Walter Heady

Coastal Marine Ecologist
Marine
[email protected]

In The Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter, Walter provides the science needed by the Coastal Program to meet conservation objectives at the land-sea interface. His work at the Conservancy synthesizes our understanding of the ecological function—and benefits to humans—of coastal systems in order to improve the quantity and quality of these often imperiled habitats. Walter is currently leading a statewide assessment of the vulnerability of coastal habitats and conservation management lands to sea level rise to guide novel conservation approaches and policy reform. He also co-leads Desalination by Design to guide siting of desalination facilities to avoid sensitive marine and coastal areas. He has also worked to inventory and classify the estuaries of California, Oregon, and Washington and assess their nursery role for commercial and imperiled fishes.

Walter earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and has over two decades of experience in marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial ecology.

What Walter is working on now:

I am leading the completion of a statewide coastal conservation assessment titled: Conserving California’s Coastal Habitats: A legacy and a future with sea level rise. This spatially explicit assessment quantifies the vulnerability of coastal habitats to sea level rise, and maps and quantifies conservation strategies to maintain or enhance coastal habitat area into the future in the face of sea level rise.


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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…




2016 | Marine | Publications & Reports

Marine and Coastal Impacts of Ocean Desalination in California

Szeptycki, L., E. Hartge, N. Ajami, A. Erickson, W. N. Heady, L. LaFeir, B. Meister, L. Verdone, J.R. Koseff

The drought in California rekindled interest in ocean desalination as a new and reliable water supply option; yet desalination is expensive, energy intensive, potentially emits greenhouse gases, and has adverse impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems. This report is a synthesis of an Uncommon…


2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Assessing California’s bar-built estuaries using the California Rapid Assessment Method

Walter Heady, Ross P. Clark, Kevin O’Connor, Cara Clark, Charles Endris, Sierra Ryan, Sara Stoner-Duncan

Connecting marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, bar-built estuaries are complex and dynamic coastal confluences that provide a great diversity of habitat and ecosystem services. The wetland habitats of bar-built estuaries are threatened by development, pollution, and climate related changes including diminished streamflows and sea…


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…