Mary Gleason

Director of Science
Marine
[email protected]

In The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter, Mary leads the ocean science team with science engagements in fisheries, coastal conservation and adaptation, emerging ocean threats, and marine spatial planning. She has led marine and estuarine biodiversity assessments and has conducted collaborative research on fisheries impacts and bycatch reduction.  She is working with a broad array of partners to advance the use of visual technologies to assess fish in deep habitats in marine protected areas and fishery closures. Between 2006 and 2011, she was a senior planning and science advisor to California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, a public-private partnership that designed a statewide network of marine protected areas.

Prior to working at the Conservancy, Mary was an environmental consultant working on coastal resource management projects in California and Southeast Asia. She received her B.A. in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley.


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2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Conserving California's Coastal Habitats: A Legacy and a Future with Sea Level Rise

Walter N. Heady, Brian S. Cohen, Mary G. Gleason, Joshua N. Morris, Sarah G. Newkirk, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Hilary R. Walecka, Elizabeth Gagneron

Sea level rise presents a new challenge to coastal conservation. The authors quantified and mapped the vulnerability of habitats, imperiled species, and conservation lands to sea level rise throughout the entire California coast, where high biodiversity, high endemism, and 26.5 million people coincide. Combining habitat…


2018 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Adaptive comanagement to achieve climate‐ready fisheries

Jono R. Wilson, Serena Lomonico, Darcy Bradley, Leila Sievanen, Tom Dempsey, Michael Bell, Skyli McAfee, Christopher Costello, Cody Szuwalski, Huff McGonigal, Sean Fitzgerald, Mary Gleason

Climate change is amplifying threats to ocean ecosystems and marine fisheries worldwide. In order to respond appropriately in the face of these ocean changes, commercial and recreational fisheries management requires improved information collection, expanded utilization of diverse data sources, and enhanced decision-making. While advances in science and…


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…




2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Aligning Natural Resource Conservation and Flood Hazard Mitigation in California

Juliano Calil, Michael W. Beck, Mary Gleason, Matthew Merrifield, Kirk Klausmeyer, Sarah Newkirk

The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program has paid out more than $38 billion in claims since its inception in 1968, more than a third of which has gone to the 1% of policies that experienced multiple, repetitive losses. During the same period, the loss of…


2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Climate mediates hypoxic stress on fish diversity and nursery function at the land–sea interface

Brent B. Hughes, Matthew D. Levey, Monique C. Fountain, Aaron B. Carlisle, Francisco P. Chavez, Mary G. Gleason

This comprehensive study of a major California estuary documents the links between nutrient runoff from coastal land use, the health of the estuary as a nursery for young fish, and the abundance of fish in an offshore commercial fishery. The researchers assembled long-term data sets…



2014 | Freshwater | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

An Inventory and Classification of U.S. West Coast Estuaries

Walter N. Heady, Kevin O'Connor, Jennifer Kassakian , Kate Doiron, Charles Endris, Daniel Hudgens, Ross P. Clark , Jena Carter , Mary G. Gleason

Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. This inventory classifies more than 600 coastal confluences on the West Coast of the United States. Each estuary was classified using the federal Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS). A spatial database of…


2014 | Freshwater | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Nursery Functions of U.S. West Coast Estuaries: The State of Knowledge for Juveniles of Focal Invertebrate and Fish Species

Brent B. Hughes, Matthew D. Levey, Jennifer A. Brown, Monique C. Fountain, Aaron B. Carlisle, Steven Y. Litvin, Correigh M. Greene, Walter N. Heady, Mary G. Gleason

Estuaries support significant biodiversity and important ecosystem functions such as providing rearing habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates. This report synthesizes the scientific literature and geospatial data on the nursery requirements of fifteen species of commercial, cultural, and conservation concern and highlights the potential nursery role…


2013 | Marine | Publications & Reports

A Transactional and Collaborative Approach to Reducing Effects of Bottom Trawling

