The Science of Sustainability

Ann Dickinson

Ann Dickinson

Before moving to California almost five years ago, Ann served as Sally Brown Fellow in Environmental Literature at the University of Virginia, where she taught undergraduate seminars on literature and the environment and coordinated an ongoing reading series featuring nationally prominent nature writers. Prior to that, she spent a year as a research assistant at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's field station on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, studying how young leaves defend themselves against herbivores.

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Ann Dickinson's Latest Posts

What makes a shark a shark?

What makes a shark a shark?

So, how do the Bay's leopard sharks, soupfin sharks, sevengill sharks, spiny dogfish, and other shark species differ from "non-shark" fishes? Here are a few key distinctions.

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6 MORE Simple Things You Can Do to Help the Bay: Conservation Edition

6 MORE Simple Things You Can Do to Help the Bay: Conservation Edition

I hadn't been working at The Bay Institute long when our then Executive Director dropped a packet of information on my desk and asked me to draft a letter. The topic? Urinals.

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A fishy odyssey through the delta

A fishy odyssey through the delta

Talk about a wild ride. Every year, millions of fish make a strange and harrowing detour through the Skinner Fish Facility, part of the State Water Project's facilities in the Delta. In my last post, I wrote about my visit to the Banks Pumping Plant, whose giant pumps slurp water from the Delta to help […]

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Where Water Runs Uphill

Where Water Runs Uphill

Harvey O. Banks Pumping PlantI'm standing in the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant, part of the State Water Project (SWP), looking at a set of huge pumps that slurp water from the Delta and hoist it 244 feet to the mouth of the California Aqueduct. The sensation is a little akin to the how I […]

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Have sewage, will travel

Have sewage, will travel

Unless our sewage happens to end up in the Bay and in the headlines, most of us probably never give a second thought to where our wastewater is headed each time we run the tap or flush the toilet. To learn more about the travels of sewage, I took a tour of the Las Gallinas […]

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Sticking up for the little guy: the California freshwater shrimp

Sticking up for the little guy: the California freshwater shrimp

This year the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) will celebrate its 35th anniversary. Under the ESA over 1,350 species are listed in the United States as threatened or endangered, including over 300 in California. This includes a number of "celebrities" of the conservation world such as the humpback whale and California condor, but also dozens […]

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Where have all the salmon gone?

Where have all the salmon gone?

Run down Recent news headlines have been full of Chinook salmon, but sadly the same cannot be said of Central Valley waterways. This fall, only about 90,000 Central Valley Chinook salmon returned to their home rivers and streams to spawn, down from more than 800,000 just a few years ago. Like most salmon, Central Valley […]

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Live! from the Green Carpet

Live! from the Green Carpet

January and February are exciting months for movie buffs like me. And no, I'm not referring to Golden Globes, Oscar nominations, or Screen Actors Guild awards. I'm talking about two wonderful "green" film festivals, both right here in our own watershed: the recent Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, and the San […]

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Nursing the marsh-upland transition zone back to health

Nursing the marsh-upland transition zone back to health

In the North Bay, a new nursery is lending Mother Nature a hand. On a recent foggy morning, I drove up to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to tour their native plant nursery with biologist Giselle Block and nursery manager Leia Giambastiani. The Refuge hugs the northern reaches of the Bay (If you've […]

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Oil Spill Adds Insult to Injury

Oil Spill Adds Insult to Injury

Adding more straw to the Bay's back. Image source: Jim M. Goldstein, JMG-GalleriesTalk about kicking someone when they're down down. When the Cosco Busan collided with the Bay Bridge earlier this month, spilling 58,000 gallons of heavy-duty bunker fuel into the Bay, it was a heartbreaking reminder of the Bay's vulnerability. But what makes the […]

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Fish tale: The Old Man and the PCBs

Fish tale: The Old Man and the PCBs

When it comes to our health, the Bay-Delta's fish are flunking out of school. This past Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Magazine featured an eye-opening story on Cambodian subsistence fishers in Stockton and the health concerns they face from a diet dependent on Delta fish. The piece illustrates how water quality in the Delta is an […]

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To bay or not to bay?

To bay or not to bay?

Can you imagine what San Francisco Bay looked like 15,000 years ago? Actually at that time– during the last ice age– San Francisco Bay wasn't a bay at all. Instead, it was a valley dotted with grazing antelope. Hills jutted up here and there (destined to become the Bay's islands). The Sacramento and San Joaquin […]

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Simple things YOU can do to help the Bay

Simple things YOU can do to help the Bay

If you're like me, when you’re doing the dinner dishes you normally aren't thinking about the fate of the delta smelt, the little native fish that is one of several in steep decline and facing extinction. And yet for millions of Bay Area residents the two things–dishwashing and delta smelt–are connected. In fact, choices we […]

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Extra! Extra! Keeping climate change in the headlines

Extra! Extra! Keeping climate change in the headlines

Global climate change is arguably the biggest news story of our times. But from a glance at the headlines, you might not know it. Recently I attended the Society of Environmental Journalists conference at Stanford, an annual national gathering that brings together journalists, environmental scientists, policymakers, and activists to discuss environmental issues– and how the […]

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Dry water?

Dry water?

All last week my partner and I savored a ratatouille made from a rather large and unique zucchini. What made this particular zucchini special? The answer has to do with soil enzymes, deforestation, and Skippy peanut butter. My zucchini began its life in a bountiful test garden at the DriWater factory in Santa Rosa, from […]

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Did Smokey give us the whole story?

Did Smokey give us the whole story?

Restoration burn at Dunham Elementary School, Petaluma. A little over a month ago, my partner and I were driving home one evening when, off in the distance, we spotted a huge column of smoke rising into the sky. We exchanged nervous glances; it appeared to be originating from somewhere uncomfortably close to our neighborhood. We […]

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gH2Ost story

gH2Ost story

Link to Tulare Lake Map for larger imageOnce upon a time, the San Francisco Bay watershed contained the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The lake is no more, but sometimes, in wet years, its spirit still haunts the cotton fields that have taken its place. Up until the last century, Tulare Lake was […]

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Watersheds 101

Watersheds 101

I spent the 4th of July at the Marin County Fair, befriending llamas, riding the Ferris wheel, eating ice cream, and exploring an oversized floor map of Marin watersheds–part of an "Aquatic Adventures" exhibit that The Bay Institute helped to put together for the Fair. It was fun to watch kids and grown-ups alike wander […]

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Window on the Bay, Part II

Window on the Bay, Part II

In my last post, I wrote about a recent visit to the Aquarium of the Bay at PIER 39 and a couple of the fascinating creatures we encountered there. Here are a few more: Drifting in slow motion are the otherworldly moon jellies. Found in temperate and tropical waters around the world, they like bays […]

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Window on the Bay, Part I

Window on the Bay, Part I

Bay pipefish (Syngnathus leptorhynchus)Our usual view of the Bay doesn't even scratch the surface. Literally. As we admire that beautiful expanse of water, how often do we stop to wonder what’s going on underneath it all? The Bay below the surface is a rich ecosystem of worms, snails, anemones, sea stars, clams, shrimp, crabs, and […]

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