ALIENS IN THE BAY:

The California Academy of Sciences Launches Four Year Study of San Francisco Bay

SAN FRANCISCO (March 2, 2000) — Human activity has adversely impacted the health of the San Francisco Bay ecosystem. In recent decades, the rate and impact of non-native or "alien" species introductions have accelerated. More than 200 non-native species have been found in San Francisco Bay. In response to this, the California Academy of Sciences will undertake a four-year survey of marine life to record changes that are occurring in the Bay. "We urgently need to document the changes that are occurring in our Bay so that policy makers can make informed and educated decisions on issues that will further impact the health of marine communities in the Bay," said Terry Gosliner, Senior Curator of Invertebrate Zoology and Provost of the California Academy of Sciences. The Academy maintains the most comprehensive collections in the world of marine life specimens that have inhabited the bottom of San Francisco Bay that are essential for understanding how marine life of the bay has changed over time.

Much of the original shoreline of the San Francisco Bay has been filled, dredged or otherwise altered from its pristine condition. The Bay’s shoreline has been reduced by thirty percent from its original area. Human activities have also dramatically reduced commercial fisheries, changed the composition of species through habitat loss and introduction of non-indigenous species, and adversely impacted the health of the Bay ecosystem.

While the Academy and other organizations have worked cooperatively to study the Bay, no comprehensive survey of the marine life has been conducted since the beginning of the twentieth century.

San Francisco Bay 2K is a four-year study of the marine animals that inhabit the tidal and subtidal regions around the perimeter and shallow waters of the Bay. It will involve Academy scientists and collaborations with researchers at the United States Geological Survey, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Romberg Tiburon Center of San Francisco State University, Williams College, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and other institutions and agencies. Data and specimens will be collected around the bay perimeter and from several off-shore sites to survey the bottom-dwelling animals that inhabit the Bay.

In addition to the biological monitoring program and data base activities, there will be a strong educational component to this initiative. Bay Area biology teachers and high school students will actively participate in the field studies and data collection phases of the project. This will provide them with a better understanding of how science is undertaken within a focused project and to develop a more intimate experience for promoting stewardship of regional biological resources.