Gleason M, Feller EM, Merrifield M, Copps S, Fujita R, Bell M, Rienecke S, Cook C

On the Central Coast of California, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, local fishers and local, state, and federal authorities worked collaboratively to protect large areas of the seafloor from bottom trawling for groundfish while addressing economic impacts of trawl closures. This paper aims to…



2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

The role of science in supporting marine protected area network planning and design in California

Emily Saarman, Mary Gleason, John Ugoretz, Satie Airamé, Mark Carr, Evan Fox, Adam Frimodig, Tom Mason, Jason Vasques

This paper explores four key conditions that supported the successful integration of science into the Marine Protected Area network planning effort in California. The redesigned statewide network of MPAs generally reflects the successful integration of science and science-based MPA design guidelines into a public policy…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Adapting stakeholder processes to region-specific challenges in marine protected area network planning

Evan Foxa, Eric Poncelet, Darci Connor, Jason Vasques, John Ugoretz, Scott McCreary, Dominique Monié, Michael Harty, Mary Gleason

This paper examines how differences in regional characteristics and lessons learned influenced three important elements of the stakeholder process of California's Marine Life Protected Area (MLPA) Initiative including convening the stakeholders, managing stakeholder engagement, and integrating input from managing state agencies. It provides a case…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Technology | Publications & Reports

MarineMap: A web-based platform for collaborative marine protected area planning

Matthew S. Merrifield, Will McClintock, Chad Burt, Evan Fox, Paulo Serpa, Charles Steinback, Mary Gleason

This paper reviews the creation and use of MarineMap, a spatial decision support system that enabled stakeholder participation in designing marine protected areas (MPAs). The authors highlight why it was a necessary component of the planning process for California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. 


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Addressing policy issues in a stakeholder-based and science-driven marine protected area network planning process

Evan Fox, Sean Hastings, Melissa Miller-Henson, Dominique Monie, John Ugoretz, Adam Frimodig, Craig Shuman, Brian Owens, Rebecca Garwood, Darci Connor, Paulo Serpa, Mary Gleason

This paper explores the strategies used to address policy issues that arose in marine protected area (MPA) planning process in California. The authors provide examples from six specific topic areas—fisheries management, water quality, military use areas, marine bird and mammal protection, dredging and maintenance, and tribal…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative: Supporting implementation of legislation establishing a statewide network of marine protected areas

John Kirlin, Meg Caldwell, Mary Gleason, Mike Weber, John Ugoretz, Evan Fox, Melissa Miller-Henson

This paper reviews how recommendations developed through the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative supported regulatory decisions by the California Fish and Game Commission to greatly expand the network of marine protected areas. The network includes 124 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), covering 16% of state…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Enabling conditions to support marine protected area network planning: California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative as a case study

Evan Fox, Melissa Miller-Henson, John Ugoretz, Mike Weber, Mary Gleason, John Kirlin, Meg Caldwell, Sonke Mastrup

In California, after two unsuccessful attempts, statewide planning of a network of marine protected areas (MPA) was achieved through the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. This paper discusses, and highlights the importance of, six enabling conditions in this planning effort. These conditions enabled the…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Designing a network of marine protected areas in California: Achievements, costs, lessons learned, and challenges ahead

Mary Gleason, Evan Fox, Susan Ashcraft, Jason Vasques, Elizabeth Whiteman, Paulo Serpa, Emily Saarman, Meg Caldwell, Adam Frimodig, Melissa Miller-Henson, John Kirlin, Becky Ota, Elizabeth Pope, Mike Weber, Ken Wiseman

This paper reviews the design of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in state waters as mandated by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). A public–private partnership (the MLPA Initiative) completed four regional public MPA planning processes characterized by robust stakeholder contributions and the…


2013 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Central Coast Trawl Impact and Recovery Study: 2009-2012 Final Report

James Lindholm, Mary Gleason, Donna Kline, Larissa Clary, Steve Rienecke, Michael Bell

