Bay Nature magazineJuly-September 2010


Letter from the Publisher

July 1, 2010

We didn’t actually plan it this way, but this issue of Bay Nature rocks(!): Three of our articles have ample helpings of geology. I apologize if you are one of those otherwise perfectly decent nature-loving folks who claim that geology makes their eyes glaze over. Perhaps this issue will change your mind!

Count me among those who have come to love geology. First of all, rocks are the basis of everything else that goes on in nature: Without rocks, there’s no land, no trees, no insects, no birds, no us. Geology gives the land its infinite variety of shapes. So understanding the rocks and how they were created, transported, and transformed is the basis for understanding any landscape, especially one as complex and varied as the Bay Area’s.

Secondly, rocks can be drop-dead gorgeous. I trace my own interest in geology to a trip to the Colorado Plateau 30 years ago. There, the rock layers are so exposed–and so breathtakingly beautiful–that it’s impossible not to be curious about them. Here in the Bay Area, our underlying rocks are often covered in vegetation (or houses). But in the Berkeley Hills, where huge chunks of rock seem to grow right out the hillside–and along the Sonoma Coast, where ocean waves and plate tectonics have created rock gardens of unbelievable beauty and complexity–I find it hard not to ask, “Why?” and “How?” Geology is the way to scratch that intellectual itch.

But my interest in rocks (not really “geology” at that point) actually goes back to the earliest years of my life, when I was growing up in New York City, where my “backyard” was Central Park. As soon as my friends and I were old enough to escape the fenced confines of the playground, we moved to the nearby outcrops of dark gray-blue schist, which underlies much of the park. These enormous rocks were the perfect canvas for made-up games of discovery and adventure, and far superior to the playground jungle gym for testing our physical prowess.

Some 40 years later, the rock outcrops of North Berkeley held a similar attraction for my son. We scrambled together up the rocks at Grotto Park and Indian Rock, finding good routes and enjoying the views from the top. As a parent, I had to hold my breath when he climbed into a particular tight space between two boulders at Indian Rock, imagining the gruesome outcome if our active East Bay geology suddenly expressed itself. But it didn’t, and my son survived to grow up and return often with friends to these same rocks, which served as great outdoor hangouts–nearby adult-free zones with views. (Kids climbing on rocks . . . hmmm, not a bad subject for our “People in Nature” photo contest! Deadline is Oct. 20; details at

I no longer scramble up rocks with the same physical agility I had at 5–or for that matter, 45–years old, but I’m grateful to local geologists like Doris Sloan for helping me scramble around the Bay Area’s rocks with some intellectual agility, and thereby giving me a more solid grounding in the physical world of the region. I hope you also find firm grounding in the natural history of the Bay Area in this, and every, issue of Bay Nature.

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes monthly to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."

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