2013 Articles Archive

Steward of Santa Monica Bay – Lia Protopapadakis

USC Alumni Magazine – December 23, 2013

Lia Protopapadakis ’01 worries about halibut. By 2010, numbers of the popular sport fish had plummeted to about 14 percent what they should be in the Santa Monica Bay. The once plentiful sea-bottom dweller is depleted.

As a marine scientist for The Bay Foundation, Protopapadakis tries to understand why. On any given day, she might be calibrating an ultrasound machine used to determine the sex of halibut or diving into a kelp forest to evaluate the progress of restoration efforts. Or she might be lobbying local chefs to put the California spiny lobster—a sustainable crustacean—on their menus, instead of shipping in its cousin from Maine …READ MORE

Frogs May Be Making Comeback to Santa Monica Mountains

KCET “Rewild” Blog – December 20, 2013

They haven’t been seen in the Santa Monica Mountains in four decades, but a population of California red-legged frogs in the neighboring Simi Hills is raising biologists’ hopes that the threatened species might be able to be replanted in the rugged Southern California mountain range.

…biologists from a consortium of agencies and groups including the California State Parks and NPS, USFWS, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center, and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission will move red-legged eggs by the hundreds into likely spots in Ramirez and Solstice canyons …READ MORE

Calabasas Storm Drain Catch Basin Screens

Calabasas TV / City News – December 10, 2013

Installation of catch basins and how the project came to fruition …READ MORE

Scientists-Turned-Detectives Look to Crack the Case of the Missing DDT

KPCC 89.9 – December 4, 2013

Over the decades, tons of the pesticide flowed through Los Angeles County’s sewers and settled into the world’s largest underwater toxic hotspot. But the last round of tests has indicated that the contamination has all but vanished.

What they found suggests there are only 20 tons of DDT off Palos Verdes, a 90 percent drop from what they found before. The findings froze cleanup plans. They forced an audit of lab work. And now scientists are retracing their steps, sampling sediment over 17 square miles of the Palos Verdes Shelf. Again.

To complicate matters, tissue samples from fish swimming and feeding near the hotspot so far aren’t showing big changes, like the sediment tests have. Guang-Yu Wang, a staff scientist for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, says you’d expect a big drop in sediment pollution would mean less contamination in fish. “But we have not seen that in fish tissue concentration,” Wang says. “It’s a big mystery. I can only guess that we will still see contaminated fish for many years to come.” …READ MORE

Malibu’s Bizarre Sand War Pits Celebrities vs. Nature

The Hollywood Reporter – November 29, 2013

The source of the conflict: the residents’ ambitious $20 million proposal to dramatically reshape the area by dredging in 600,000 cubic yards of sand from one of several targeted “borrow sites” at the bottom of the ocean …READ MORE

SMBRF senior watershed advisor Mark Abramson weighs in.

Scientists hope new tests will reveal what happened to contaminants off Palos Verdes Peninsula

Daily Breeze – November 18, 2014


Toxic waste seems to naturally vanish from Palos Verdes Shelf

Los Angeles Times – November 17, 2013


UCLA Lab School’s “Creek Week” Celebrates Natural Environment, Community Building

Ampersand / UCLA – November 14, 2013

While unloading a truckload of 1,500 native plants on a Fall 2013 afternoon, volunteers and staff at UCLA Lab School looked back on how the two-year effort to restore Stone Canyon Creek has provided a unique learning laboratory for pre-K-6 and university students alike.

Mark Abramson, senior watershed advisor for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, was enlisted to spearhead the Stone Canyon Creek restoration two years ago.

Abramson noted that the restoration work on the UCLA Lab School end of Stone Canyon Creek has finally progressed to where the creek rejoins itself on the grounds of the UCLA Anderson School …READ MORE

State Sen. Fran Pavley Honored For Work on Water Quality

Calabasas PATCH – October 22, 2013

State Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills was honored this month by the Bay Foundation for her support of work to protect the Santa Monica Bay.

