Delta Science Proposal Solicitations

The Delta Stewardship Council’s (Council’s) Delta Science Program supports scientific research on high priority topics critical to establish knowledge relevant to managing the Delta. Priority topic areas are identified in the 2017-2021 Science Action Agenda, which is produced and regularly updated by the Delta Science Program in collaboration with stakeholders, managers, and scientists. The 2017-2021 Science Action Agenda identifies the following priority science action areas:

  • Assess the human dimensions of natural resource management decisions
  • Capitalize on existing data through increasing science synthesis
  • Develop tools and methods to support and evaluate habitat restoration
  • Improve understanding of interactions between stressors, managed species, and their communities
  • Modernize monitoring, data management, and modeling

Research proposals on high priority topics for the Delta are received from the scientific community and awarded via a proposal solicitation process and overseen by the Delta Science Program.

Upcoming/Current Delta Science Research Solicitations


The Council’s Delta Science Program, in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and facilitated by California Sea Grant, has released a proposal solicitation for Delta science. Letters of Intent are now being accepted for the Delta Science Proposal Solicitation. Letters of Intent and proposal applications must be submitted through California Sea Grant’s web page.

Past Delta Science Research Awards

The 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010 proposal solicitations resulted in combined funding of 48 proposals for a total of over $27 million. In 2010, 13 research projects were awarded through a proposal solicitation and resulted in more than 70 peer-reviewed papers and have informed how the Delta is managed.

2019 Delta Science Research Awards

In 2019 the Council’s Delta Science Program, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation awarded a total of $16.9 million for 26 high-priority science research projects in the Delta.

The Council’s Delta Science Program selected 15 projects listed below for a total of $9.6 million in funding. These projects range in cost from about $200,000 to $1 million. Reclamation contributed almost $2 million toward four of the projects (denoted by *). CDFW awarded $7.3 million in Proposition 1 funding for 11 additional projects. More information about CDFW’s awarded projects can be found on CDFW’s website.

Scott Brandenberg, University of California, Los Angeles

In June 2004, a 350-foot levee section gave way west of Stockton, flooding crops and more than a dozen homes, and challenging state officials to protect the state's water supply. What is the risk of that happening again somewhere in the Delta? In light of agricultural fields sinking, the sea level rising, more frequent and severe floods occurring, and earthquakes looming, improvements are estimated to cost $3.8 - $4.3 billion over the next few decades.

This study combines 3-D representations with information on the levee’s structure to analyze how different levees respond to floods, sea level rise, and earthquakes. State officials released the last Delta Risk Management Strategy a decade ago. Since then, scientists have collected significant amounts of data and have developed new procedures to compute the risk of failure. This work will produce new Delta-wide data sets important for characterizing the hazards coming from floods and earthquakes. It will also develop the best method to conduct levee hazard assessments. Applying this new method will ensure wise investments and effective threat mitigation Delta-wide.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Sandra Bachand, Bachand and Associates

Steve Deverel, Hydrofocus, Inc

Stephen Andrews, RMA Inc.

Peter Nico, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Philip Bachand, Bachand and Associates

Baptiste Dafflon, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Erika Gasperikova, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Jonathan Stewart, University of California, Los Angeles

Sebastian Uhlemann, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Craig Ulrich, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Paolo Zimmaro, University of California, Los Angeles

Susanne Brander, Oregon State University

Pyrethroids are a type of insecticide frequently detected in the San Francisco Bay and Delta (SFBD). They are highly toxic to fishes and may contribute to their decline. The Central Valley Water Resources Control Board has adopted regulations for many pyrethroids. These concentration goals for Delta surface waters are quite stringent. However, they do not take into account non-lethal effects in fishes, particularly during the early life stages and at the salinity conditions we see in the SFBD. Understanding non-lethal effects in fish is vital to influencing population health.

