Kelly Iknayan's picture

Kelly Iknayan, PhD

Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
Delta Science & Management
Urban Nature Lab

Dr. Iknayan's interests include global change biology and community ecology with a particular focus on Californian avifauna.  Having received her doctorate from UC Berkeley, her dissertation focuses on avian distributional response to climate change in the Desert Southwest, as part of the Grinnell Resurvey Project ( Through my research, she investigates if species interactions are impacting individual species responses to a changing climate, and how this may vary across the three deserts biomes of California: the Sonoran, the Mojave, and the Great Basin deserts. Historic data for this survey were collected as part of a broader systematic inventory of the vertebrates of California by Joseph Grinnell and colleagues at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Dynamic multi-species occupancy models will allow her to advantage of this invaluable dataset, as they can correct for detection differences from survey methods between the historic and modern surveys.

Prior to coming to UC Berkeley, Dr. Iknayan earned a BS in Biology from the University of Michigan in 2006. Following graduation, she performed ornithological field research in Northern Minnesota with the University of Minnesota and in Arizona and Southeast California with PRBO.  From 2009-2012, she worked as a researcher, specializing in GIS and data management, with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, where she worked with the island’s endangered honeycreepers.

Related Projects, News, and Events

State of the Estuary Report (Project)

The State of the Estuary Report evaluates the status and trends of a suite of indicators selected to represent ecosystem health in the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (the Estuary). 

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.

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.

Regional Analysis of Potential Beneficial Use Locations: San Francisco Bay (Project)

SFEI and partners are engaged in a long-term effort to define and quantify baylands resilience for San Francisco Bay through the Baylands Resilience Framework.  In developing this framework, we ask: How can baylands resilience be measured? How can it be increased? 

Sunset Natural Resilience Project (Project)

The Sunset Natural Resilience Project (SNRP) consists of six individual but related projects to increase the ability of human and natural communities to adapt to and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The projects will further the biodiversity goals of the City of San Francisco while making a dense urban environment a more livable and enjoyable space. San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), will support the development of each individual project in coordination with project partners.

ASLA-NCC Lunch with Leaders Connecting Biodiversity and Health (News)

Join us for a lunch webinar on March 20th, 2024, where Vanessa Lee (Associate Environmental Scientist), Karen Verpeet (Resilient Landscapes Program Managing Director), and Kelly Iknayan (Senior Scientist) will speak to members of the ASLA Northern CA Chapter about research, strategies, and projects at the intersection of science and landscape architecture.

New publication from the Urban Nature team uncovers local and landscape scale influences on urban bird and pollinator occupancy (News)

SFEI's Resilient Landscapes Program is excited to share a new publication in Ecology and Evolution from our Urban Nature team, Patterns in bird and pollinator occupancy and richness in a mosaic of urban office parks across scales and seasons, led by Kelly Iknayan and Sacha Heath at SFEI with a team of co-authors: Scott Terrill (H. T.

Reconnecting Riverside with its River: Integrating Historical and Urban Ecology for a Healthier Future (Project)

This study focuses on a segment of the Santa Ana River Parkway in and around the City of Riverside, where multiple habitat restoration projects are underway.

Hidden Nature SF (Project)

Hidden Nature SF brings a new perspective to our view of San Francisco, studying the city’s historical ecology in order to engage the public in re-imagining San Francisco’s ecological past, present, and future.

Next Generation Urban Greening (Project)

SFEI is working with partners across the Bay Area to design tools to help cities achieve biodiversity, stormwater, and climate benefits through multifunctional green infrastructure.

Newly published research sheds light on the future of the California quail (News)

The Journal of Applied Ecology has just published research by Kelly Iknayan of the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and co-authors from the Presidio Trust and SFEI that will help to guide a joint study on the feasibility of bringing back the native California quail to San Francisco. 

Big updates from Hidden Nature SF, including new interactive content! (News)

Hidden Nature SF seeks to uncover the natural history of San Francisco’s past landscape. At the heart of the project is the field of historical ecology, which uses interdisciplinary science and visualization techniques to synthesize historical archival data into a completely new perspective on the familiar city. Drawing on hundreds of old maps, photographs, and textual documents, we are reconstructing and mapping the ecosystems and waterways that existed in San Francisco prior to Spanish colonization.

Moffett Park Specific Plan Urban Ecology Technical Study (Project)

The City of Sunnyvale is incorporating urban ecology into the new Moffett Park Specific Plan, as part of creating an ecological innovation district.