Erica Spotswood's picture

Erica  Spotswood, PhD

Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
Terrestrial Ecology
Urban Nature Lab
510-746-7331
Erica Spotswood is an Applied Ecologist in the Resilient Landscapes program at the San Francisco Estuary Institute where she leads projects related to urban ecology and ecological resilience. Current projects address how regional planning can integrate with local project-scale design, and how urban greening efforts can be coordinated to contribute to broader regional goals for biodiversity and ecological resilience. Her areas of expertise include urban ecology and plant community ecology. Before joining SFEI, Erica conducted postdoctoral research with Katherine Suding, and received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Prior to graduate school, Erica worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Central Africa, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.  

Related Projects, News, and Events

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

Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands (Project)

Through the Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands project, SFEI and sixteen partner organizations is developing multi-benefit tools to enhance climate change resilience in San Francisco Bay. Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands has three major components: Making Nature’s City: a Science-based Framework for Building Urban Biodiversity, Tidal Wetlands Restoration and Implementation Projects.

Google Ecology Advising (Project)

SFEI collaborates with the Google Ecology Program to advance the science and application of urban biodiversity and nature-based sustainability planning.

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.

Photo Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Peninsula Watershed Historical Ecology Study (Project)

The Peninsula Watershed, located in San Mateo County on the San Francisco Peninsula, is the site of three of the Bay Area’s largest reservoirs—San Andreas, Upper and Lower Crystal Springs, and Pilarcitos—which provide drinking water for residents throughout region. Encompassing the upper portions of San Mateo Creek and Pilarcitos Creek watersheds, the “Peninsula Watershed” also supports some of the largest intact remnants of contiguous habitat in the region, including extensive oak woodlands, old-growth Douglas Fir forests, serpentine grasslands, and chaparral.

Announcing the release of Re-Oaking Silicon Valley: Building Vibrant Cities with Nature (News)

Could restoring lost ecosystems to cities play a role in building ecological resilience across landscapes? In Re-oaking Silicon Valley, a new report by SFEI, we explore this opportunity in our region. Both beautiful and functional, native oaks can be excellent choices for streetscapes, backyards, and landscaping. Requiring little water after establishment, oaks can save money by reducing irrigation requirements while sequestering more carbon than most other urban trees common to our region.

East Palo Alto Urban Forest Master Plan (Project)

SFEI is partnering with the City of East Palo Alto, the non-profit urban forestry group Canopy, and Hort Science to develop an Urban Forest Master Plan for the city. The project is funded by the CalFire grant “From Gray to Green: An Urban Forest Master Plan for East Palo Alto.” This innovative plan will update the street tree inventory, create a revised tree removal permit policy, and evaluate the potential to improve ecosystem services, ecological resilience, and adaptation to climate change. Canopy will plant 100 trees at the end of the project in the city.

 

Photo by Shira Bezalel

Re-Oaking (Project)

“Re-Oaking” is an approach to reintegrating oaks and other native trees within the developed California landscape to provide a range of ecosystem services. The concept has emerged from SFEI's research into the distribution and characteristics of California's former valley oak savannas -- a distinctive, widespread habitat that was mostly lost a century ago. Now valley oaks and other native trees are being recognized for the benefits they did -- and could again – provide, as communities design the ecologically healthy and resilient landscapes of the future.

United Nations Global Urban Lecture Released on Making Nature's City (News)

SFEI's Urban Nature Lab and the UN-Habitat Global Urban Lectures series have produced a video on SFEI's Making Nature's City report. The lecture demonstrates why urban conservation planning is an essential component of urban design...

Quail in Urban Parks (Project)

SFEI is using bird observations from eBird to study habitat suitability and build occupancy models for California Quail to inform the Presidio Trust and other park managers how management interventions could help improve quail survival.

 

 

Ecology for Health (Project)

This project is integrating research from the largely separate fields of urban ecology and public health to create design guidance that advances both ecological and human health in cities.

Integrated Planning for Nature: Building resilience across urban and rural landscapes in Silicon Valley (Project)

We are exploring strategies to expand nature within cities while making them denser, looking at the spectrum from most dense urban settings to cul-de-sac suburbs to regional open spaces.

Making Nature's City (Project)

Cities will face many challenges over the coming decades, from adapting to a changing climate to accommodating rapid population growth. A related suite of challenges threatens global biodiversity, resulting in many species facing extinction. While urban planners and conservationists have long treated these issues as distinct, there is growing evidence that cities not only harbor a significant fraction of the world’s biodiversity, but also that they can also be made more livable and resilient for people, plants, and animals through nature-friendly urban design. 

SFEI is collaborating with the IUCN to develop a guide on incorporating nature into the design of sports facilities and Olympic cities.

Sports and Urban Biodiversity (Project)

SFEI is collaborating with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to create a guide to incorporating nature into the sports world, from the development of Olympic cities to the design and management of the many sport fields and pitches throughout the urban landscape. To do so we apply the Urban Biodiversity Framework developed in Making Nature’s City to the world of sports, with case studies drawn from athletic federations, sports teams, and Olympic cities around the world.

Photo courtesy of Canopy.org

SFEI partner Canopy plants oaks in East Palo Alto (News)

On Martin Luther King day, 170 volunteers came out to help plant oaks and other native landscaping at the St. Francis Assisi church in East Palo Alto. With guidance from SFEI, and funded through the Healthy Watersheds, Resilient Baylands project, the planting highlights the partnership between SFEI and the non-profit urban forestry group Canopy, based in Palo Alto.

SFEI's new Landscape Resilience Framework outlines attributes of ecological resilience (News)

SFEI's Resilient Landscapes Program has developed a Landscape Resilience Framework, with the goal of facilitating the integration of resilience science into environmental management, urban design, conservation planning, and ecological restoration. The framework proposes seven key landscape attributes that contribute to ecological resilience, providing details and examples on each.

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.

Disrupt the Street Tree: Could trees help Silicon Valley find an identity? (News)

As recently as a 1850, according to a recent report from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, 80 percent of the trees in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino were oak trees. Another 13 percent of the trees were those commonly found alongside oak trees in oak woodlands: buckeye, madrone, sycamore, and California bay laurel. Willows, alders, and redwoods rounded out the final 7 percent. Oaks created the place. Postcards from San Jose in the early 1900s show farmers standing in the shade of skyscraping oak trees. Spanish explorers called Silicon Valley the “plain of the oaks.” The Peninsula is still home to two Roblar Avenues, a Robles Drive, and a Robles Park, as well as the North Fair Oaks and Menlo Oaks neighborhoods of Menlo Park.

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.

Building Cities to Better Support Biodiversity (News)

Erica Spotswood and a team of other SFEI scientists have developed a framework outlining the key elements for supporting biodiversity in urban environments. 

logo created for the San Francisco Estuary Partnership by SFEI

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.