This Earthwatch project takes place in the watershed - an area of land where all water converges to a single point usually a river - of central California’s Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers. The Nature Conservancy and other partners in the region are in the process of restoring agricultural land to tidal wetlands, floodplains, and riparian habitats. These streamside areas are critically important to sustaining ecosystem processes. They serve as natural filters between the river and land and in the process protect the river from pollution, provide habitat for birds, and stabilize ecological feedbacks for freshwater food webs that include salmon. This research represents a unique opportunity to conserve critical habitat for local and migratory wildlife, and sustain viable agricultural production and livelihoods.
This project will assign both an economic and a biological value to riparian forests by evaluating carbon storage in native forests and surrounding working lands. It will investigate and establish baseline conditions for native bees, estimate butterfly diversity values for different restoration strategies, and identify habitat islands rich in nectar resources. The project will help gain a better understanding of the relative impacts of different restoration strategies on native insect diversity, and use this information to identify new incentives for restoring native riparian forest habitat.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Josh Viers
Pacific Agroecology LLC
Dr. Josh Viers is a landscape ecologist with over 15 years of experience working in California’s riparian and floodplain ecosystems. His research interests and projects investigate the geospatial aspects of watershed science with a specific focus on the watersheds of the North Coast, the Sierra Nevada, and the California Delta. His watershed research activities include aspects of natural flow regimes, climate change, water management, land use, sustainable viticulture, freshwater ecosystem conservation, and riparian restoration. Dr. Viers has worked with Dr. John Williams to develop the California Delta Ecosystem Services research program and will be analyzing the data collected.
Dr. John Williams
Pacific Agroecology LLC
Dr. John Williams is a research ecologist with extensive international experience using ecological principles to manage resources in concert with needs of local communities. His research focuses on the nexus of humans and natural systems. He uses an ecological framework to examine topics related to biodiversity, conservation, ecosystem services, the interface between agriculture and natural habitat, and human demographics. His recent work looks at ways to assess and conserve biodiversity in working landscapes, including vineyards, rangelands, coffee plantations, and community forest reserves in both temperate and tropical landscapes. Dr. Williams is the expedition leader, and will accompany volunteers. He will train volunteers, distribute the field assignments, and lead volunteers in the field.
Dr. Michael Johnson
Michael L. Johnson, LLC
Dr. Michael Johnson is President and Managing Partner of Michael L. Johnson, LLC, and is a recognized expert in the ecology of the California Delta. Dr. Johnson began his career at the University of Kansas performing water quality research in mixed-use watersheds in Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska. He worked at the University of California, Davis from 1992-2010, beginning as a research scientist in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He joined the Center for Watershed Sciences in the John Muir Institute of the Environment in 1998 and also joined the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine as an adjunct professor. Dr. Johnson has been a contributor to several panels and workgroups such as serving as one of the co-leaders for 8 the Delta Regional Ecosystem Implementation Plan (DRERIP) team, the principal investigator for the Pelagic Organism Decline Contaminants Synthesis and the Ammonia Literature Review projects, member of the Bay-Delta Sediment Quality Objectives workgroup, the State of California's Clean Beaches Task Force, and the National Fish and Wildlife Service team that developed the recent biological opinion for the Delta smelt.