This study investigates pyrethroid toxicity on Delta smelt and Inland Silverside embryos, while accounting for changing SFBD salinity and other factors such as sediment. Results will inform the development of pesticide regulation criteria and control efforts, furthering the protection of SFBD fishes.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Michelle Hladik, U.S. Geological Survey

Richard Connon, University of California, Davis

This project is partially funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Joseph Dietrich, NOAA Fisheries

The decline of native salmon species has resulted in their protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the California Endangered Species Act. Disease and predation are primary drivers of mortality as salmon migrate. Multiple stressors, such as exposure to contaminants and elevated temperature, can impact rates of disease and predation of salmon as they migrate to the ocean.

This study examines how contaminant exposures at different temperatures affects salmon health. Specifically, the study investigates the sensitivity of salmon to a contaminant mixture of bifenthrin (a pyrethoid pesticide) and triclosan (an antibacterial added to personal care products). Both contaminants can alter fish swimming behavior and critical physiological functions. Similarly, temperature stress can impact fish physiology and behavior, as well as exacerbate the adverse effects of contaminants.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Mary Arkoosh, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Andrew Hein, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Mary Beth Rew Hicks, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Benjamin Martin, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Brian Wells, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Wim Kimmerer, San Francisco State University

Much research in the Delta has focused on foodweb dynamics, stimulated by evidence that low productivity of plankton is linked to declines in several fish species including the endangered delta smelt. Pseudodiaptomus forbesi is the most abundant copepod (small crustaceans) in the Delta in summer. It is an important food source for many fishes and makes up about half of the food of delta smelt.

This study focuses on the feeding, reproduction, and growth of copepods as essential foodweb support for fishes. This work investigates four diverse habitats including two open-water channels and two shallow habitats. The researchers will measure copepods´ feeding rates on microscopic plants and animals, and relate feeding to their rates of growth and reproduction. Computer models will be used to estimate their movement and death rates. These results will show the sources of nutrition used for growth and reproduction of these key organisms. Results will inform how food webs respond to large scale changes in the Delta ecosystem, for example, restoration and the Sacramento wastewater treatment plant upgrade.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Stephen Andrews, RMA, Inc.

Ed Gross, RMA, Inc.

Michelle Jungbluth, San Francisco State University

Benjamin Saenz, RMA, Inc.

Tamara Kraus, U.S. Geological Survey; Tomofuri Kurobe, University of California, Davis; David Senn, San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center

Nutrients in sediment play a large role in influencing food webs, harmful algal blooms, aquatic vegetation, and drinking water quality. This study will investigate the amount, types, and dynamics of nutrients in Delta sediments. It will also examine sediment microbial communities that mediate these processes.

Results of this study will help determine how the planned reduction in nutrient inputs to the Delta will effect sediment nutrients and microbial communities following the upgrade of the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant. Data will also inform how wetland restoration and invasive aquatic vegetation influence sediment nutrients and microbial communities. These data will contribute to improving computer models that inform large-scale nutrient management actions.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Tomofuri Kurobe, University of California Davis

David Senn, San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center

Brian Bergamaschi, U.S. Geological Survey

Bryan Downing, U.S. Geological Survey

John Warden, U.S. Geological Survey

Michael MacWilliams, Anchor QEA via State Water Contractors

This study combines detailed model predictions with salmonid tracking data to inform how river flows affect steelhead movement through the Delta. This project leverages an existing 6-year data set to support analysis of salmonid behavioral responses across a broad range of water years. The study will evaluate behavior relative to flow under existing regulatory requirements (Old and Middle River Flow and the Inflow to Export ratio), evaluate five new potential water management metrics identified by the Collaborative Adaptive Management Team Salmonid Scoping Team, and improve the understanding of what conditions affect survival.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Noah Adams, U.S. Geological Survey

Elizabeth Appy, Anchor QEA

Aaron J. Bever, Anchor QEA

John Ferguson, Anchor QEA

Sydney Gonsalves, Anchor QEA

John Plumb, U.S. Geological Survey

Carolyn Roper, Anchor QEA

This project is funded by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation.

