Robin M. Grossinger

Program Director
Senior Scientist
Resilient Landscapes Program
510-746-7380

Robin Grossinger is a Senior Scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, where he co-directs, with Letitia Grenier, SFEI’s Resilient Landscapes program. For over twenty years, Robin has analyzed how California landscapes have changed since European contact, using these data to guide landscape-scale restoration strategies. Robin leads efforts throughout the state to reintegrate natural processes within our highly modified landscapes, creating healthier and more adaptive neighborhoods, cities, and surrounding landscapes. He has advised restoration strategies for San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, urban landscapes such as the Google campus, and rivers throughout California.

Robin's innovative work to synthesize history and science has been acclaimed for helping scientists, managers, and the public appreciate both the dramatic transformation and the impressive resilience of the state's ecosystems. Robin’s publications include the Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas (University of California Press 2012) and his work has been featured by NPR, KQED’s QUEST, Saving the Bay, and The New York Times. Recently he has led the development of SFEI's Landscape Resilience Framework, which is guiding regional adaptation efforts.

Among his popular science communication efforts, Robin served as a guest curator for the award-winning multi-disciplinary exhibit on San Francisco Bay Above and Below, at the Oakland Museum of California. He has been recognized with a Local Hero award from Bay Nature magazine and the Carla Bard Bay Education Award from The Bay Institute and Aquarium of the Bay.

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Related Projects, News, and Events

A multi-partner project to create placed-based sea-level rise adaptation strategies (News)

As sea level rise accelerates in the San Francisco Bay, scientists, planners, and decision makers will need to re-envision and adapt our complex shoreline to provide ecological and social resilience. Although there are many efforts currently underway in the region to assess climate change vulnerabilities, the region lacks a coherent science-based framework for guiding and evaluating climate adaptation strategies appropriate to our diverse shoreline settings.

Gary Reyes / Bay Area News Group

SFEI scientist Robin Grossinger helping community leaders to preserve San Jose's Coyote Valley using historical ecology (News)

San Jose's Coyote Valley has come into focus as a key space to preserve as open space, even while faced with ever mounting pressures from land developers and local industry. SFEI's Robin Grossinger has helped to frame the area in useful ways for its various benefits to wildlife, water quality, and human use. He serves on a panel of scientists who have carefully catalogued the services Coyote Valley provides. In a Mercury news article, Grossinger surveys the scene and observes,

Historical Ecology and Landscape Change in the Central Laguna de Santa Rosa (Project)

This study synthesizes a diverse array of data to examine the ecological patterns, ecosystem functions, and hydrology that characterized a central portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa during the mid-19th century, and to analyze landscape changes over the past 150 years. The primary purpose of this study was to help guide restoration actions and other measures aimed at reducing nutrient loads within this portion of the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed.

Lower Walnut Creek Vision Just Released! (News)

SFEI recently released a resilient landscape vision for lower Walnut Creek that incorporates habitat restoration actions into flood risk management. The vision, developed in coordination with a team of regional science experts, highlights opportunities for restoring and sustaining vital tidal wetland habitats around lower Walnut Creek while supporting a high level of flood protection under rising San Francisco Bay water levels.

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Announcing SFEI's first binational study: The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation (News)

A new report shows how the Tijuana River Valley, which straddles the boundary between Southern California and northern Mexico, looked and functioned prior to the existence of the border wall, the city of Tijuana, and the state of California.

Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation Published (News)

The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation—completed in January 2017—synthesized hundreds of historical maps, photographs, and texts to reconstruct the ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic conditions of the Tijuana River valley prior to major European-American landscape modification.

Robin Grossinger interviewed at Grace Cathedral for a discussion about adapting to climate change (News)

On Sunday, October 30 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., SFEI’s Robin Grossinger appeared on a weekly, hour-long discussion series called The Forum. He joined Malcom Clarence Young, the dean of Grace Cathedral, to discuss our changing climate and our place as Bay Area denizens in a world that is rapidly changing.

SFEI work on Landscape Resilience and Urban Biodiversity featured in Google Blog and Fast Company Story (News)

Our partnership with Google to enhance the ecological resilience of urban landscapes is featured in a story by Fast Company, a Google Blog post, and an accompanying video.

