Robin M. Grossinger

Program Director
Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
Historical Ecology
Urban Nature Lab
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

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 are 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Courtesy of opensfhistory.org

Hidden Nature San Francisco (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.

Coyote Creek near Embedded Way. Photo by SFEI.

Coyote Creek Native Ecosystem Enhancement Tool (Project)

The Coyote Creek Native Ecosystem Enhancement Tool (CCNEET, neet. ecoatlas.org) is an online decision-support tool to identify opportunities to improve ecological conditions. CCNEET was inspired by the need for a watershed approach to environmental resource management. Available ecological and environmental information is synthesized by objectives, management questions, and enhancement actions to identify and justify potential habitat improvements along the creek corridor. The overarching goal of CCNEET is to help coordinate habitat conservation and enhancement along so that multiple projects and limited funding can result in meaningful ecological improvement.

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.

Photo credit: University of Southern California Libraries and California Historical Society

City of Riverside Urban and Historical Ecology Case Study (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.

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.

Ventura County Historical Ecology Study (Project)

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

South Santa Clara Valley Historical Ecology Study (Project)

This study assesses historical conditions and landscape change in the southern part of the Santa Clara Valley. It is designed to inform strategies for natural flood protection, habitat conservation and restoration, and other management challenges.

U.S. Coast Survey Maps of California (South Coast) (Project)

Until the advent of this new map viewer, a valuable resource was largely unavailable to coastal planners. Now, US Coastal Survey maps are free for broad use.

Historical Tidal-Terrestrial Transition Zone in South SF Bay (Project)

The tidal-terrestrial transition zone (T-zone) occupies the gradient between the intertidal zone and terrestrial (i.e., levee faces, valleys, hillsides, alluvial fans, and bluffs) and/or fluvial (i.e., rivers and streams) environments. The T-zone provides a number of valuable ecosystem functions and services, and also serves as accommodation space for estuarine transgression and flood water dispersal/storage as sea level rises in the future.

Resilience Atlas (News)

The Resilience Atlas is an interactive mapping platform that visualizes the past, present and future conditions of the Bay’s edge and surrounding watersheds by combining layers of information, such as shoreline infrastructure, shoreline change over time, and sea level rise. 

"A Delta Renewed" report released at the 2016 Bay-Delta Science Conference (News)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) released A Delta Renewed – A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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.

San Francisco Bay Shore Inventory (Project)

SFEI is developing an online interactive map to support regional planning and assessment given accelerated sea level rise around the Bay.

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.