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

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.

Science Support for Resilient By Design Competition (News)

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.

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.

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.

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. 

The SFEI/California Academy of Sciences/Worldviews Valley Oak team

Collaboration with California Academy of Sciences on Valley Oaks: an Ecological Journey through Time (News)

A collaborative program with the California Academy of Sciences produced an immersive tour from the canopy to the cosmos inside Morrison Planetarium, exploring the history and ecology of one of California’s most iconic and threatened tree species, the Valley oak. Academy scientists, indigenous partners, and historical ecologists from the San Francisco Estuary Institute revealed how Valley oaks and humans are intertwined in a relationship of disturbance and adaptation, with implications for the health and well-being of Bay Area communities.

Flood Control 2.0 Completed! (News)

SFEI and several agency partners recently completed a multi-year, EPA funded project called Flood Control 2.0. The goal of the project was to develop information that is useful for integrating habitat restoration into flood management at the Bay edge. Project outputs are now available at floodcontrol.sfei.org.

Picture from Google Earth

South Bay Landscape Vision Workshop (News)

On June 7, SFEI, in partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration Project, hosted a landscape “visioning” workshop in San Jose. The goal of the workshop was to develop a resilient, multi-benefit vision highlighting opportunities along the South Bay shoreline for supporting both tidal marsh restoration and flood management.

A multi-partner project to create placed-based sea-level rise adaptation strategies (News)

As sea level rise accelerates in the San Francisco Bay, scientists, planners, and decision makers will need to re-envision and adapt our complex shoreline to provide ecological and social resilience. Although there are many efforts currently underway in the region to assess climate change vulnerabilities, the region lacks a coherent science-based framework for guiding and evaluating climate adaptation strategies appropriate to our diverse shoreline settings.

Gary Reyes / Bay Area News Group

SFEI scientist Robin Grossinger helping community leaders to preserve San Jose's Coyote Valley using historical ecology (News)

San Jose's Coyote Valley has come into focus as a key space to preserve as open space, even while faced with ever mounting pressures from land developers and local industry. SFEI's Robin Grossinger has helped to frame the area in useful ways for its various benefits to wildlife, water quality, and human use. He serves on a panel of scientists who have carefully catalogued the services Coyote Valley provides. In a Mercury news article, Grossinger surveys the scene and observes,

Historical Ecology and Landscape Change in the Central Laguna de Santa Rosa (Project)

This study synthesizes a diverse array of data to examine the ecological patterns, ecosystem functions, and hydrology that characterized a central portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa during the mid-19th century, and to analyze landscape changes over the past 150 years. The primary purpose of this study was to help guide restoration actions and other measures aimed at reducing nutrient loads within this portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed.

Lower Walnut Creek Vision Just Released! (News)

SFEI recently released a resilient landscape vision for lower Walnut Creek that incorporates habitat restoration actions into flood risk management. The vision, developed in coordination with a team of regional science experts, highlights opportunities for restoring and sustaining vital tidal wetland habitats around lower Walnut Creek while supporting a high level of flood protection under rising San Francisco Bay water levels.

Download report

Announcing SFEI's first binational study: The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation (News)

A new report shows how the Tijuana River Valley, which straddles the boundary between Southern California and northern Mexico, looked and functioned prior to the existence of the border wall, the city of Tijuana, and the state of California.

Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation Published (News)

The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation—completed in January 2017—synthesized hundreds of historical maps, photographs, and texts to reconstruct the ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic conditions of the Tijuana River valley prior to major European-American landscape modification.

Robin Grossinger interviewed at Grace Cathedral for a discussion about adapting to climate change (News)

On Sunday, October 30 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., SFEI’s Robin Grossinger appeared on a weekly, hour-long discussion series called The Forum. He joined Malcom Clarence Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, to discuss our changing climate and our place as Bay Area denizens in a world that is rapidly changing.

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.

"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.

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.

Flood Control 2.0 (Project)

Flood Control 2.0 is an ambitious regional effort aimed at helping restore stream and wetland habitats, water quality, and shoreline resilience around San Francisco Bay. The project leverages local resources from several forward-looking flood control agencies to redesign major flood control channels so that they provide both future flood conveyance and ecological benefit under a changing climate. This timely project will develop a set of innovative approaches for bringing environmental benefits and cost-savings to flood protection efforts at the mouths of creeks that drain to San Francisco Bay.

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.