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

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. 

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.

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.

SFEI and Google share Award for Re-Oaking (News)

SFEI and Google have won the Arnold Soforenko Award from the non-profit Canopy for significant contributions to the urban forest. The award is for our work on Re-Oaking Silicon Valley: Building Vibrant Cities with Nature.

The award ceremony was held at Palo Alto City Hall on January 25, 2018.

SFEI’s Re-oaking Silicon Valley appears as a feature in Estuary News magazine (News)

Over the past century, oaks have been lost from fertile valleys across California to make way for agriculture, and then for cities. Yet cities could make room for their return; by harnessing the many greening activities that are already occurring, oaks could be planted along streets, in yards, and on corporate campuses. Re-oaking could help build ecological resilience while providing benefits for people such as carbon storage and water savings.

SFEI work on Landscape Resilience and Urban Biodiversity featured in Google Blog and Fast Company Story (News)

Our partnership with Google to enhance the ecological resilience of urban landscapes is featured in a story by Fast Company, a Google Blog post, and an accompanying video.