Virginia Matzek, Santa Clara University

Ecological restoration in the Bay-Delta watershed provides increased access to hunting opportunities for recreational hunters in the region in addition to benefitting native flora and fauna. While increased hunting is not always considered an economic benefit, it is a dividend from investments in habitat restoration. This research will quantify in dollars the economic impact of restoring sites and opening them for hunting. The study will survey members of the public at restored sites in the Bay-Delta and Sacramento River regions that have resulted in new and/or improved hunting access. In addition to the economic analysis, the survey will shed light on two other issues: 1) whether there is a tradeoff among recreational usage, carbon storage, and habitat quality for restored sites, and 2) whether current users perceive an unmet need for recreational access in the region. These analyses will be useful in explaining multi-benefit restoration projects to stakeholders and policymakers, and informative to future decision-making.

Additional project details will be available soon.

Mariah Meek, Michigan State University

This study will improve our ability to protect the diversity of traits in Chinook salmon. The diversity of Chinook salmon migration timing is decreasing in the Central Valley. A key roadblock to protecting diversity is the current inability to rapidly and inexpensively identify large numbers of individuals from different populations during their migration to the ocean.

This study addresses this information gap by leveraging pre-existing genomic data to develop a new technique that will allow scientists to identify individuals to life history type and location. For example, this study will potentially be able to identify Fall Run Chinook that are from the Sacramento versus the San Joaquin River basins. This information, in combination with data on water temperature and river flows, can determine the relationship between environmental conditions and juvenile salmon life history diversity. The information generated by this work will provide managers with the ability to accurately monitor the effect of key management actions on the different Central Valley Chinook salmon populations.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Melinda Baerwald, CA Department of Water Resources

Pascale Goertler, CA Department of Water Resources

Peter Dudley, University of California, Santa Cruz

Green sturgeon is a listed species under the federal Endangered Species Act. This project supports the recovery and management of the southern distinct population segment of green sturgeon by improving population and migration monitoring. Improved monitoring is recommended in multiple initiatives to help protect this species, such as the Green Sturgeon Recovery Plan. There is some uncertainty on whether the most appropriate green sturgeon monitoring techniques are being used.

This project compares the different estimation and monitoring techniques to identify the superior protocol. To compare the effectiveness of different techniques, scientists will monitor green sturgeon in the Sacramento River using sonar technology. Monitoring data will be used to estimate the population size and death rates due to by-catch. This project will also review and synthesize past acoustic telemetry data to determine if the data can be modeled to improve population size estimates.

Additional project details will be available soon.

This project is funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Peggy O’Day, University of California, Merced

Mercury, salinity, and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are major contaminants of concern and are an understudied source of water quality impairment to the Delta. This study will (1) examine seasonal variation and transfer of salt, nutrients, and mercury out of managed wetlands; (2) establish and verify whether other routinely monitored water components can serve as reliable alternatives (proxies) for detecting mercury and nutrients; (3) integrate monitoring data and proxy relationships to estimate levels of contaminants; and (4) develop science-based strategies for adaptive co-management of salt, nutrients, and mercury from seasonal wetlands to improve water quality in the Delta.

Outcomes from this study will provide improved best practices and guidelines for management of salt, nutrients, and mercury in wetlands. Results will also address key knowledge gaps identified in the Delta Nutrient Research Plan and provide support for the Delta Mercury Control Plan.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Nigel Quinn, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/University of California Merced

Marc Beutel, University of California Merced

Stephen Hart, University of California Merced

Peter Nico, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Liying Zhao, University of California Merced

