The Conservation Science program of Audubon Canyon Ranch is headquartered at ACR's Cypress Grove Research Center on Tomales Bay. There, ACR scientists, colleagues, students and volunteers study the local status and ecology of wintering and migrant shorebirds and waterbirds, and the restoration of tidal marshes on the bay. The scope of work conducted at Cypress Grove further involves the stewardship of ACR’s Tomales Bay properties, nearly 500 acres of protected shoreline on over a dozen properties around the bay.

In addition, studies conducted at ACR’s Cypress Grove Research Center address a broad range of topics, especially in avian conservation biology, in areas surrounding our sanctuaries and beyond. These projects involve studies of bird use and habitat values in northern Sonoma County, wetland conservation in San Francisco Bay, and topics related to heron and egret nesting populations throughout central coastal California.

Ideal Science Setting

Tomales Bay is an ideal site for ecological studies. It is intermediate in size (28 square kilometers) relative to other Pacific Coast estuaries and shares characteristics of larger systems such as Humboldt and San Francisco bays. Tomales Bay is also similar to smaller coastal lagoons and estuaries such as Morro Bay and Bolinas Lagoon.

The linear shape of Tomales Bay is a consequence of the ocean flooding into the lower Olema Valley of the San Andreas Fault. This creates a hydrologically simple system with restricted tidal exchange and a strong ecological gradient along which most physical and biological processes vary. The two primary points of freshwater inflow occur at opposite ends of this gradient, allowing for comparisons of contrasting conditions within the system.

A Wealth of Birdlife

Tomales Bay is also an extraordinary place for birds. Scientific contributions by ACR have demonstrated its value for shorebirds, waterbirds and birds of coastal marshes. In addition, the bay provides a context for applied studies of human uses common to many estuarine systems, including local mariculture, commercial and sport fisheries, recreation and agriculture (ranching).