Pavley, a longtime member of The Bay Foundation and Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, was honored Thursday at the renamed Bay Foundation’s 25th anniversary gala …READ MORE

FORM Environment: Engaging with Nature

FORM: Pioneering Design – October 15, 2014

This spring, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with its project partners, including the State Coastal Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission celebrated the restoration of the Malibu Lagoon. It’s considered by many to be one of the most ecologically significant wetlands restorations ever undertaken on the West Coast. One of its key players is architect Clark Stevens …(interview with Stevens)

Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s Dr. Shelley Luce – October 14, 2013

“We treat water as though it’s a linear thing,” Dr. Luce explains. “…We can solve those problems by allowing our water cycle to function naturally. We need to make our city more permeable.” …READ MORE

Can We Ensure the Future of Water?

UCLA Alumni Magazine – October 2013

Facing the interlocking realities of an expanding population and predicted droughts created by climate change, the region is center stage in a global effort to find solutions.

Restoring wetlands is another solution. The executive director of the National Estuary Program’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC), Shelley Luce D.Env. ’03, is working with government, businesses and scientists from UCLA to restore Ballona Creek and Wetlands.

Luce also runs a project that has planted rain gardens and installed rain barrels at 900 homes in Los Angeles and nearby Culver City.

“The local groundwater agency has funded us to do the mathematical modeling necessary to figure out the best locations in the city to get green-street projects like these going,” says Luce. “We’re not only helping families save water, we’ve changed their perception of what the water cycle is all about.” …READ MORE

Volunteers Clean Up California Coastal Waters

Voice of America – September 24, 2014

Volunteers pulled trash from coastal waters last weekend and cleaned debris from beaches in 100 countries around the world. In Los Angeles one beachside community took to the water in kayaks as their part of the coastal cleanup.

Michelle Staffield of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation says there is more trash some years than others off the coast of Los Angeles …READ MORE

Celebrate National Estuaries Day With Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation

Santa Monica Mirror – September 23, 2014

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation (SMBRF) is asking local residents to join in a nationwide “Toast Your Coast” this Saturday, Sept. 28 in celebration of the 25th annual National Estuaries Day.

The local organization is part of a network of 28 National Estuary Programs working to improve and restore the nation’s most important estuaries – the vibrant coastal areas where rivers meet the sea …READ MORE

Kayakers Help Beautify Local Beaches as Part of ‘Coastal Cleanup Day’

KCBS / KCAL TV – September 22, 2013

The world marked “Coastal Cleanup Day” Saturday and about 150 volunteers from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation helped beautify beaches at home …READ MORE

Divers restore kelp forest off Palos Verdes – one dead sea urchin at a time

KCRW – September 16, 2013

Kelp forests are iconic to the California coastline.

But the water off the Palos Verdes Peninsula is home to an exploding population of purple sea urchins, surprisingly destructive creatures that are wiping out the kelp forests needed to sustain a vibrant marine ecosystem. The area has become what scientists call an “urchin barren,” a desolate stretch of the seafloor where the urchin population has gone unchecked, trashing kelp forest and reducing biodiversity.

Now, scientists, environmentalists and fishermen are coming together in a massive undertaking …READ MORE

Genetic Study Shows Once-plentiful Green Abalone Could Thrive Again Along Southern California’s Coast

September 9, 2014

A hundred years ago, one of the best cheap meals along the coast was abalone, a type of sea snail that lives on rock. By the early 1980s, people had harvested so many of them that their population shriveled.

Now a new study, published in the journal Conservation Genetics, looks at the genetic makeup of green abalone. The study offers new hope about how the animal could rebound in local waters.

Tom Ford is a scientist with the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and a co-author of the study.

Ford says the new study’s a small step, but it’s already made another step possible. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Nature Conservancy have put up money to test captive breeding of abalone.  Ford says in a year, they could be transplanting juvenile abalone off the coast of Palos Verdes …READ MORE

Restoration Effort Revives Kelp Forest

September 5, 2014

“Over the past 15 years, my colleagues and I have been looking at the trends of the amount of kelp off the coast and investigating its decline,” said Tom Ford, director of marine programs at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation. “Based on 100 years of historical data, there has been a 75-percent decline starting in the 1940s.:

When Ford spoke to the News in late August, he said those monitoring the current site saw juvenile giant kelp that was 1 inch to 2 inches tall.“Now it’s probably 4 inches tall,” he said …READ MORE

