Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 10,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 7 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region's ecosystems. How it got this way is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.

Presidio, Past and Present

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San Francisco’s Presidio is among the richest historical sites in the Bay region, or perhaps in all of California, a place with structures and changes in the landscape that go back to the arrival of the Spanish in 1776 and … Read more

A Hardy Californian

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Lester Rowntree (1879-1979) was a self-taught botanist and independent spirit who spent half her life trekking up and down California observing, gathering, and photographing the state’s native flora. Born in England, Rowntree lived in Kansas, Southern California, and on the … Read more

Recalling the Wild

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Walk a few miles in Jack London’s boots to see the landscape he declared more beautiful than any he’d seen in all his travels.

Carquinez Breakthrough

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The open hills along the Carquinez Strait are home to working ranches and open space preserves that are meeting places for native species from both the coast and the Central Valley. Today’s quiet pastoral landscape makes it hard to envision the violent formative flood that may have cut this critical waterway between the Bay and the Central Valley some half a million years ago.

Betting on Point Molate

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With stunning views of the Bay and Marin, Richmond’s Point Molate has seen a lot of changes: It’s been a shrimp camp, a huge winery, and a Navy fuel depot. Now the site of a controversial casino proposal, this modest point of land is home to diverse wildlife and some of the East Bay’s last native coastal prairie.

Don’t Call Them Bugs

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Edward Ross has visited every continent except Antarctica in pursuit of his passion for studying, collecting, dissecting, classifying, naming, photographing, and deeply appreciating insects. In between his globe-trotting adventures, the 89-year old curator emeritus of entomology at the California Academy … Read more

Ubiquitous Eucalyptus

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Some folks love their scent and shade; others resent them for crowding out natives; most of us know they came from Australia and found a niche here. But few know that the East Bay’s eucalypts owe their presence to one entrepreneur who thought the trees would make him rich. They didn’t, but now, love them or hate them, the trees are here to stay. Fortunately, some animals have profited from Mr. Havens’s mistake.

Left to Burn

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At the turn of the 20th Century, the California Academy of Sciences was the oldest scientific society in the western United States. From its humble beginnings in 1853 as California’s de facto cabinet of curiosities stemming from “the systematic survey … Read more

First Encounters

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When European explorers and naturalists began coming to California a few centuries ago, most sailed right past the fog-shrouded Golden Gate. But those few who did stop here, including the botanist-poet who first described the California poppy, left tantalizing clues to the world they saw before the Gold Rush transformed the Bay Area from backwater to boomtown.

West Marin

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Driving out to the coast among the seemingly endless ranks of Marin County hills, studded with rock outcrops and spotted with grazing cows, you can feel the calmness that flows from a stable landscape. It has always been this way, … Read more