Restoration and Ecology

caroline christian

Julie Bright, Temporary Faculty, Department of Biology, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-2717; bright@sonoma.edu; website: none

Area of Water Expertise: Riparian restoration, environmental biology

Water-Related Courses Taught:  UNIV 102 Global Issues Freshman Interest Group:  Learning Service Project, Fall 2011, Copeland Creek restoration/community water issues.

Water-Related Community Connections:  Member, SSU Copeland Creek Committee, which monitors and coordinates activities to protect biodiversity in the creek corridor on campus.  Advisor (1999-2011), Friends of Copeland Creek, a student club that works on removing invasive species from Copeland Creek and restoring native vegetation.


caroline christian

Caroline Christian, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Studies and Planning, SSU

Contact: (707) 322-9816; caroline.christian@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: restoration, conservation, ecology, invasive species

Water-Related Courses Taught: Environmental Forum (ENSP 201); Applied Ecology (ENSP 302); Conservation Biology (ENSP 322); Restoration Ecology (ENSP 423); restoration student blog

Water-Related Research: My research focuses on key issues in conservation and restoration, and the use of applied systems to test fundamental ideas in ecology. Much of my current work evaluates the effectiveness of management tools for grassland, rangeland, shrubland, and riparian communities altered by exotic plant and animal species.

Water-Related Community Connections: I work with non-profit organizations and agencies to implement science-based conservation planning and land management. My water-related activities include contracts with the Sonoma County Water Agency to evaluate the effectiveness of management practices in riparian corridors, and I serve on Board of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. Other groups I work with include Sonoma Land Trust, Cotati Creek Critters, Sonoma Ecology Center and California State Parks.

suzanne decoursey

Suzanne DeCoursey, Education & Reservation Manager, SSU Preserves, SSU

Contact: (707) 795-5069; decourse@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: Environmental education, outreach, restoration

Water-Related Responsibilities: I train docents in natural history, ecosystem processes and pedagogy which allows them to lead educational tours of the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. I also supervise SSU undergraduates to undertake restoration projects in the Copeland Creek watershed. I supervise and collaborate with SSU Facilities on SSU's particpation in the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps program. During the summer we work with disadvantaged youth to remove invasive species removal on Copeland Creek at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve and on the SSU campus.

Water-Related Community Connections: In pursuing water related responsibilities, I interact with elementary schools across the county, the Sonoma County Water Agency, Youth Ecology Corps, and Sonoma County Adult Youth Development.

nick geist with baby turtle

Nick Geist, Professor, Department of Biology, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-3056; nick.geist@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: aquatic amphibians and reptlies

Water-Related Courses Taught: Herpetology (BIO 463)

Water-Related Research: My research focuses on fundamental aspects of the reproductive and conservation biology western pond turtle biology, especially mechanisms of temperature dependent sex determination, nesting behavior, population dynamics, and conservation. Current research includes CA DFG-approved head-starting in collaboration with the San Francisco and Oakland zoos.

Water-Related Community Connections: Collaborations with the Nature Conservancy, Presidio Trust, Sonoma County Water Agency, Lake County Land Trust, and California Department of Fish and Game. 

derek girman

Derek Girman, Professor, Department of Biology, SSU

Contact Information: (707) 664-3055; girman@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise:; ecology and conservation of fishes, salamanders, and other vertebrates within and among watersheds

Water-Related Courses Taught: Vertebrate Biology (BIOL 327); Conservation Genetics (BIOL 511)

Water-Related Research: Conservation genetics (fishes, salamanders, seabirds); speciation mechanisms in local salamanders; watershed impacts;leading to;salamander deformities; endangered Tiger Salamander conservation.

Water-Related Community Connections: Collaborative research with the Sonoma County Water Agency, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Collaborative education with NOAA Fisheries, Army Corps of Engineers, UC Extension, California Department of Fish & Game, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Kern National Wildlife Refuge, and Point Reyes Bird Observatory


derek girman

Karina Nielsen, Professor, Department of Biology, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-2962; karina.nielsen@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: Marine and estuary ecology, conservation, nutrient upwelling, climate change

Water-Related Courses Taught: Marine Ecology (BIOL 335); Invertebrate Biology (BIOL 322); Biological Oceanography (BIOL 312)

Water-Related Research: We are working to understand how variability in oceanographic subsidies such as nutrients and phytoplankton influences benthic community structure in the northern California Current Large Marine Ecosystem.  Research is being conducted at 15 sites nested within five capes spanning 1300 km within the study region.  A comprehensive suite of comparative field experiments and oceanographic monitoring is currently underway and will advance our understanding of how biological interactions vary under different levels of ecological subsidies.  The project should provide insight into the consequences of predicted changes in upwelling regimes due to climate change. We are also monitoring the abundance of phytoplankton, ocean temperatures and light attenuation at many rocky intertidal sites in Oregon and California to: 1) build our understanding of how the base of marine food webs in the nearshore zone responds to changing ocean climate, and 2) contribute to the growing regional and national networks of dedicated ocean observing systems.  Like weather stations on land ocean observing systems provide critical information for understanding ocean climate.

Water-Related Community Connections:

derek girman

Nathan Rank, Professor, Department of Biology, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-3053; rank@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: Riparian entomology, water-borne plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death)

Water-Related Courses Taught: Sustainability in My World (SCI 120); Entomology (BIOL 323)

Water-Related Research: I study ecological interactions among plants, herbivores and pathogens; the adaptive significance of genetic variation in natural populations of insects; and effects of invasive species on native ecological communities. Ongoing work focuses on the invasive pathogenPhytophthera ramorum, which has spread through Sonoma County woodlands since 2000.

Water-Related Community Connections: I am working with Goldridge, Southern Sonoma, and Sotoyome RCDs to engage Science 120/121 students in water-related projects. 

karen tillinghast

Karen Tillinghast, Instructor, Environmental Studies and Planning Department, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-2306; tillinghast@sonoma.edu; no website

Area of Water Expertise: riparian vegetation restoration, native plant propagation

Water-Related Courses Taught: Native Plant Propagation (ENSP 326AB)

Water-Related Community Connections: I have a contract with the Sonoma County Water Agency to supply native plants for river restoration.


richard whitkusRichard Whitkus, Professor, Biology Department, SSU

Contact: (707) 664-2303; whitkus@sonoma.edu; website

Area of Water Expertise: plant biology; plant genetics and evolution; floristics

Water-Related Courses Taught: Plant Biology (BIOL 329); Plant Taxonomy (BIOL 330)

Water-Related Research: Systematics and evolutionary genetics of plants; biology and evolution of sedges

Water-Related Community Connections: Involved in the California Native Plant Society and Botanical Society of California.