About Joan Hamilton

Joan Hamilton is a Bay Area environmental writer and editor who enjoys hiking, camping, and kayaking in California state parks. She was formerly chief editor at High Country News, Climbing, and Sierra magazines. She produces mobile audio tours for people who want to learn more about Bay Area nature.

Website: http://audioguidestotheoutdoors.com


Two Years in Photos: From “Scorched Earth” to “It’s a Jungle” on Mount Diablo

June 04, 2015 by Joan Hamilton

Spring has brought new plants, and new cover, to the fire recovery zone on Mount Diablo.

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Second Spring

March 23, 2015 by Joan Hamilton

Eighteen months after a fire, what to look for on Mount Diablo


A Landscape Shaped By Fear on Mount Diablo

February 24, 2015 by Joan Hamilton

What causes the strip of bare dirt between chaparral and grassland? A researcher tests the idea of a "scurry zone" on Mount Diablo.

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Time — and Late Fall Rain — Revitalize Mount Diablo

January 05, 2015 by Joan Hamilton

On the last day of 2014, Joan Hamilton walked around Green Ranch Road on Mount Diablo to see what a full year, and some long-awaited rain, had done to the Morgan Fire burn area.

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Stalking the Elusive, Scientists Carry on Bowerman’s Mount Diablo Legacy

January 05, 2015 by Joan Hamilton

The 3,100-acre Morgan Fire provided opportunities for scientists. One of the main goals: to learn how plant and animal communities rebuild themselves after a major disturbance.

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Wild Pigs, Increasing in Numbers on Mount Diablo, Expand Into New Turf

December 09, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

Wild pigs are uprooting unusual new areas of Mount Diablo this year.

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Where Poison Oak Thrives, Mount Diablo Concludes A Red October

October 30, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

The ever unpopular poison oak is the most colorful plant on Mount Diablo this month, especially in certain places swept clean by the 2013 Morgan Fire.

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There Are Insects on Mount Diablo, and This Scientist Is Out to Find Them

October 09, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

When it comes to documenting the world's insect life, even places like Mount Diablo are full of unknowns, which UC Berkeley entomologist Kip Will finds exciting—and frustrating.

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One Year After the Morgan Fire: The Recovery in Photos

September 08, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

On the one-year anniversary of what came to be called the 2013 Morgan Fire, there’s good news to report. See the recovery in this series of slideshows by Joan Hamilton.

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On Mount Diablo, Springtime in the Summer Heat

July 30, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

The temperature rises to well over 90 degrees on Mount Diablo these days—hot enough to bake many small plants. But the little green shrubs have just begun to stage their comeback. It’s springtime in the chaparral.

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A Bird’s Eye View of the Morgan Fire, Now Available from Google

July 30, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

One way to check out the 2013 Morgan fire is to tromp around on Mount Diablo’s trails. Then there's another option: check out satellite photos.

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To Catch a Mouse: Chasing Mammals on Recovering Mount Diablo

July 01, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

Researchers are using hidden cameras and small mammal traps to try and answer questions about animal life following the fire.


Mammals Caught on Hidden Camera Visiting the Diablo Burn Area

July 01, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

A team of researchers, with a grant from Save Mount Diablo, has installed hidden cameras in a variety of plots around the Mount Diablo burn area to see what sort of large wildlife shows up.

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What a Great Wildflower Year Looks Like in the Spring

June 03, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

Regular visitors to Mount Diablo are calling this spring one of the best wildflower years they've ever seen. Here's what that looked like in May in the Morgan Fire burn area.

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What Follows a Fire? A Mount Diablo Botany Quiz

May 12, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

After a fire, botanists hustle out to burned areas to identify surviving and regenerating species. They’ve often got only a few leaves to go on, some from species that haven’t been seen for decades. So it’s tough. Want to test your skills against those of the botanists?

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Fire Followers Arrive, with Scientists Right Behind

May 09, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

An expert in rare plants, Heath Bartosh is especially interested in “fire followers,” plants whose seeds stay buried in the ground until heat or smoke stimulates germination. These annuals flourish for one to three years. And then they’re gone—until the next fire.

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Mount Diablo’s Chamise, Researcher Shows, Likes It Hot

March 20, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

A Berkeley researcher is using chamise seeds collected from Mount Diablo this fall to explore the plant's response to fire.

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Oasis on Mount Diablo: Perkins Canyon’s Trial By Fire

January 13, 2014 by Joan Hamilton

The Morgan Fire transformed more than 3,100 acres of meadow, chaparral, and woodland on Mount Diablo’s south and east sides, including Perkins Canyon. “It was a once-in-
a-generation event,” says Seth Adams — the biggest fire on the mountain since 1977.


Fog and redwoods: Demystifying the mist

June 30, 2013 by Joan Hamilton

Fog means survival for many Bay Area plants and animals. What will happen to this life-giving airborne moisture in an era of global warming?


