Understanding Food Web Dynamics from the San Francisco Estuary to the Pacific Ocean

A curlew plucking a crab out of a marsh

Event Date

UC Davis International Center
The logos of the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute and Delta Science Program shown side by side


Please join the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute and the Delta Science Program for a one-day symposium exploring the current state of research on food webs from the San Francisco Estuary to the Pacific Ocean.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management is a holistic approach that emphasizes habitat and food webs. However, understanding how habitat and food webs can support multiple species of management interest requires rich data sets for ecological modeling and hypothesis-driven observational studies and experiments. These efforts are often challenging due to complex food web interactions that vary across habitat types, salinity gradients, and hydrodynamic features, and over time. There is a growing effort to understand relationships and feedbacks among food webs in the San Francisco Estuary and Pacific Ocean. This symposium aims to convene food web experts to discuss ongoing research, find synergies in approaches and findings, and identify information gaps, with the goal of improving ecosystem-based fisheries management.

The symposium will be divided into three topic areas:

  1. Modeling will address ways of using data to capture complexity, uncovering hidden relationships, and generating predictions across large scales
  2. Empirical Studies will feature recent site-specific studies that provide generalizable insights and inform modeling
  3. Management Strategies will feature applied research that offers novel solutions to food web management

This event will run from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM on 5/31/2024 on the UC Davis campus and will also be live-streamed and recorded. Registration is required for both in-person and remote attendees.

If you require any special accommodations to fully enjoy the event, please contact Moose O’Donnell, mjodonnell@ucdavis.edu


Information For Attendees:


9:00  Welcome - Fernanda Valdovinos, UC Davis

9:15 - Keynote Talk - "Physics to food webs: Fisheries management from snow to sea" 
Lisamarie Windham-Myers, USGS and Delta Science Program and Matt Young, USGS

9:45 - Q&A Discussion followed by a break

Session One - Modeling

Modeling will address ways of using data to capture complexity, uncovering hidden relationships, and generating predictions across large scales.

10:15 - "Abiotic and biotic controls of age-0 Pacific herring population stability across the San Francisco Estuary"
Denise Colombano, Delta Science Program

10:35 - "Evaluating top-down, bottom-up, and environmental drivers of pelagic food web dynamics along an estuarine gradient"
Sam Bashevkin, State Water Resources Control Board

10:55 - "Toward Integrated Food Webs: Understanding the benefits and science needs for incorporating food web interactions into management in the Bay-Delta Estuary"
Robert Naiman, Member of the Delta Independent Science Board (Delta ISB) and Professor Emeritus, University of Washington

11:15 - Break

Session Two - Empirical Studies

Empirical Studies will feature recent site-specific studies that provide generalizable insights and inform modeling.

11:35 - "Phytoplankton in San Francisco Estuary – We fixed all that, right?" 
Brian Bergamaschi, USGS

11:55 - "Novel plant assemblages favored in waterfowl management boost plankton production in managed wetlands." 
Kyle Phillips, UC Davis Grad Group in Ecology

12:15 - "The anchovy regime: an overthrown salmon foraging ecology in the wake of oceanic regime shifts and the link to thiamine deficiency" 
Abbie Ward, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

12:35 - Lunch

Session Three - Management Strategies

Management Strategies will feature applied research that offers novel solutions to food web management

1:45 - "Using climate and food web information to adjust management targets: a tale from West Coast groundfish" 
Kiva Oken, NOAA

2:05 - "Restoring tidal marsh food web structure and energy pathways for estuarine fish communities" 
Megan Pagliaro, UC Berkeley

2:25 - "Operationalizing the theory – what does it mean to manage “a food web”? 
Rosemary Hartman, Department of Water Resources

2:45 - Break

3:05 - Summary Discussion

Speaker Bios:

Lisamarie Windham-Myers

Previously a university professor, Lisamarie is a systems ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who received her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources from Rutgers University. Her research examines processes at the interface of land and aquatic systems, including water flow, storage, and quality at landscape scales. Lisamarie has extensively studied the conditions in wetlands and estuaries that sequester and release greenhouse gases and control methylmercury dynamics. Her hobbies include working in her garden, where she cultivates native and rare plants, playing piano, and going on hikes with her husband.

Matt Young

I'm a Research Fish Biologist with the US Geological Survey. I work in a variety of systems ranging from the Pacific Ocean to the high desert exploring relationships between native fishes and changes to their environment. This includes the spread of non-native species, habitat alteration and the loss of underlying ecosystem processes, and the potential for habitat restoration to provide key benefits to native fishes.

Denise Colombano

Denise is a Senior Environmental Scientist with the Delta Science Program. She studies fish and food webs using long-term monitoring data and open science practices. She has a soft spot for tidal wetlands, which was the topic of her PhD work.

Sam Bashevkin

Sam Bashevkin is an Environmental Program Manager at the California State Water Resources Control Board. Sam works on efforts to update and inform implementation of the Bay-Delta water quality control plan, which establishes flow requirements for the watershed. He also applies open data science and statistics to diverse topics including water quality, zooplankton, fishes, and monitoring survey design. Sam completed his Ph.D. in ecology at the University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Lab, studying the adaptive defenses of larval crabs against predation and ultraviolet radiation.

