski

This paper details a first of its kind approach to land classification, using random forests and multivariate regression trees and historical Landsat satellite imagery to map and then assess changes in oak canopies at the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve. Using this “topoclimatic-edaphic” approach to…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Developing an adaptive management approach to cowbird control on the Santa Clara River, California

Sophie S. Parker, Linnea S. Hall, Mary J. Whitfield, Laura Riege, Kathryn R. Selm, René Corado

This paper presents results from a field-based study that can be used to benefit songbirds in riverside habitats like those found along the Santa Clara River in Ventura County, California. Songbirds such as the Least Bell’s Vireo suffer population declines in part because Brown-headed…