Susan Williams was a Bodega Bay marine biologist and professor whose scientific expertise was instrumental in a decadeslong effort to expand federal protections for North Coast marine ecosystems.
She directed the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and served as a key advisor to California lawmakers working to protect coastal waters from oil and gas development. Her research showed how ocean health is connected to the wellbeing of coastal communities and humanity at large, and her ability to communicate simply about complicated science made her an essential adviser, said former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat who relied on Williams’ counsel in her battles for environmental protections.
“What a loss for our country and our oceans and everybody that has ever met her,” said Woolsey, who served in Congress until 2013. “She was able to put words to science and make it real.”
Willams, 66, was the lone fatality Tuesday in a six-vehicle crash on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma, where her Toyota Prius was struck head-on by Chevrolet Silverado pickup that authorities said crossed over into her lane.
Williams studied seagrass and coral reefs at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, and her research documented the impacts of warming ocean waters and human activity. Her studies covered the impact of invasive species brought into ports and the prevalence of plastic in the sea.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Green stalks of redwood lilies grow beneath the giant trees at Pepperwood Preserve, but no one has seen the colorful, trumpet-shaped blossoms in decades.
They likely haven’t bloomed since 1964, when powerful winds pushed the Hanly fire from Calistoga to Santa Rosa, following much the same path of the deadly Tubbs fire three weeks ago. Both blazes scorched a broad swath across the 3,200-acre preserve in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Santa Rosa.
Redwood lilies are a fire-dependent species that require wildfire heat to reproduce, said Michael Gillogly, the preserve manager, who lived on the property for 23 years. His was one of two homes on the preserve destroyed by the conflagration that wiped out nearly 7,000 Sonoma County dwellings.
“I can’t wait to see them,” he said.
The redwood lilies fit well in Pepperwood’s rugged landscape, evolved over thousands of years not only to survive but to thrive in the Mediterranean climate of the Coast Range, where oak, fir and redwood forests, shrubs and grasslands are baked dry every summer, vulnerable to natural or human ignition.
“There is beauty in the Pepperwood landscape now,” said Lisa Micheli, president of the foundation that operates the facility located off Porter Creek Road. “It is in a renewal process.”
The property, which includes the headwaters of three creeks that flow into the Russian River, is home to 750 varieties of native plants and 150 species of wildlife, including birds, reptiles and mammals.
The fire also wrought a significant new direction for Pepperwood’s role as a scientific research facility, “perfectly positioned,” she said, to document wildland fire recovery and possibly to develop new strategies for forest management and firefighting.
Read more at: At Santa Rosa’s Pepperwood Preserve, nature rebounds from massive wildlfire | The Press Democrat –
Stephen Nett, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Thirteen years ago, he made history by filming the sunken RMS Titanic where it lay broken on the Atlantic seabed.Since then, he’s dived in nearly every ocean on the planet. On a good day, he can swim for 24 hours — but at 2 tons, he needs help getting out of the water.His associates call him Hercules.
And this month, the bright yellow, remotely operated diving vehicle was in the Pacific off Sonoma County to explore, for the first time, the deep-water life in the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, 6 miles west of Bodega Bay.
For ROV Hercules, that meant commuting an hour-and-a-half to work, driving nearly 6,000 feet beneath the rolling ocean swells. With two flexible arms, dazzling lights, video cameras and a long, long tether, Hercules was designed to go where humans cannot — to peer into the unknown.
On a clear day when the fog lifts, you can see the Cordell Bank Marine Sanctuary from shore, from either Bodega Head or Point Reyes. On the surface, it’s an unremarkable patch of blue ocean. But go 115 feet down, and you’ll find a submerged rocky island, 9 miles long and 4 miles wide, teeming with fish and a riot of colorful marine life.
The shallow bank is actually the peak of an underwater mountain sitting in what scientists call a biological hotspot. Surrounded by deep, steep walled canyons, the rocky seamount perches on the very edge of the continental shelf, which falls away in a vertical cliff another 2 miles down. No sunlight can penetrate that deep, so the walls and bottom are in permanent blackness, the water is nearly as cold as ice, and the sheer weight of the ocean above creates crushing pressure, nearly 5,000 pounds per square inch. That’s equivalent to two fully loaded 747 jumbo jets sitting on your chest.
So what’s special about Cordell Bank? Jennifer Stock, the enthusiastic Outreach Coordinator for the Marine Sanctuary, answers that question a lot from her headquarters at Point Reyes. Jennifer was also one of the lucky few pulling watch on board the Nautilus during Hercules’ dives.
Read more at: Scientists find exotic life in ocean depths off Sonoma Coast | The Press Democrat –
Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency who want to publish or present their scientific findings likely will need to have their work reviewed on a “case by case basis” before it can be disseminated, according to a spokesman for the agency’s transition team.
In an interview Tuesday evening with NPR, Doug Ericksen, the head of communications for the Trump administration’s EPA transition team, said that during the transition period, he expects scientists will undergo an unspecified internal vetting process before sharing their work outside the agency.
“We’ll take a look at what’s happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that’s going to reflect the new administration,” Ericksen told NPR.
Ericksen did not say whether such a review process would become a permanent feature of Trump’s EPA. “We’re on Day 2 here. … You’ve got to give us a few days to get our feet underneath us.”
Any review would directly contradict the agency’s current scientific integrity policy, which was published in 2012. It prohibits “all EPA employees, including scientists, managers and other Agency leadership from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions.”
It also would likely have a chilling effect on the agency’s ability to conduct research on the environmental issues it is charged with regulating.
Read more at: EPA Scientists’ Work May Face ‘Case By Case’ Review By Trump Team, Official Says : The Two-Way : NPR