10 Things Beach Resorts Won’t Tell You

Wall St. Journal “Marketwatch” – September 2, 2013

Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation director of marine programs Tom Ford comments on the rise in jellyfish in the Northeastern U.S. and Hawaii …READ MORE

Sea Urchin Problem Off Palos Verdes – Scientists are Tackling it Head On

KABC-TV – August 22, 2013

“The mission today is to help the kelp,” says Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation marine biologist Tom Ford …READ MORE

International Fellows Explore Malibu Lagoon for Lessons on Restoration

Malibu PATCH – August 22, 2013

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission hosted the group, who were five fellows selected from a worldwide competition to take part in the GOOD Exchange Global Citizenship Project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Said Casey Caplowe, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, “We want the best of what is going on in Los Angeles to inform projects half a world away, and vice versa.” …READ MORE

Malibu Restaurants Recognized

Malibu Times – August 21, 2013

Fifty-three Malibu restaurants were congratulated at the City Council meeting last week by the City of Malibu and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission for becoming certified as part of the SMBRC’s Clean Bay Restaurant Certification Program.

Malibu Mayor Joan House said, “The commitment from our local businesses to go above and beyond what is required is a testament to our community’s dedication to improving water quality.” …READ MORE

Scientists Work to Save Disappearing Kelp

Voice of America – August 21, 2013

Underwater kelp forests are sometimes called the rain forests of the sea, but they’re disappearing, hurting fisheries and coastal communities worldwide. A project off the coast of California is helping to restore them …READ MORE

Beachcombing: To grow a new kelp forest, coastal partners remove urchins along Palos Verdes Peninsula

KPCC 89.9 – August 16, 2013

A team of scientists, volunteers and fishermen is working to restore kelp forest in a patch of ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The $2 million four-year project aims to replace a small part of the southern California coastal kelp forests, most of which have been lost over the past century. The effort involves removing almost all of the purple sea urchins in a 150-acre area; the urchins have overrun the sea floor, eating up the kelp spores that seek to take root.

Scientific modeling projects a dramatic increase in the number and the mass of all the fish, on the order of 300 percent. “For the commercial sea urchin harvesters who are partners in our project, our models suggest increases of something close to 900 percent returns when those kelp forests come back,” Tom Ford, director of marine programs for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, says. “Those are big wins.” …READ MORE

Helping Kelp Now an Urchin Matter

Los Angeles Times – August 12, 2013

Millions of sea urchins — scrawny, diseased and desperate for food — have overrun a band of the shallow seafloor, devouring kelp and crowding out most all other life at a time the giant green foliage is making a comeback elsewhere along the California coast.

In an effort to remedy the situation, scientists and divers will spend the next five years culling the urchins from more than 152 acres of coastal waters degraded years ago by pollution. Once the purple, golf ball-size creatures are under control, young kelp should be able to take hold on the rocky seafloor and grow into the undulating canopies that sustain hundreds of species of marine life.

“Trillions of kelp spores are out there, falling on the seafloor,” said Tom Ford, director of marine programs for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, the nonprofit leading the project in conjunction with environmental groups, aquariums, fishermen and research institutions. “They just can’t get established because they’re getting mowed down.” …READ MORE

From Coast to Toast

Vanity Fair – August 2013

At opposite ends of the country, two of America’s most golden coastal enclaves [Malibu and Nantucket] are waging the same desperate battle against erosion.

Over the past decade, Broad Beach residents estimate, they’ve lost up to 60 feet of their beach.

“I do think the Broad Beach homes are in jeopardy, and I don’t want to be cold or callous about that,” says Tom Ford, director of marine programs at the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation …READ MORE

[Ford and the Vanity Fair writer flew over the Malibu coastline earlier in the summer to view the situation.] 

Eateries Wade into Bay Conservation

Los Angeles Business Journal – July 15, 2013

More than 400 restaurants along the Santa Monica Bay, from Malibu’s Chart House to Hot Dog on a Stick franchises, are helping keep grease and trash out of the ocean.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission is toasting their work with a Clean Bay Eats promotion. The commission works with participating cities to establish conditions for Clean Bay-certified restaurants, which agree to certain conditions such as locking dumpsters and recycling grease.

We’re losing Malibu and Nantucket. This is why we can’t wait to address climate change.

