Sierra Garcia

I write about oceans, climate, sustainability, & complex systems science.

National Geographic Field Notes | Restoring Reefs in Roatan

Dive deep into the efforts to regrow endangered reef-building corals in Honduras’s Bay Islands.
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Una advertencia grave para los arrecifes hondureños

«Se siente una impotencia», me dijo en una videollamada. Guerrero es la coordinadora para Honduras de la organización Arrecifes Saludables para Gente Saludable, que hace monitoreo de la salud de todo el sistema arrecifal mesoamericano, que también incluye México, Belice y Guatemala. «Realmente no puedes hacer nada más que documentarlo y regar la voz…pero una solución a corto o mediano plazo, pues no la sé», dijo.

Our Family Legacy

When my freshman year began, I thought I knew the story of my family’s Stanford connection. Daniel Garcia, ’73—Uncle Dan, to me—was the only one of my grandmother’s five sons to enroll in college. When my father dropped out of high school at age 16, he traveled north from Los Angeles to join his older brother on Stanford’s campus—in his case, as a full-time dishwasher at Tresidder Union. Occasionally, he’d sneak into the back of Daniel’s classes and eavesdrop...

Two Towns Shortlisted for FEMA Millions – KneeDeep Times

Raúl doesn’t spare much thought for the catastrophic levee failure that could put his neighborhood of many decades underwater. He’s more concerned with the arsenic that has rendered the town’s tap water undrinkable and necessitated bottled water deliveries every few days for the last five years. Despite that complaint, he enjoys life in Grimes, a Colusa County community of a few hundred people surrounded by farmland and nuzzled against an earthen levee that holds back the Sacramento River. In S

Teaching to Weather the Storms Within – KneeDeep Times

Nose streaming, eyes puffy, the child wails onscreen. He’s perhaps pre-K aged, and in most circumstances, you might assume he was mid-tantrum, perhaps brought on by a spat with a sibling or misplaced favorite toy. But between gasping sobs, the boy in the video explains that he’s upset because of climate change. The viral video is a vivid indicator of how “climate anxiety” affects even the youngest among us. Children, by definition, have no direct civic power and little say in how their lives ar

Resurrecting the Carmel River Floodplain

The Carmel River of the late 20th century was a tale of California water extremes writ small. In 1998 it flooded homes again, but in most years, the river was largely reduced to a trickle as it was siphoned off to water the blooming tourist mecca of the Monterey Peninsula. Endangered steelhead trout, members of the southernmost surviving population, would often find their attempts to swim upriver and spawn thwarted by...

Climate change is heating, salinizing, and expanding the San Francisco Estuary, a review of nearly 200 scientific studies concludes.

Sea level rise, changing snow and rainfall patterns, and warmer waters are some of the changes already observed in the Estuary and expected to continue through the rest of the century as greenhouse gas concentrations rise. Changes to water are at the heart of the documented and further expected impacts; there’s less of it entering the system overall, but more arriving in torrential bursts, and more saltwater creeping inland from the Bay.

Seeding Citizen Scientists – KneeDeep Times

In the fall of 2021, ecologist and landscaper Billy Krimmel decided to sow 65 pounds of native seeds all around Davis, and to do everything wrong. Everything wrong, at least, by the standards of the professional landscapers Krimmel’s native landscaping company competes with. The seed disbursers were anybody and everybody in the West Sacramento area who stumbled across the project at various breweries or pop-up events and felt inspired to take home a seed packet in the name of citizen science. I

Cutting Green Tape

A novel exemption lawmakers passed to California’s landmark Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in late 2021 has helped fast-track at least four habitat restoration projects so far, with more to follow in the next couple years. The Statutory Exemption for Restoration Projects, or SERP, offers a rare reprieve from California’s stringent environmental review and permitting process — and a clear indication of the urgency the state’s leaders feel in advancing ecological restoration work.

