Bay-Delta Science Conference Offered Something for Everyone

Nearly 1,000 scientists, managers, and policymakers attended the 7th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference in mid-October where the latest scientific information critical in shaping management and policy decisions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Francisco Estuary was presented. Addressing the conference theme, “Ecosystem Reconciliation: Realities Facing the San Francisco Estuary,” speakers discussed many other topics like climate change, restoration, adaptive management and flood and levee management.

“The conference was a big success from beginning to end,” said conference co-chair Peter Moyle. “The theme of reconciliation ecology, introduced by the plenary speakers, really seemed to resonate with the people attending, the spirit of which - working together to achieve realistic goals - I hope will continue for a long time to come.”

Moyle added that he was especially impressed by the numerous graduate students making presentations, because they represent the next generation of researchers and managers. “I regard a primary purpose of the conference to be information exchange and networking, helping to get participants out of their narrow boxes of thought and into the bigger world,” he said. “I can’t quantify how well the conference achieved this purpose, but if my personal observations and exchanges are an indication, success was high!”

 


“The conference was a big success from beginning to end. The theme of reconciliation ecology, introduced by the plenary speakers, really seemed to resonate with the people attending, the spirit of which - working together to achieve realistic goals - I hope will continue for a long time to come.”

--Peter Moyle, Conference Co-Chair


 

Plenary sessions included presentations from Delta Science Program Lead Scientist Peter Goodwin, who discussed the changing face of science and the subsequent emerging opportunities for the Bay-Delta science community including the Delta Science Plan.

Goodwin also engaged the audience in interactive feedback on their smart phones posing the statement: “We need a shared vision for how we conduct science in the Bay-Delta System.” Within seconds, 80 percent responded that it was ‘critical,’ and 20 percent replied ‘possibly.’

Other plenary speakers included:

  • Marcia McNutt, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who looked at the insights we might learn by comparing environmental challenges in the Bay-Delta to other ecosystems that the USGS studies, such as the Mississippi Delta and Chesapeake Bay.

  • Ellen Hanak, Senior Policy Fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California who spoke on ecosystem reconciliation in which the focus shifts from piecemeal governmental regulation to a holistic approach of improving overall ecosystem function.

  • Charles Vörösmarty, Director, Environmental Crossroads Initiative, City College of New York, who discussed the commonalities among the world's river deltas as well as the threats each faces through a unique combination of, among other things, climate forces, river flow, biological communities, and human engineering.

Special sessions were held throughout the conference including a viewing of the documentary “Someplace with a Mountain,” narrated by Chevy Chase. This film told the story of a small group of island atolls in the tropical Pacific that are disappearing because of the effects of sea level rise.

Additionally, a lunch-time panel of artists-some wearing colorful fish hats-moderated by Dr. Enid Baxter-Blader, presented and discussed the synergy between art and science. Baxter-Blader’s talk presented a variety of contemporary models for science communication, ranging from painting to new media to participatory performance art.

“The scientists attending appreciated the unexpected excitement of an appearance of a costumed family of seals during the poster presentation,” Baxter-Blader said, “a sing-along during the panel discussion and the opportunity to engage with artists who share their commitment to the Delta and are inspired by their research.”

Goodwin and the Delta Science Program hosted a “Town Hall Meeting” where concepts were brainstormed for a new paradigm to conduct science to achieve the coequal goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration. (See Town Hall story for details).

More than 220 evaluation forms were collected at the end of the conference and when the feedback was tallied, 99 percent rated the conference as excellent or good.

The next Bay-Delta Science Conference will be held in Fall 2014.