David Senn's picture

David Senn, PhD

Program Director
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program
(510) 999-1105

David Senn is a Senior Scientist at SFEI, Co-Director of SFEI’s Clean Water program, and Lead Scientist for the San Francisco Bay Nutrient Management Program. He received his PhD in civil and environmental engineering from MIT, where he studied the interactions between nitrogen pollution and iron and arsenic cycling in contaminated urban lakes. Subsequently, as a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, he conducted contaminant fate, transport, and exposure studies, including investigating mercury cycling, bioaccumulation, and human exposure in the Gulf of Mexico. From 2007-2011, he worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), studying the ecological impacts of large dams in the Zambezi River Basin in southern Africa.


Related Projects, News, and Events

Building a framework for an integrated HAB detection and monitoring system in San Francisco Estuary (Project)

Over the last decade, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have emerged as one of the highest-priority water quality management issues in the San Francisco Estuary, which includes the San Francisco Bay (Bay) and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Although major HAB events in the Bay have historically been rare, recent studies have determined that multiple HAB species and their toxins are frequently detected, highlighting the potential for major HAB risks.

New $3 million grant to support harmful algae monitoring in the San Francisco Estuary (News)

NOAA recently announced that it is awarding a $3-million grant, through its Monitoring and Event Response Research Program (MERHAB) to support the development of a harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring program for the San Francisco Estuary. The project, led by scientists at the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), US Geological Survey, and California Department of Water Resources (DWR), will leverage on-going research and monitoring activities in the Bay and Delta to build a robust system-wide HAB monitoring program for the Estuary.

Nature Based Solutions for Nutrient Removal (Project)

High nutrient concentrations can cause increased phytoplankton biomass, low dissolved oxygen, and increased harmful algal blooms and toxins, with detrimental effects on species and ecosystems. San Francisco Bay receives high nutrient loads mainly from discharged wastewater, but high turbidity, strong tidal mixing, and abundant filter-feeding clams have kept algal blooms in check. Following the historic algal bloom of 2022, regulators and managers recognize the Bay’s resilience to high nutrient loading is waning and nitrogen concentrations must be managed more proactively. 

Harmful Algal Bloom and Fish Mortality San Francisco Bay (News)

San Francisco Bay has been experiencing a major harmful algae bloom (HAB) event. Early signs of the developing bloom were reported in late July 2022 within the Oakland Estuary (between Alameda and Oakland). By early August, the bloom had spread to South Bay west of Alameda, and by mid-August expanded over large swaths of South Bay. Recent observations suggest the bloom may also be reaching into regions of Central and San Pablo Bays. 

SFEI's journal article on Green Stormwater Infrastructure featured as the Editor's Choice (News)

A team led by Dr. Jing Wu penned a paper in January on using Green Stormwater Infrastructure to protect the Bay from PCBs and other contaminants. "Optimal Selection and Placement of Green Infrastructure in Urban Watersheds for PCB Control" is now featured in the Editor’s Choice section of the Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment for the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

EBDA Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning Project (Project)

Historically, freshwater was an important component of the baylands ecosystem, creating salinity gradients that added physical and ecological diversity to the baylands landscape as well as facilitating rapid vertical marsh growth. Today, the extent, magnitude, and seasonality of freshwater to the baylands has been greatly altered. This project brings together diverse stakeholders to further the conversation on using treated wastewater as a resource for a resilient East Bay shoreline.

RMP Annual Meeting 2016 (Event)

The RMP Annual Meeting is held every year in the early fall. The meeting is an opportunity for RMP stakeholders to discuss current RMP projects and highlight interesting new research. 

SF Bay Nutrients Visualization Tool (Project)

This visualization tool facilitates intuitive comparison of continuous data from around the Bay, and across a variety of analytes, to demonstrate the potential for collaborative monitoring across programs.

SFEI Provides Science Leadership and Support for State of the Estuary Report and Conference (News)

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP) brings together the estuarine community every two years at the State of the Estuary Conference and, periodically, SFEP also reports on the State of the Estuary, summarizing the latest scientific findings about ecosystem health. This State of the Estuary Report is the only place where a holistic view of ecosystem function is provided across both the Bay and the Delta. This year, SFEI provided scientific leadership and technical support for the report, which focuses on the ties between social and ecological resilience for our estuary.

SF Bay Waters are Becoming Clearer, but that May Mean Threats from Algae Growth (News)

San Francisco Bay is becoming clearer.

Decades of tidal action have finally washed away most of the mess created 150 years ago by Gold Rush miners who blasted apart hillsides in the Sierra Nevada. The result was millions of tons of mud, gravel and sand that made its way downriver and ended up in the bay, clouding its waters and coating the bottom with a level of silt up to 3 feet thick.

Most of the silt, scientists say, has now moved out to the ocean.

Will a cleaner San Francisco Bay be a more toxic one? (News)

Dr. David Senn's nutrients program is highlighted in the San Francisco Examiner as his work to measure and predict the effects of an ever-clearer San Francisco Bay again "come to light":

State of the Estuary Conference on Twitter (Event)

In an event convened by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, SFEI contributed its own intellectual labor to the State of the Estuary Conference. Letitia Grenier served as the lead scientist for the State of the Estuary Report, unveiled at the gathering, and SFEI's scientists and technologists were featured prominently in the program on subjects ranging from nutrients to landscape resilience to green infrastructure to data and tools. By all measures, it was a successful conference.

What might be missing from the stories on leopard shark deaths in SF Bay? (News)

Many news outlets are reporting on a spike in leopard shark deaths and bat rays in S.F. Bay.  Several theories related to pollution have been offered, but we want to offer an additional factor that is missing from the discussion...

New Reports Show Progress Toward Understanding Nutrient Impacts in the Bay (News)

SFEI scientists studying the role and effects of nutrients in the Bay recently completed two draft reports that summarize current knowledge of the issue. 

The launch of the SF Bay Nutrients Visualization Tool (News)

This visualization tool facilitates intuitive comparison of continuous data from around the Bay, and across a variety of analytes, to demonstrate the potential for collaborative monitoring across programs.