Conservation Science Program


Understanding & Protecting the Laguna Watershed

The Conservation Science program focuses on understanding the basic ecosystem functions and associated cycles and natural fluctuations.  Ongoing research projects focus on the physical, chemical and biological parameters that define the Laguna watershed’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. We aim to provide the needed biological information to guide local conservation planning to maximize the protection of habitats of high ecological value throughout the Laguna watershed.

The Watershed Concept

A watershed is the area of land that catches precipitation and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, river, lake, ocean or groundwater. The Laguna watershed extends for about 254 square miles.  What happens in the upper watershed region (e.g. Sonoma Mountain) is linked with the lower watershed region (e.g. Laguna floodplain). For this reason, we consider the entire Laguna watershed when we examine its dynamics and draw science-based conclusions on how to best restore, manage and conserve this important region. Our scientific investigations so inform our restoration, education and stewardship programs and address the interface of the natural and human systems of the entire watershed region.

Investigating the Laguna

Research on Laguna watershed ecosystems is conducted both by Foundation staff scientists and through partnerships with universities, colleges and local agencies. Our ‘place based’ approach allows us to bring together experts from many different backgrounds to collaborate in a multi-disciplinary program to gain a better understanding of the ecosystem processes and restoration and conservation challenges of the Laguna watershed.

In the context of long-term land stewardship we study the effectiveness of restoration projects over time, and initiate studies evaluating effective management strategies aimed at the long-term preservation of Laguna ecosystems, and the capacity of natural systems to sustain long-term human contact. Through current and long-term physical and biological data collection in the watershed we will be able to base our restoration & stewardship programs and our role in informing public policy on the most current scientific knowledge.

Information Dissemination

Our Laguna Knowledgebase  serves to gather and store available historic and contemporary data on the Laguna watershed. Our "Adopt a Vernal Pool Program" trains citizen science volunteers to help gather the baseline data necessary to adequately assess the natural state of three endangered plant species. We also collaborate with the San Francisco Data Commons an effort dedicated to making environmental information more accessible and useful for conservation of our region's natural resources.