"A Delta Renewed" report released at the 2016 Bay-Delta Science Conference (News)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) released A Delta Renewed – A Guide to Science-Based Ecological Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation (Project)

The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation synthesized hundreds of historical maps, photographs, and texts to reconstruct the the ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic conditions of the valley prior to major European-American landscape modification.

U.S. Coast Survey Maps of California (South Coast) (Project)

Until the advent of this new map viewer, a valuable resource was largely unavailable to coastal planners. Now, US Coastal Survey maps are free for broad use.

Flood Control 2.0 (Project)

Flood Control 2.0 is an ambitious regional effort aimed at helping restore stream and wetland habitats, water quality, and shoreline resilience around San Francisco Bay. The project leverages local resources from several forward-looking flood control agencies to redesign major flood control channels so that they provide both future flood conveyance and ecological benefit under a changing climate. This timely project will develop a set of innovative approaches for bringing environmental benefits and cost-savings to flood protection efforts at the mouths of creeks that drain to San Francisco Bay.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Historical Ecology Study (Project)

The San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center, in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game, has completed a historical ecology study of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The project improves understanding of what the Delta looked like and how it functioned prior to the significant modification that has occurred over the last 160 years.

Institute's Historical Ecology featured in the New York Times (News)

New York (January 25, 2016) – In today's New York Times, the San Francisco Estuary Institute and its scientists from the Resilient Landscapes program inspired the newspaper's broad readership to look back in time to see a clearer future.

San Francisquito Creek Baylands Landscape Change Analysis (News)

SFEI recently completed a landscape change analysis of lower San Francisquito Creek in the South Bay. The study was conducted as part of the larger Flood Control 2.0 project to increase regional flood protection will improving ecological diversity.  This particular project   illustrated the change in creek and bayland habitat conditions over the past 150 years.

Native languages map of the Bay for the Exploratorium (News)

The Exploratorium is displaying a map and essay developed by SFEI depicting the diversity, distribution, and people associated with the indigenous languages of the Bay Region. SFEI’s Chuck Striplen assembled existing information on the Bay’s languages and associated peoples; along with a description of the methods and background of linguistic reconstructions. This information appeared both on a large format map and in an accompanying essay.

U.S. Coast Survey. San Diego Bay, California. 1857.
Courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

How to “ReWild” San Diego’s Mission Bay (News)

SFEI's Resilient Landscape Program recently completed a "reconnaissance" historical ecology study of San Diego's Mission Bay. This targeted project collected high-priority historical data (such as maps, photographs, and texts) that shed light on how Mission Bay and the surrounding region looked and functioned prior to major landscape modification during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Mission Bay Historical Ecology Reconnaissance Study (Project)

The Mission Bay Historical Ecology Reconnaissance Study, completed in February of 2016, collected and organized data on the historical conditions of Mission Bay in San Diego County. The project was carried out in support of San Diego Audubon Society's ReWild Mission Bay project, a three-year planning effort exploring options to restoring wetlands in the northeast corner of the estuary.

Now Available: SF Bay Shore Inventory: Mapping for Sea Level Rise Regional Dataset (News)

SFEI and the San Francisco Estuary Partnership are proud to announce the release of the SF Bay Shore Inventory: Mapping for Sea Level Rise. This dataset provides a comprehensive and consistent picture of today’s Bay shore (up to MHHW + 10ft) for all nine Bay Area counties. The mapping captures features which affect flooding and flood routing (e.g., engineered levees, berms, embankments, roads, wetlands, etc.).

Photo credit: Connor Radnovich / San Francisco Chronicle

SFEI featured in LA Times about earthquake risk to San Francisco (News)

A recent story in the LA Times by Ron Lin underscores the newly identified threat that earthquakes pose to the San Francisco Bay waterfront. Under certain circumstances, the sea wall that currently protects the Embarcadero and its surrounding infrastructure could be dramatically compromised during a strong enough seismic event. The results could be capastrophic to a key driver of San Francisco's economy. And the fix to the vulnerability would be expensive at $3 billion.