Erica Spotswood's picture

Erica  Spotswood, PhD

Senior Scientist
Lead Scientist for the Urban Nature Lab
Resilient Landscapes Program
Terrestrial Ecology
Urban Nature Lab
510-746-7331

Erica Spotswood is Lead Scientist for the Urban Nature Lab at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. She uses data-driven approaches to quantify the benefits of nature for biodiversity and human well-being, and brings science into design and planning for nature in cities. Her work provides guidance for how to support biodiversity, human health, and climate resilience to make cities better places for nature and for people. 

Erica received a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Prior to joining SFEI, Erica was a postdoctoral researcher with Katherine Suding, also at UC Berkeley. Before graduate school, Erica worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Central Africa, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. 

Erica’s Google Scholar Profile

Related Projects, News, and Events

Sediment for Survival report released (News)

SFEI worked with local, state, and federal science experts to develop the new Sediment for Survival report. The report provides a regional sediment strategy aimed at examining the future of sediment in the Bay and informing sediment management for the resilience of tidal marshes and tidal flats to climate change.

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.

Sediment for Survival (Project)

The tidal marshes and tidal flats along the San Francisco Bay shoreline depend on sediment delivered by the tides. Healthy sediment supplies are essential for maintaining resilient marshes and tidal flats that can persist into the future and build up as sea level continues to rise. Currently, the sediment supply in the Bay is adequate to meet the sediment needed by tidal marshes and tidal flats. However, as sea level rise accelerates in the coming decades, the sediment needed for these habitats to survive will increase considerably.

Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands (Project)

Through the EPA-funded Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands project, SFEI and sixteen partner organizations are developing multi-benefit tools to enhance climate change resilience in San Francisco Bay. Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands has two major components: Multi-benefit Urban Greening and Tidal Wetlands Restoration. Through both components, we have developed strategies that inform  policy, planning, and design of innovative implementation projects.

"Trees and Hydrology in Urban Landscapes" report completed (News)

The Trees and Hydrology in Urban Landscapes report has recently been released as part of the EPA-funded Healthy Watersheds, Resilient Baylands project. It supports building links between stormwater management and urban ecological improvements by evaluating how complementary urban greening activities, including green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) and urban tree canopy, can be integrated and improved to reduce runoff and contaminant loads in stormwater systems.

Trees and Hydrology in Urban Landscapes (Project)

Effective implementation of urban greening strategies is needed to address legacies of landscape change and environmental degradation, ongoing development pressures, and the urgency of the climate crisis. With limited space and resources, these challenges will not be met through single-issue or individual-sector management and planning. Increasingly, local governments, regulatory agencies, and other urban planning organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area are expanding upon the holistic, portfolio-based, and multi-benefit approaches.

Preparing for the Storm (Project)

Preparing for the Storm is an innovative public-private partnership funded by the US EPA to improve watershed health and resilience in the Alameda Creek watershed.

East Palo Alto Urban Forest Master Plan (Project)

SFEI is partnering with the City of East Palo Alto, the urban forestry non-profit Canopy, and HortScience | Bartlett Consulting to develop an Urban Forest Master Plan for the city.

New article published in BioScience: Cities contribute more than we think to regional biodiversity (News)

Erica Spotswood and a team of scientists have established a new perspective on cities and nature, identifying the ways cities can contribute to regional biodiversity conservation. "The Biological Deserts Fallacy: Cities in Their Landscapes Contribute More than We Think to Regional Biodiversity" was published in the journal BioScience. Writer Eric Simons discusses the article in the Bay Nature story What a City Can Do for Nature.

Integrating Planning with Nature (Project)

Can we gain the benefits of restoring nature while making our cities denser and protecting natural and working lands?

Sports and Urban Biodiversity (Project)

SFEI collaborated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to create a guide to incorporating nature into urban sports, from the development of Olympic cities to the design and management of the many sport fields throughout the urban landscape.

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.

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. 

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)

Tools for the creation of a resilient Silicon Valley ecosystem.

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.

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.