Robert Naiman

Career highlights include being a research scientist and director of the Matamek Research Program of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, director of the Center for Streamside Studies at the University of Washington, a visiting scientist on numerous occasions with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Toulouse, France), a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa), and a professor at the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management at the University of Western Australia. My research explored the structure and dynamics of riverine ecosystems – including riparian vegetation, and the role of large animals in influencing ecosystem dynamics. These activities laid the foundation for ~11 books on aquatic ecology and watershed management and produced 230+ journal articles. I am an ISI Highly Cited Researcher and former UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Rivers. I have chaired several national and international committees on water issues, have participated on advisory panels for the US National Science Foundation, chaired UNESCO committees, consulted for government research organizations in France and South Africa, and advised conservation organizations as well as private foundations. In 2008 I was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Université Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France), in 2012 received the Eminent Scientist award from the Ecological Society of America, and in 2013 presented the E. Baldi memorial lecture to the International Society of Limnology. Until recently I chaired the Independent Scientific Advisory Board for the restoration and management of the Columbia River (USA) – the largest river restoration program in North America. Currently, I’m a member of California’s Delta Independent Science Advisory Board.

Brian Bergamaschi

Brian received a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington, where he specialized in analyzing the sources and fates of natural organic material in the environment. His main interests are in understanding processes of carbon and nutrient cycling in aquatic environments and related biogeochemical processes. His particular interest is developing methods to quantify interactions between physical and biogeochemical processes. His research ranges in scale from light-mediated molecular transformations, to tidally driven wetland exchange, to effects of changing continental-scale nutrient fluxes on coastal carbon processes. His current projects largely focus on aquatic biogeochemical processes, aquatic habitat quality and carbon cycling in aquatic systems.

Kyle Phillips

Kyle Phillips is a PhD Candidate in the UC Davis Grad Group in Ecology, co-advised by Dr. John Durand and Dr. Sharon Lawler. He is a bug nerd at heart, who sometimes dabbles in fish and other critters. He loved playing in his sandbox as a kid and, therefore, likes the idea of tinkering with novel ecosystems. When not busy with his PhD, Kyle enjoys hiking, canoeing, rafting, and crafting.

Abbie Ward

Abigail Ward is an Assistant Specialist who has been working with Rachel Johnson and Carson Jeffres at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences since 2021. Her research over the last several years since beginning at CWS has been largely focused around the emerging issue of thiamine deficiency in salmonids in California. She will be continuing this research in the fall at UC Santa Cruz, where she will be starting her PhD under Eric Palkovacs in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program. There she will be focusing on the effect of thiamine deficiency in steelhead, including understanding their adaptive capacity to low thiamine levels, variability in thiamine levels among California steelhead populations, and the potential for natural selection on specific life history strategies.

Kiva Oken

Kiva Oken joined the NWFSC as a stock assessment scientist and research statistician in 2021. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at UC Davis. She did postdoctoral research in the Ecosystem Science Program at NWFSC on bioeconomic modeling of cross-fishery participation and at Rutgers University on the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on nearshore food webs. She holds a PhD in Quantitative Ecology & Resource Management at the University of Washington (2016) and a BA in math with a concentration (minor) in environmental studies from Carleton College (2010).

Megan Pagliaro

I am a PhD candidate at the University of California Berkeley, in Dr. Albert Ruhi’s lab, where I study wetland restoration ecology. More specifically, I am evaluating food web energy flows and the recovery of species such as fish, emergent vegetation, and aquatic macroinvertebrates in estuarine wetlands using a combination of research techniques including stable isotope analysis. This research is in collaboration with USGS’s Western Ecological Center and ICF, and is funded through California Fish and Wildlife’s Delta Prop 1, and California Sea Grant’s Delta Science Fellowship. After graduation in December 2024, I will pursue a career as a state or federal biologist specializing in estuarine food webs and tidal marsh restoration in the Bay-Delta.

Rosemary Hartman

Dr. Rosemary Hartman is an aquatic community ecologist at the Department of Water Resources where she leads the Interagency Ecological Program Synthesis Team. In that role, she organizes teams who put together all the data collected across the estuary and to answer important management questions. Her recent work includes the impact of drought on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, invertebrate communities in and around tidal wetlands, and the effectiveness of the Delta Smelt Summer-Fall Habitat Action.

Planning Team:

  • Fernanda Valdovinos, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis
  • John Durand, Center for Watershed Sciences, UC Davis
  • Mikaela Provost, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, UC Davis
  • Adrianne Smits, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis
  • Denise Colombano, Delta Science Program, Delta Stewardship Council
  • Edmund Yu, Delta Science Program, Delta Stewardship Council
  • Maggie Christman, Delta Science Program, Delta Stewardship Council
  • Miranda Tilcock, Delta Science Program, Delta Stewardship Council
  • Moose O'Donnell, Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, UC Davis
  • Sophia Simon, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis

For more information, contact Moose O’Donnell, mjodonnell@ucdavis.edu

View past CMSI/Delta Science Program Symposia here

View past CMSI/Delta Science Program Symposia here