Treehugger – July 12, 2013

Analysis based on August Vanity Fair article also noted here. READ MORE

Local Restaurants Address Stormwater Pollution Into Santa Monica Bay

Santa Monica Mirror – July 11, 2013

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission’s (SMBRC) Clean Bay Restaurant Certification Program (CBRP) has announced the certification — or equally important recertification — of hundreds of restaurants across the cities of Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Redondo Beach …READ MORE

Culver City Receive 2 LA County Board of Supervisors Green Leadership Awards

Culver City PATCH – May 7, 2013

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, partnering with the City of Culver City, won an award for its Culver City Rainwater Harvesting Program. The pilot program installed 396 rain barrels, which captured between 175,000 and 400,000 gallons of water. That rainwater was then redirected to gardens and lawns, reducing pollution in Santa Monica Bay …READ MORE

 Boaters Get Three Months of Free Pumpouts

The Log – April 10, 2013

Del Rey Yacht Club members are invited to take advantage of a three-month free unlimited pumpout service during a trial program hosted by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC) Boater Education Program. “The goal of this SMBRC program is to encourage boaters to properly dispose of their waste,” said Grace Lee, Boater Education Program manager for SMBRC. “But also, (its second goal is) to get a marina or yacht club to adopt a marina-wide mobile pumpout program as a permanent environmental amenity for their boaters and, thus, start a culture where this happens all over Southern California.” …READ MORE

Can Urban Wetlands Help Make LA More Resilient to Climate Change?

CitywatchLA – April 5, 2013

The third annual “Climate Change in Urban Estuaries Symposium” was a noteworthy event held on March 25th at Loyola Marymount University with over 150 members of the public, scientists, agency representatives, and students in attendance. This event, co-sponsored by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and the Center for Urban Resilience at Loyola Marymount University, created an opportunity for the public to hear and participate in presentations by wetland scientists from throughout California who reported on the results of their data relating to the effects of climate change on coastal wetland systems …READ MORE

The Surprising Way Airplanes Help Whales

National Geographic “News Watch” – March 26, 2013

Flights for Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation (SMBRF) and Los Angeles Waterkeeper, which are granted through LightHawk, help scientists map boat traffic in state waters.

“When a pilot sees a whale in the water, the plane just turns toward that area,” says Tom Ford, a Connecticut transplant and former commercial fisherman who spends his days as Director of Marine Programs for SMBRF.

In addition to boats, Tom and his colleagues at SMBRF now track whales and dolphins during their bimonthly survey flights …READ MORE

Working With Nature, a Sneak Peek at Malibu Lagoon

KCET “RiverNotes” Blog – January 28, 2013

A flock of birds flew overhead, … soaring and skating this way and that.

It was a marvelous sight, a testament to the amazing agility of avian navigation. And I wouldn’t have seen it had I not been at the site of the ongoing Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, just across the Malibu Country Mart.

A project led by the California State Parks (and includes the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation), the site sits at a neighboring watershed, but I couldn’t help but be curious about the possibilities of restoring a wetland the Federal government has filed “impaired” for the last 20 years.

The soon-to-be completed plans also provide an admirable example of how mankind can tread lightly on nature, even while nature is allowed to flourish. “It was in pretty poor condition when we began,” said Mark Abramson, senior watershed advisor for Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC) …READ MORE

Alum Turns Passion Into Action in the Wetlands

L.A. Loyolan – January 24, 2013

While growing up in Venice Beach surfing and swimming in the ocean, LMU alumnus Charles Piechowski’s (‘11) mother repeatedly reminded him about the 72-hour rule: Do not get in the ocean within 72 hours after it rains.

“I wanted to figure out why it takes 72 whole hours for the ocean to recover after a rainstorm and move towards ways of making that not the case,” he said.

Piechowski graduated from LMU with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. He currently holds a full-time job as a field and research technician for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation (SMBRF) …READ MORE

Word on the Street

Easy Reader News – January 23, 2013

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation is encouraging South Bay residents to celebrate Dine L.A. this week by dining out at one of the nearly 400 South Bay residents with the Clean Bay Restaurant certificate in their window. Certified restaurants have adopted storm water runoff prevention measures …READ MORE