When Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department was tasked with reducing sediment pollution from roads in the Sonoma Creek watershed, they knew that clear, precise data would be essential to getting the job done.
Sonoma Ecology Center was able to help. Our researchers assessed 350 culverts throughout Sonoma Valley, flagging those that are most likely to dump sediment into creeks, and helping PRMD know where to focus its efforts.
It’s just one example of how research conducted by Sonoma Ecology Center, and the data we provide, makes the work of public agencies easier and more effective.
Over the years our researchers have monitored a variety of factors, such as pathogen levels and pesticide levels in Sonoma Creek, sending samples to a lab and posting the results in state databases like CEDEN or our own Sonoma Valley Knowledge Base. (We never post or share property-specific information.)
“This just adds to our knowledge of where pollutants get into the Creek,” explains Alex Young, Sonoma Ecology Center’s GIS (geographic information system) manager.
Other research efforts include our streamflow data, which could help the new Groundwater Sustainability Agency recharge local aquifers – and specifically summertime streamflow data, which could help our community revive the population of steelhead swimming in local creeks – and our Sonoma Biochar Initiative’s tests of the efficacy of biochar, which could help local growers reduce their irrigation needs.
Then there’s the pioneering climate research we’ve led, creating tools that help local agencies plan for the changes ahead and providing a model for climate action that has caught the attention of national leaders.
Now we are kicking off another multi-year round of research focused on recovering our remarkable steelhead, through counting their nests (“redds”) in the winter and pinpointing where streamflow can be augmented in the summer. For these projects, we partner with many streamside landowners who allow us access to their section of creek to take measurements.
Over the years, Sonoma Ecology Center’s researchers and technicians have gathered and analyzed enormous quantities of data about the health of our Valley’s waterways and natural systems. With this information, we are able to inform policy and help decision makers make better choices. It’s a key part of our larger goal to help Sonoma Valley thrive.