Realizing healthy ecosystems and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) advances visionary science that is foundational to rebuilding and sustaining the chemical, physical, and biological  health and the resiliency of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and beyond. We are an environmental research institute and a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

We partner with communities, Tribal nations, non-profits, the private sector, academics, and government agencies at all levels to create cost-effective solutions that achieve clean water and resilient ecosystems.  Our true impact is our partners using the best-available science to realize their visions for a healthier future.

We employ more than 70 interdisciplinary staff representing numerous scientific and technological fields, including environmental chemistry, fluvial and estuarine modeling, ecology, wildlife biology, landscape planning, historical ecology, geomorphology, geospatial analysis, web development, and science communications. Our operations and IT staff are the backbone of our organization, providing support where needed and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

SFEI is recognized nationally for our ability to build consensus among disparate points of view. Our independent, objective science informs far-reaching state and federal policies and helps prioritize billion-dollar infrastructure and nature-based investments.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

SFEI is committed to ensuring that our work serves the communities at the front lines of climate change, urban pollution, and environmental health. To that end, SFEI regularly engages with not only the public sector, but also neighbors, partner organizations, and community members who share a vested interest in the condition of our environment and its intersections with human health and environmental justice. As we listen, learn, and reflect, we seek to continually evolve to better serve communities.

To live up to this commitment, we actively examine and improve our internal systems, such as recruitment, training, and guiding policies, to ensure that our culture and practices reinforce our diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice values. We will continue staff and board training and, when possible, extend those training opportunities into partnership interactions, projects, and programs.

Our Commitment

Our History

Since its origins, the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) has focused on generating holistic research and partnerships to assess and improve the health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, its watersheds, and surrounding landscapes.

The precursor to SFEI, known as the Aquatic Habitat Institute (AHI), was formed in 1986, born out of local agencies’ need for sound, objective scientific information about pollutants and their effects in the Estuary. AHI was entrusted with understanding how the bay functions as a system to guide the agencies’ management decisions for meeting water quality objectives.

AHI was transformed into the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) in 1993 when the San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) called for a coordinated regional monitoring and research strategy to assess the chemical, physical, and biological health of the Estuary. 

Since the early 1990s SFEI has developed programs and focus areas that represent a holistic approach to advancing the health of the Estuary. Thinking beyond our original scope of studying water quality pollutants, we have expanded our reach to study the watersheds and landscapes in which the Estuary is embedded, as well as the deep water channels and subtidal habitats created as rivers and creeks enter the Bay.

In pursuit of our vision, we seek cohesive, integrated solutions that consider the Estuary as one interconnected system. In order to realize this vision, we establish interdisciplinary, landscape-scale, and cross-sector solutions and partnerships that enable the region to work together to achieve healthy, green, equitable, and connected communities and landscapes.

Aquatic Science Center

The Aquatic Science Center (ASC) is a Joint Powers Authority created by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Bay Area Clean Water Agencies. ASC’s purpose is to provide scientific support to agencies and organizations working on water quality protection, policy development, and assessment. It is staffed entirely by SFEI employees.

The Aquatic Science Center