Stefanie Helmrich, University of California Merced

Patty Oikawa, California State University East Bay

Tidal marshes are important ecosystems in the San Francisco-Bay Delta. They remove carbon from the atmosphere, build up soils that buffer our communities from sea level rise, mitigate excessive nutrients (like nitrogen), and provide critical habitat and food resources for a diversity of species. It is difficult to predict how tidal marshes change naturally over time versus as a response to climate change, restoration and water quality changes. This project provides the first ever multi-year dataset of the complete carbon budget of a tidal marsh. This dataset will be used to predict seasonal and annual carbon budgets in tidal marshes over a range of salinities. The model will assess the sustainability of existing and potential restored tidal wetland benefits over the next 100 years using remote sensing data. The model will be an open-source tool designed for use by wetland managers and decision makers in the Bay-Delta region. This project supports ongoing initiatives to restore tidal wetlands in the Delta and our ability to manage them in a changing world.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Sara Knox, University of British Colombia

Lisamarie Windham-Myers, U.S. Geological Survey

Iryna Dronova, University of California, Berkeley

Brian Bergamaschi, U.S. Geological Survey

Frank Anderson, U.S. Geological Survey

Russel Perry, U.S. Geological Survey

The purpose of this project is to quantify how tides in the Delta influence survival of juvenile salmon. Juvenile salmon survival increases when there is more flow and the river is less tidally influenced. We hypothesize that the increase in survival is because of reduced travel times causing less exposure to predators. This project will test this hypothesis using multiple models including ones that can predict how management actions that modify tidal patterns affect juvenile salmon survival.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Jon Burau, U.S. Geological Survey

Adam Pope, U.S. Geological Survey

Dalton Hance, U.S. Geological Survey

Paul Stumpner, U.S. Geological Survey

Aaron Blake, U.S. Geological Survey

Christina Pondell, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Recent management strategies in the Delta rely on habitat restoration and water quality improvement to restore ecosystem function. However, current monitoring programs have been limited in their ability to measure ecosystem functions such as food webs. This study explores changes to the sources, quantity, and quality of organic carbon that support the Delta food web. Data from fifteen sites selected to represent the dominant sub-habitats in the Delta will identify the available food resources. The project examines how food resources are affected by wastewater treatment and habitat restoration. Information about organic carbon in the historic and current Delta will aid in establishing realistic goals and targets for ongoing and future restoration efforts in the Delta.

Additional project details will be available soon.

Andrew Rypel, University of California, Davis

Salmon and other native California fishes are in decline and increasingly targeted for enhanced conservation. Acoustic telemetry technologies have emerged, allowing researchers to track fish routes through the Central Valley. Yet while the use of acoustic telemetry has widened, little synthesis has occurred on the large, growing, and expensive datasets that already exist. This project performs a synthesis of existing acoustic telemetry data and explores new frameworks to make sense of it. The project includes a Technical Advisory Group, composed of members of multiple conservation teams. The group will inform each step of study, strengthen syntheses, and enable rapid communication of results to decision makers. In total, the project analyzes 10 to 15 high-quality telemetry datasets encompassing a range of native fishes and life stages. This synthesis will yield major insights into water management practices that could help improve survival of native fish.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Dan Reuman, University of Kansas

This project is funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Susan Ustin, University of California, Davis

Invasive aquatic vegetation (IAV) acts as an ecosystem engineer by changing habitat conditions and water quality. This negatively affects the survival of native species. Over the past 15 years, IAV has more than doubled its footprint in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta waterways. The State of California spends millions of dollars each year to control IAV in the Delta-Suisun region and costs are likely to continue to rise. Gaining a better understanding of the spread, life history characteristics, and potential vulnerabilities of these species can lead to more effective control strategies.

The recent launch of the Sentinel-2 satellite can fill temporal gaps left by annual airborne surveys. This study will create a data pipeline for sustained, low-cost satellite-based monitoring of aquatic and marsh vegetation year-round. To quantify one of the Delta Plan performance measures, the time and degree of floodplain inundation for the Yolo Bypass will be measured. This study will result in new metrics to measure progress toward habitat goals in several restoration sites.

Additional project details will be available soon.


Shruti Khanna, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

Erin Hestir, University of California Merced

Christiana Ade, University of California Merced

Mui Lay, University of California Davis