Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2011

The Bay

Book Review: Natural History of San Francisco Bay

October 1, 2011

By Ariel Rubissow Okamoto and Kathleen M. Wong, 2011, UC Press, 352 pages, $24.95 paperback, $65 hardcover.

The latest installment of the UC Press Natural History series (number 102!) comes from frequent Bay Nature contributors Ariel Rubissow Okamoto and Kathleen Wong. Like many “guides” in the series, this one is carefully researched, well written, and not a field guide. Instead, the authors cover the sweep of the Bay’s history, from before the arrival of Europeans to the impending impacts of climate change.

Longtime Bay Nature readers will find much that’s familiar here, but impressively encompassed in a single volume: the contraction of the Bay due to development, the advent of the Save the Bay movement, the growth of wetland restoration, experimentation with native oysters and eelgrass, and the nexus of creek and Bay health, not to mention profiles of many shorebirds, fish, and mammals found in and around the Bay. Even for those with total Bay Nature recall, it is enlightening to read these stories in one compelling narrative, helped along by the authors’ direct and readable journalistic approach, which includes field trips with plankton samplers, eelgrass planters, clapper rail counters, and more.

About the Author

Dan was editor of Bay Nature from 2004 until 2013, when he left to work for SF-based Stamen Design. He is now executive director of GreenInfo Network, a nonprofit mapmaking organization. A onetime professional cabinetmaker, he considers himself a lifelong maker of things and teller of stories. Dan has been working at the intersection of journalism and technology since, at age 16, he began learning reporting, page layout, and database design. His enduring interest in environmental issues crystallized into a career path in 1998 when he assisted former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass in a cross-disciplinary nature writing and ecology course at UC Berkeley, from which Dan received a Masters in English literature. In 1999, he became Associate Editor of Terrain, the erstwhile quarterly magazine of Berkeley's Ecology Center. In addition to editing and art-directing Bay Nature magazine, he was also Bay Nature’s chief technology strategist, fixer of broken things, and designer of databases and fancy spreadsheets. And he was even known to leave the office and actually hike outdoors.