This report summarizes the results of a multi-year study (June 2009 to December 2012) to assess the impacts of bottom trawling on seafloor habitats and associated biological communities. This project used small foot-rope trawl gear in an experimental study conducted in unconsolidated, soft-sediment habitat on…


2012 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Near-term priorities for the science, practice, and policy of Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning

Halpern, B.S., Diamond, J., Gaines, S., Gelcich, S., Gleason, M., Jennings, S., Lester, S., Mace, A., McCook, L., McLeod, K., Napoli, N., Rawson, K., Rice, J., Rosenberg, A., Ruckelshaus, M., Saier, B., Sandifer, P., Sholtz, A., Zivian, A.

This paper informs emerging efforts to implement coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) in the United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world. In order to identify priority needs for significantly advancing CMSP, the authors—expertsexperts in the science, policy and practice of CMSP—developed recommendations for…


2011 | Freshwater | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Conservation Assessment of U.S. West Coast Estuaries

Mary Gleason, Sarah Newkirk, Matt Merrifield, Jeanette Howard, Robin Cox, Megan Webb, Jennifer Koepcke, Brian Stranko, Bethany Taylor, Mike Beck, Roger Fuller, Dick VanderSchaaf, Jena Carter

While significant progress has been made over the past few decades in improving estuarine water quality, restoring wetland habitats, and incorporating estuarine habitats into managed areas, estuarine conservation efforts along the U.S. West Coast—including Washington, Oregon, and California—have generally proceeded on a bay-by-bay basis, with…


2010 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Science-based and stakeholder-driven marine protected area network planning: A successful case study from north central California

Mary Gleason, Scott McCreary, Melissa Miller-Henson, John Ugoretz, Evan Fox, Matt Merrifield, Will McClintock, Paulo Serpa, Kathryn Hoffman

This paper describes the planning process for California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in north central California. The process represents a case study in the design of a regional component of a statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs) for improved ecosystem protection. The authors…


2009 | Marine | Publications & Reports

Are we missing the boat? Collaborative solutions for North American fish wars

Mary Gleason, Chuck Cook, Michael Bell, Erika Feller

This editorial highlights the polarization and lack of innovation in U.S. fisheries management, using the West Coast groundfish fishery as an example. The authores focus on the need for new models of collaboration among NGOs, fishermen, and regulators in order to create a brighter future for our…


2008 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Establishing Resilient Marine Protected Area Networks–Making it Happen

Dan Laffoley, Alan T. White, Stacey Kilarski, Mary Gleason, Scott Smith, Ghislaine Llewellyn , Jon Day , Annie Hillary, Victoria Wedell, Daphine Pee

With government, agency and organizational partners, Conservancy scientists helped publish an IUCN guidebook to inspire conservation investment in global marine protection and provide a case study from the Marine Life Protection Act in California. It provides essential information to better understand the role of marine…


2006 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Assessing gaps in marine conservation in California

Mary G. Gleason, Matt S. Merrifield, Chuck Cook, Audrey L. Davenport, Rebecca Shaw

This study is the first marine gap analysis for California. It quantifies what is protected and what is not and highlights conservation needs and opportunities. Less than 5% of marine habitats are within no-take or limited-take marine protected areas (MPAs) that afford a high level…


2006 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Northern California Marine Ecoregional Assessment

Mary Gleason, Matt Merrifield, Chuck Cook, Miguel Hall

The Conservancy's science and planning staff in California prepared this assessment of the most important areas for conservation of marine biodiversity in the Northern California Marine Ecoregion–one of four major divisions of the California Current System–that extends from Oregon south to Point Conception and covers 11 million hectares (42,493…


2004 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Southern California Marine Ecoregional Assessment

Mary Gleason, Matt Merrifield, Craig Mayer, Michelle McCutchan, Chuck Cook

The Conservancy's science and planning staff in California prepared this assessment of the most important areas for conservation of marine biodiversity in the Southern California Marine Ecoregion—one of four major divisions of the California Current. The California Current is recognized as a globally significant region…