Robin M. Grossinger

Program Director
Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
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

Delta Landscapes Project (Project)

The Delta Landscapes Project, which began in 2012 and will run through 2016, has developed a body of work to inform landscape-scale restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem.

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. 

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Historical Ecology Study (Project)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center, in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game, has completed a historical ecology study of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The project improves understanding of what the Delta looked like and how it functioned prior to the significant modification that has occurred over the last 160 years.https://www.sfei.org/documents/sacramento-san-joaquin-delta-historical-ecology-investigation-exploring-pattern-and-proces

Coyote Creek Watershed Historical Ecology Study (Project)

This report synthesizes historical evidence into a picture of how Coyote Creek looked and functioned before intensive modification. Prepared for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the report helps explain contemporary landscape conditions and identify options for watershed restoration, natural flood protection, and integrated water management.

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 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.

Napa River Watershed Profile (Project)

SFEI partnered with the Napa County Resource Conservation District and the Napa County Farm Bureau to develop a watershed-based framework for addressing agricultural management challenges related to improving the health of the Napa River ecosystem. In particular, the project sought to identify possible adaptive management measures that could allow the State Water Board to declare the Napa River unimpaired under section 303(d) of the US Clean Water Act.

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.

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.

Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation (Project)

The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation synthesized hundreds of historical maps, photographs, and texts to reconstruct the the ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic conditions of the valley prior to major European-American landscape modification.

Western Santa Clara Valley Historical Ecology Study (Project)

This study produced GIS layers and a report describing historical habitats in the Guadalupe, West Valley, and Lower Peninsula Watershed Management Areas of Santa Clara County (the valley floor from Palo Alto to San Jose).

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.

Vision for Upper Penitencia Creek completed! (News)

SFEI recently completed a resilient landscape vision for Upper Penitencia Creek in San Jose that integrates flood management and ecosystem support. SFEI and the Santa Clara Valley Water District worked with technical advisors and local stakeholders to develop the vision, which identifies a range of multi-benefit management opportunities that increase flood storage in a manner that expands recreational amenities, supports water supply needs, and enhances habitat for a variety of native fish and wildlife species.

Upper Penitencia Creek: Resilient Landscape Vision (Project)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center and the Santa Clara Valley Water District worked with technical advisors and a group of local stakeholders to explore a range of multi-benefit management opportunities along Upper Penitencia Creek, culminating in this Resilient Landscape Vision. The vision focuses on ways to expand flow conveyance and flood water storage from the Coyote Creek confluence upstream to the Dorel Drive bridge in a manner that works with the existing landscape features and supports habitats for native species.

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.

Ventura County Historical Ecology Study (Project)

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

SFEI is working with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to develop multi-benefit management tools (News)

In 2014, SFEI and the Santa Valley Water District launched a collaborative partnership aimed at sharing experience, knowledge and resources, and working toward a shared vision of watershed management. Through this partnership, the District has asked SFEI to develop a set of online tools to: 1) identify opportunities for multi-benefit management actions in and along the channels managed by the District; and 2) track the impacts of those actions towards meeting established management targets.

Design by Ruth Askevold

Petaluma River Watershed: A Slough of Change (Event)

Come learn about an exciting report recently completed by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) and Sonoma RCD on the historical ecology of the Petaluma River watershed. SFEI will highlight interesting details about the history of this unique watershed and share insights about how historical data can be used to improve future management and conservation decisions. Anyone interested in learning more about the past, present, and future of the Petaluma River is encouraged to attend.

State of the Estuary Conference on Twitter (Event)

In an event convened by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership, SFEI contributed its own intellectual labor to the State of the Estuary Conference. Letitia Grenier served as the lead scientist for the State of the Estuary Report, unveiled at the gathering, and SFEI's scientists and technologists were featured prominently in the program on subjects ranging from nutrients to landscape resilience to green infrastructure to data and tools. By all measures, it was a successful conference.

Landscape Vision for Calabazas Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek and Pond A8 (Project)

SFEI released a resilient landscape vision for the interface of Calabazas Creek, San Tomas Aquino Creek, and Pond A8 in South San Francisco Bay that benefits both flood management and  bayland habitat restoration. The vision, developed in coordination with a team of regional science experts, explores a reconfigured shoreline that could improve ecosystem health and resilience, reduce maintenance costs, and protect surrounding infrastructure.