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

Mission Bay Historical Ecology Reconnaissance Study (Project)

The Mission Bay Historical Ecology Reconnaissance Study, completed in February of 2016, collected and organized data on the historical conditions of Mission Bay in San Diego County. The project was carried out in support of San Diego Audubon Society's ReWild Mission Bay project, a three-year planning effort exploring options to restoring wetlands in the northeast corner of the estuary.

Lower Laguna de Santa Rosa and Mark West Creek: Changes in Historical Channel Alignment (Project)

Over the past century and a half, the hydrology of the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed has been altered by a variety land use changes, including urbanization, agricultural development, draining and filling of wetlands, and channelization of streams. These changes have impacted the function of the Laguna and Mark West Creek and contributed to a range of contemporary management problems, including habitat degradation, impaired water quality, altered sediment dynamics, salmonid stranding, flooding, and trash accumulation.

Laguna de Santa Rosa Master Restoration Plan (Project)

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is an expansive freshwater wetland complex that hosts a rich diversity of plant and wildlife species, and is also home to a thriving agricultural community. Since the mid-19th century, modifications to the Laguna and its surrounding landscape have degraded habitat conditions for both wildlife and people.

John Muir/Mt. Wanda Historical Ecology Reconnaissance Study (Project)

The Mt. Wanda Historical Ecology Investigation assembled historical landscape data for the Mt. Wanda unit of the John Muir National Historic Site (NHS), located in the Alhambra Valley just south of downtown Martinez, CA. The John Muir NHS preserves the home and property where John Muir lived from 1890-1914, including the 326-acre Mt. Wanda parcel, where Muir frequently took walks with his daughters Helen and Wanda.

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.

EBDA Sea Level Rise Adaptation Planning Project (Project)

Historically, freshwater was an important component of the baylands ecosystem, creating salinity gradients that added physical and ecological diversity to the baylands landscape as well as facilitating rapid vertical marsh growth. Today, the extent, magnitude, and seasonality of freshwater to the baylands has been greatly altered. This project brings together diverse stakeholders to further the conversation on using treated wastewater as a resource for a resilient East Bay shoreline.

Delta: McCormack-Williamson Tract (Project)

The McCormack-Williamson Tract (MWT) was purchased in 1999 by The Nature Conservancy with CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) funds. Though today it looks like many islands of the central Delta, it is situated in a unique position at the intersection between the historical north and central Delta, at the downstream end of the Mokelumne River delta. While it represents only a small portion (<0.2%) of the historical Delta, it lies in an area of hydrologic and ecological importance along the third largest river of the Delta, the Mokelumne River.

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. 

Alameda Creek Historical Ecology Study (Project)

The Alameda Creek Historical Ecology Study assesses watershed conditions prior to significant Euro-American modification, as a basis for understanding subsequent changes in watershed structure and function, and potential options for future environmental management. The geographic focus is the floodplains, valleys, and alluvial plains adjacent to Alameda Creek (to the diversion dam) and its tributaries. This includes the Livermore and Amador valleys, Sunol Valley and Niles Canyon, and the Niles cone and adjoining baylands. A pilot portion of the project also focuses on documenting landscape changes in the uplands of the San Antonio Creek watershed.

"Why California’s Largest Estuary No Longer Works for Wildlife" (News)

California’s historic drought has put the state’s water problems in the forefront this year and those problems aren’t likely to be solved when the clouds open up again. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the water system’s central hub — the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

California’s Delta is the flashpoint for the state’s water politics. For decades, its ecosystem has been in ecological free fall, prompting fierce battles over how much water should be left in the environment, and how much pumped to farms and cities hundreds of miles away.

KQED QUEST Highlights Delta Historical Ecology Study (News)

 

As detective stories go, this sunny, spring day in the Delta isn't a typical backdrop. In the distance, tractors move slowly through dry fields of row crops.

"Once he got lost, they were wandering all over," says Alison Whipple of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a non-profit research group based in Richmond. Her colleague, Robin Grossinger, agrees. "They were all over this place." The two are trying to piece together the path of William Wright, a man who got hopelessly lost somewhere nearby.

Delta Landscapes Primary Production (Project)

Primary Production, the amount of tissue generated by photosynthetic organisms (e.g., plants and algae) over time, forms the basis of food webs. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has unusually low primary productivity relative to other estuaries (Cloern et al. 2014, Jassby et al. 2002). Food availability has been identified as one contributor to the multi-stressor problem of pelagic organism decline in the Delta (Baxter et al. 2010).  But, the constraints on primary production and the relative importance of different production sources to the food web are major uncertainties in this system. Landscape configuration and hydrodynamics are major drivers of primary production dynamics, and understanding how the extensive historical changes in the Delta’s landscape have altered the system’s potential for supporting wildlife and human populations can inform restoration planning and management across the region. Investigating basics about primary production in the Delta can guide us towards better restoration and management decisions.

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.

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).

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 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.

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.