The General’s mission for California state parks

December 21, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

Major General Anthony Jackson came out of retirement for one more mission: to turn around California's state parks department. In a Bay Nature interview, Jackson explains why, "My goal, honest and truly, is not closing any parks."


Will park groups accept the state’s apology?

October 30, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

The California parks department is figuring out how to disperse $10 million to groups that kept their local state parks from closing this year. But some parks fans wonder how they'll get out from the shadow of a parks department in scandal.

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In state parks uproar, Benicia keeps its cool

August 09, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

While park advocates around the state expressed shock and anger over the discovery of a secret stash of $54 million ...

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Lawmakers scramble to avert park closures

June 04, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

With state park closures only a month away, California lawmakers are scrambling to send long-lasting aid to the state park system and keep the gates open.

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First to the finish line: Jack London State Park

May 02, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

For the past 35 years, Valley of the Moon Natural History Association has been helping greet and educate visitors at the Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County.As of May 1, however, it’s taken charge of the whole park: 1,400 acres, 10,000 artifacts, and more than a dozen historic buildings.


Rural Refuge in the Redwoods

April 19, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

For residents and businesses in the Anderson Valley, 845-acre Hendy Woods State Park has an importance far beyond its size. It’s one of few public open spaces in this mostly rural region, and now residents are doing their best to make a plan to keep the park open.

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McGrath’s Army Takes Back the Beach

April 17, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

McGrath State Beach has plenty of visitors and plenty of revenue. So how did it end up on the closure list? The park’s sewer line was broken, and the state couldn’t afford to fix it. But the local community rallied around the park, raised the money to fix the sewer, and now the park will stay open.

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Saving Mono Lake State Reserve

April 16, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

If any landscape can be called iconic, Mono Lake surely makes the cut. But with no revenue, the state park here faced closure--until John Muir’s great-great-grandson joined with local park supporters to rescue the park. With a new parking fee in place, the park is safe, for now.

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Lifeline from the Feds

April 10, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Marin is a popular destination for many of the millions of people who live within a short drive of this secluded redwood forest. With the park facing closure, the National Park Service stepped in to pay park operating costs.

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The Parks and the People

April 01, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

Some 70 state parks were scheduled to be closed on July 1, 2012. But determined action by park-loving citizens around the state has succeeded in getting some parks removed from that list and has opened a discussion of the relationship between public parks and the people they serve. We visit four parks around the state to see what the future might hold for our beloved, but beleaguered, state parks.

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A streak of silver in state parks cloud

March 30, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

In the first few months after California announced its park closures in May 2011, park advocates were stunned and outraged. The state was tearing down 25 percent of a world-renowned system—70 parks in all. Almost a year later, the state parks closure cloud still looms, big and black. But dozens of small victories and individual acts of courage are adding a silver lining.

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Solutions for some state parks on closure list

March 23, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

In its haste to eliminate $22 million from its budget, the California parks department took aim at 70 state parks, one-quarter of the system. The strategy: sacrifice a few to save the many. But as citizens got involved to keep their favorite parks from closing, some interesting scenarios have been revealed. Some parks only needed a small shot in the arm, easily given with some simple revenue-generating schemes. Cut first, think later seemed to be the way state officials proceeded in the dark hours of budget cuts.

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A Little Help from Our Friends

January 01, 2012 by Joan Hamilton

In spring 2011, the bad news about California's state parks hit: 70 parks were slated for closure by July 2012, including 18 in the Bay Area. Since then, volunteers, nonprofits, and public agencies have mobilized to contain the damage. At Henry Coe State Park, donations will keep the park running with existing staff. In Sonoma, closure loomed for five parks and groups have joined forces to create new models of park operation.


A Classroom in the Woods

January 01, 2011 by Joan Hamilton

The East Bay Regional Park District is not just the nation's largest and oldest regional park district. It also has what’s likely the largest corps of professional naturalists of any local park agency. For generations of kids, that's meant accessible opportunities for hiking, camping, getting dirty, and--most important--discovering the outdoors and getting to know our plant and animal neighbors.

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Through the Eyes of the Lion

April 01, 2010 by Joan Hamilton

Odds are you'll never see a puma. But if you spend enough time outside in local open space, there's a good chance a puma will see you. We know surprisingly little about how these secretive top predators persist alongside millions of people in the Bay Area, but they're certainly here. And learning more will help us figure out how to better accommodate this icon of wildness in our midst.


Reaping the Harvest

October 01, 2008 by Joan Hamilton

It’s easy to forget how much of the Bay Area was once a working landscape. Row crops, orchards, and pastures held sway in places now covered by freeways and houses. But a surprising amount of that working land endures in our parks and preserves. In the East Bay, ranchers still run cattle on thousands of acres of land, both public and private. And in a few places, thanks to the East Bay Regional Park District, kids and adults can learn firsthand about skills people once took for granted: how to plant a seed, plow a field, grind grain into flour, or spin wool into yarn.

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