Robin M. Grossinger

Program Director
Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
510-746-7380

Robin Grossinger is a Senior Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where he co-directs, with Letitia Grenier, SFEI’s Resilient Landscapes program. For over twenty years, Robin has analyzed how California landscapes have changed since European contact, using these data to guide landscape-scale restoration strategies. Robin leads efforts throughout the state to reintegrate natural processes within our highly modified landscapes, creating healthier and more adaptive neighborhoods, cities, and surrounding landscapes. He has advised restoration strategies for San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, urban landscapes such as the Google campus, and rivers throughout California.

Robin's innovative work to synthesize history and science has been acclaimed for helping scientists, managers, and the public appreciate both the dramatic transformation and the impressive resilience of the state's ecosystems. Robin’s publications include the Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas (University of California Press 2012) and his work has been featured by NPR, KQED’s QUEST, Saving the Bay, and The New York Times. Recently he has led the development of SFEI's Landscape Resilience Framework, which is guiding regional adaptation efforts.

Among his popular science communication efforts, Robin served as a guest curator for the award-winning multi-disciplinary exhibit on San Francisco Bay Above and Below, at the Oakland Museum of California. He has been recognized with a Local Hero award from Bay Nature magazine and the Carla Bard Bay Education Award from The Bay Institute and Aquarium of the Bay.

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Related Projects, News, and Events

Delta Landscapes Project (Project)

The Delta Landscapes Project, which began in 2012 and will run through 2016, has developed a body of work to inform landscape-scale restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem.

Napa River Watershed Profile (Project)

SFEI partnered with the Napa County Resource Conservation District and the Napa County Farm Bureau to develop a watershed-based framework for addressing agricultural management challenges related to improving the health of the Napa River ecosystem. In particular, the project sought to identify possible adaptive management measures that could allow the State Water Board to declare the Napa River unimpaired under section 303(d) of the US Clean Water Act.

Urban Ecological Planning Guide for Santa Clara Valley (Project)

SFEI partnered with Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to create a guide on how to support biodiversity across the urbanized Santa Clara Valley. Urban greening projects (e.g., street trees, bioswales, gardens) are developing in piecemeal fashion. Designing and linking projects with ecology in mind can better support biodiversity, which in turn can help cultivate a sense of place and human health benefits.

Urban Ecological Planning Guide for Santa Clara Valley published (News)

SFEI partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to create a guide for how to support biodiversity across the urbanized landscape of Santa Clara Valley. Urban greening projects, such as street trees, green infrastructure, and backyard gardening, are already occurring piecemeal across urban areas. Harnessing this momentum can help these efforts build greater benefits for biodiversity.

Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation (Project)

The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation synthesized hundreds of historical maps, photographs, and texts to reconstruct the the ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic conditions of the valley prior to major European-American landscape modification.

Western Santa Clara Valley Historical Ecology Study (Project)

This study produced GIS layers and a report describing historical habitats in the Guadalupe, West Valley, and Lower Peninsula Watershed Management Areas of Santa Clara County (the valley floor from Palo Alto to San Jose).

Resilient Silicon Valley (Project)

Drawing on resilience science, regional data, and local expertise, we will develop the vision and tools that will allow stakeholders in the region ensure that local actions contribute toward the creation of a high-functioning and resilient Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Vision for Upper Penitencia Creek completed! (News)

SFEI recently completed a resilient landscape vision for Upper Penitencia Creek in San Jose that integrates flood management and ecosystem support. SFEI and the Santa Clara Valley Water District worked with technical advisors and local stakeholders to develop the vision, which identifies a range of multi-benefit management opportunities that increase flood storage in a manner that expands recreational amenities, supports water supply needs, and enhances habitat for a variety of native fish and wildlife species.

Upper Penitencia Creek: Resilient Landscape Vision (Project)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center and the Santa Clara Valley Water District worked with technical advisors and a group of local stakeholders to explore a range of multi-benefit management opportunities along Upper Penitencia Creek, culminating in this Resilient Landscape Vision. The vision focuses on ways to expand flow conveyance and flood water storage from the Coyote Creek confluence upstream to the Dorel Drive bridge in a manner that works with the existing landscape features and supports habitats for native species.