A South Bay Levee Breaks Ground, And Records – KneeDeep Times

On a drizzly Thursday in April, dozens of reporters, government officials, military brass, conservationists, and bureaucrats gathered beside a weedy shoreline on the edge of San Jose to break ground on an effort worth hundreds of millions of dollars. “We have a grave responsibility to take action, and what you see behind me is an example of that action,” declared Wade Crowfoot, the California Secretary for Natural Resources. The humble surroundings belied the significance of the South San Fran

Retreat By Any Other Name – KneeDeep Times

Affluence often aligns with stronger resistance to relocation. But an even stronger factor could be how much private versus public land is imperiled. In wealthy San Francisco, a lengthy process of negotiation triumphed with a plan for managed retreat of a beloved public beach, while residents of the remote northern town of King Salmon rallied against the suggestion of relocating from their homes. Nearly three-quarters of the town qualifies as “economically disadvantaged” by federal criteria.

Realmente Inundado: Observaciones de Las Mareas Más Altas –

Los automóviles que ingresaban a la rampa de la autopista en Mill Valley se derrapaban a través de una sección de cientos de metros de agua salada que les llegaba hasta los tobillos. Junto a la pista del Aeropuerto Internacional de San Francisco, el agua de la bahía brotaba hasta la calle desde un desagüe pluvial. Y en Pacifica, en la costa del condado de San Mateo, cientos de cangrejeros esperanzados en el muelle ignoraron las olas que rompían sobre la acera, y hasta a la carretera junto a la entrada del muelle.

Gone Fishing

As the weekend dawns and California slumbers, the sportfishers descend, like clockwork, on the banks and waves of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. They carry nets for herring or poles for sturgeon, heavy and light tackle, bloodworms or anchovy or any number of delectable morsels to attract the desired target. They tread industrialized East Bay shorelines and marshy Delta banks, hop aboard sporty six-pack boats for more ambitious trips or humbler craft for a leisurely solo excursion. They catch (and often release) a smorgasbord of species: halibut, kingfish (white croaker), or sturgeon around the Bay, or striped bass, salmon, and black bass in the many tendrils of the Delta.

Bangalore's Green Belt Fifty Years On

Fifty years ago, the burgeoning metropolis of Bangalore, soon to be dubbed the “Silicon Valley of India”, had a plan that seemed simple on paper. Based on a century-old British concept for city layout, they would preserve a “green belt” of land to encircle the urban center, zoned only for fields, forests, and open space. Instead of growing indiscriminately, the nearby city would be ringed by crops and pastureland, which could feed the urban population and provide a host of environmental benefits

Royally Flooded: Dispatches from the Highest Tides –

“Seeing how much just a foot of water can really do and how much it can flood…is kind of scary.” In the first days of 2022, thousands of people took to the California shore to catch a live preview of sea-level rise in the coming decades. They were not disappointed. Cars entering the freeway ramp in Mill Valley whizzed through hundreds of yards of ankle-deep seawater. Next to the San Francisco International Airport runway, baywater burbled up to the road from a storm drain. And in Pacifica on t

Meet the Christmas Tree Doppelgängers of the Sea

Christmas trees were hard to come by for some families this year. But the ocean was well-stocked, from the tropics to the deep sea, with festive creatures bearing Christmas tree inspired names. The most famous of these—if a conical, thumbnail-sized marine invertebrate can be called famous—is the Christmas tree worm. These brightly colored tube worms adorn coral reefs across the globe, growing on the surface of living corals. Christmas tree worms are plentiful and easy to spot once you know to l

How "Termites of the Sea" Have Shaped Maritime Technology

For most of history, ships and docks were at the mercy of spineless, often invisible pests that wreaked far more havoc than the sirens or sea-monsters of lore. They are the marine wood borers: shipworms, pillbugs, or gribbles. These cousins of roly-polies, clams and garden worms collectively interact with wooden infrastructure much like termites on land. And, for millennia, the pernicious pests have spread across the world in tandem with the movement of people, and have shaped our decisions abou

A new partnership is pushing to tally the “blue carbon” in marine and coastal ecosystems.

Seagrass meadows, kelp forests, and even the seabed can all lock away carbon—but exactly how much is still up in the air for these and other ocean ecosystems. The Seascape Carbon Initiative, a partnership formed in late 2021 between four environmental problem-solving organizations and one independent carbon verifier, is pushing the science forward so protecting and restoring these valuable ecosystems can join mangrove forests and terrestrial forests as certifiable nature-based carbon capture...
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