“Exploring Our Baylands” Book Review

by Roy Sasai, San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society Volunteer and San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex Docent.

Exploring Our Baylands by Diane R. Conradson, Ph.D. is a well-written, concise book (only 69 pages) packed with information regarding the history and ecology of the San Francisco Bay Area. The book begins with the formation of the San Francisco Bay through seismic and glacier activity. The bay has gone through several transformations and the bay we see today is only 2,000 years old. At one time, the California coastline was west of the Farallon Islands. That’s 30 miles out in the ocean from today’s coastline!

Conradson then delves into the plants and animals around the bay, how the presence of certain plant communities indicate the different tidal zones identified by scientists, and how these plants have adapted to the harsh, salty environment. Conradson also reveals that there are two different species of the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse in the Bay Area due to being isolated by rising bay waters from long ago.

The book captures the story of how human progress has changed the bay, how resource exploitation drove many species to near extinction, and how environmental awareness and stewardship is reversing some of those effects. Seeing snowy egrets feeding in the marsh may bring a more appreciative perspective after reading this book. Exploring Our Baylands can be helpful in identifying the plants and animals in the San Francisco Bay Area as it is full of photographs. It is a wonderful book to have while visiting our baylands as there is a story behind everything you see.

Note: Exploring Our Baylands can be purchased for $5 at the nature stores on Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Fremont and Alviso (normal retail price $9.95). Order the book by emailing mary.deschene@sfbws.com, or by making a donation.