New paper: Building resilience in highly modified California landscapes (News)

SFEI has released a new paper in the journal BioScience, "Building ecological resilience in highly modified landscapes." The paper, led by Erin Beller of the Resilient Landscapes team in collaboration with a group of international ecologists, presents a new framework for applying ecological resilience science to landscape-scale management, with examples from SFEI's work in urban and agricultural California landscapes.

Ventura County Historical Ecology Study (Project)

This project investigated the historical ecological patterns and hydrological dynamics of most of lowland Ventura County.

SFEI is working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to develop multi-benefit management tools (News)

In 2014, SFEI and the Santa Valley Water District launched a collaborative partnership aimed at sharing experience, knowledge and resources, and working toward a shared vision of watershed management. Through this partnership, the District has asked SFEI to develop a set of online tools to: 1) identify opportunities for multi-benefit management actions in and along the channels managed by the District; and 2) track the impacts of those actions towards meeting established management targets.

Design by Ruth Askevold

Petaluma River Watershed: A Slough of Change (Event)

Come learn about an exciting report recently completed by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and Sonoma RCD on the historical ecology of the Petaluma River watershed. SFEI will highlight interesting details about the history of this unique watershed and share insights about how historical data can be used to improve future management and conservation decisions. Anyone interested in learning more about the past, present, and future of the Petaluma River is encouraged to attend.

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.

Photo Credits: Micha Salomon (L), Dee Shea Himes (R)

Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands (Project)

The Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands project will enhance resilience to climate change through the implementation of several multi-benefit environmental projects by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, SFEI, and 15 other organizations. The project has two major components: Multi-benefit Urban Greening and Tidal Wetlands Restoration. Through both components, we are developing science-based strategies that inform the design of innovative implementation projects.

Landscape Vision for Calabazas Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek and Pond A8 (Project)

SFEI released a resilient landscape vision for the interface of Calabazas Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek, and Pond A8 in South San Francisco Bay that benefits both flood management and  bayland habitat restoration. The vision, developed in coordination with a team of regional science experts, explores a reconfigured shoreline that could improve ecosystem health and resilience, reduce maintenance costs, and protect surrounding infrastructure.

Alameda Creek Historical Ecology Study (Project)

The Alameda Creek Historical Ecology Study assesses watershed conditions prior to significant Euro-American modification, as a basis for understanding subsequent changes in watershed structure and function, and potential options for future environmental management. The geographic focus is the floodplains, valleys, and alluvial plains adjacent to Alameda Creek (to the diversion dam) and its tributaries. This includes the Livermore and Amador valleys, Sunol Valley and Niles Canyon, and the Niles cone and adjoining baylands. A pilot portion of the project also focuses on documenting landscape changes in the uplands of the San Antonio Creek watershed.

Resilient By Design: Science Advisors (Project)

The challenges of accelerating sea level rise and aging shoreline infrastructure are creating a once-in-a-century opportunity to redesign the Bay shore. Originally constructed with little regard for the Bay, the future shoreline can more successfully integrate the natural and built environments to make a healthier shore for both the Bay and local communities. New shoreline design approaches must incorporate the complex ecological and physical processes of our urbanized estuary while anticipating the future challenges of climate change and extreme weather.

Delta: McCormack-Williamson Tract (Project)

The McCormack-Williamson Tract (MWT) was purchased in 1999 by The Nature Conservancy with CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) funds. Though today it looks like many islands of the central Delta, it is situated in a unique position at the intersection between the historical north and central Delta, at the downstream end of the Mokelumne River delta. While it represents only a small portion (<0.2%) of the historical Delta, it lies in an area of hydrologic and ecological importance along the third largest river of the Delta, the Mokelumne River.

Petaluma Valley Historical Hydrology and Ecology Study (Project)

This project reconstructs the historical hydrology and ecology of the Petaluma River watershed prior to major Euro-American modification. It demonstrates the efficacy of historical hydrology and ecology in identifying and prioritizing multi-benefit restoration opportunities.