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ULTRANS and the new Deputy Director


Continuing the UC/State of California tradition of exchanging key personnel and scholars for the sake of better integration of theory and practice, Caltrans Division of Transportation Planning Chief Joan Sollenberger has accepted a one-year appointment as Deputy Director of the Urban Land Use and Transportation Center (ULTRANS) at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) beginning November 2, 2009.
"Joan’s work at ULTRANS will help to advance the data/modeling partnership between Caltrans and UC Davis to a new level” said Martin Tuttle, Caltrans’ Deputy Director for Planning and Modal Programs. “I am sure other states and universities will look at this partnership as an innovative approach to address major policy issues,” he said.
Welcome Joan!
Pictured above from left:  Joan Sollenberger, new ULTRANS Deputy Director with Mike McCoy, ULTRANS Director

GIS, Science and LiDAR



Lasers are providing scientists with new tools for mapping, protecting, and restoring bird habitat along rivers. In a paper published in the October issue of Ecological Applications, scientists from PRBO Conservation Science and the Information Center for the Environment at UC Davis used aerial laser technology known as LiDAR (short for Light Detection And Ranging) to predict where different bird species occur in the Cosumnes River Preserve in central California, USA.

EcoTone newsletter from the Ecological Society of America writes:

Laser-imaging bird habitats

A paper out in the October issue of Ecological Applications puts forth a new use for light detection and ranging technology, or LiDAR: the prediction of bird habitats.

ICE Ecologist Bands Most Birds in North America in 2009


During the 2009 field season, ICE ecologist Dr. Bob Meese and his banding team banded 18,416 tricolored blackbirds (Agelaius tricolor).  Reportedly, this is the most individuals of any bird species banded in North America in 2009.  From April 13th to July 27th, Bob and his team banded at 6 sites in 4 counties:

  1. 2 sites in Kern
  2. 2 sites in Yolo
  3. 1 site in Yuba
  4. 1 site in Colusa

The team banded birds for 287 hours, an average of 64 birds/hour, or more than a bird a minute!  The banded birds were 25% males, 74.6% females and 0.4% hatch-year birds, which are not assigned to a sex.  In addition, Bob recaptured 328 birds that he had previously banded, helping to document tricolor movements through space and time.  With this year's effort, Bob and his team have now banded 25,362 tricolors in 3 years, about 6.25% of all tricolors in California.  The trapping and banding methods employed are subjects of forthcoming articles in two journals: 

  • California Fish and Game
  • North American Bird Bander


Thorne, Girvetz and McCoy Publish!


Evaluating aggregate terrestrial impacts of road construction projects for advanced regional mitigation



This study presents a GIS-based database framework used to assess aggregate terrestrial habitat impacts from multiple highway construction projects in California, USA. Transportation planners need such impact assessment tools to effectively address additive biological mitigation obligations. Such assessments can reduce costly delays due to protracted environmental review. This project incorporated the best available statewide natural resource data into early project planning and preliminary environmental assessments for single and multiple highway construction projects, and provides an assessment of the 10-year state-wide mitigation obligations for the California Department of Transportation. Incorporation of these assessments will facilitate early and more strategic identification of mitigation opportunities, for single-project and regional mitigation efforts. The data architecture format uses eight spatial scales: six nested watersheds, counties, and transportation planning districts, which were intersected. This resulted in 8058 map planning units statewide, which were used to summarize all subsequent analyses. Range maps and georeferenced locations of federally and state-listed plants and animals and a 55-class landcover map were spatially intersected with the planning units and
the buffered spatial footprint of 967 funded projects. Projected impacts were summarized and output to the database. Queries written in the database can sum expected impacts and provide summaries by individual construction project, or by watershed, county, transportation district or highway. The data architecture allows easy incorporation of new information and results in a tool usable without GIS by a wide variety of agency biologists and planners. The data architecture format would be useful for other types of regional planning.

Tracking the Painted Lady Migration, 2009


The migration of the Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) was especially large this year, and Art Shapiro's Butterfly Website was an invaluable tool in tracking this migration over the last month and a half.

Dr. Shapiro has posted regular updates regarding the status of this migration, based on his own observations as well as those sent to him through the website contact form by butterfly enthusiast across the state. We have compiled many of these emails and created a second website page of these observations, for everyone's benefit. This community effort has been a remarkable example of citizen science, and has enabled us to track this migration from Southern California northward through Davis and other collection sites which Dr. Shapiro visits regularly. The first major wave of Painted Ladies from the desert showed up in mid-March at Mammoth Lakes, and north-central California has seen has seen subsequent waves across the state, reaching its peak in early April. Currently, the numbers have dwindled, but these butterflies are still very common for this region.  Some of these butterflies continue north to Oregon, Washington, and even into British Columbia. 

The Painted Lady migration occurs yearly, but this year's migration is the largest since 2005, when the air was full of this species and traffic was affected. Dr. Shapiro estimates this migration being about 1/3 the size of the 2005 migration.

Underwood and Viers Publish Threats and Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Biome



Global conservation assessments recognize the mediterranean biome as a priority for the conservation of the world’s biodiversity. To better direct future conservation efforts in the biome, an improved understanding of the location, magnitude and trend of key threats and their relationship with species of conservation importance is needed.


Mediterranean-climate regions in California-Baja California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean Basin.


We undertook a systematic, pan-regional assessment of threats in the mediterranean biome including human population density, urban area and agriculture. To realize the full implications of these threats on mediterranean biodiversity, we examined their relationship with species of conservation concern: threatened mammals at the global scale and threatened plants at the subecoregional scale in California, USA.


Advance Mitigation Effort wins Award in Monterey


 On January 28, 2009, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County awarded the Elkhorn Slough Early Mitigation Partnership (ESEMP) the 2008 Transportation Excellence Award.  The award recognizes collaborative efforts that promote environmental stewardship among participants while promoting efficiency in developing transportation projects.  The ESEMP is a collective of ten government agencies and a non-governmental organization who have been meeting for the last two years to develop advance mitigation practices in the ecologically-rich Elkhorn Slough watershed north of Monterey, California.  

The group is currently developing a mitigation bank to help protect many of the region’s resources, including wetlands, endangered species agriculture. The ESEMP has finalized a Memorandum of Understanding to memorialize their mission, goals and strategies which will help focus agency resources toward concerted, coordinated protection of one of the most ecologically-sensitive areas in California.  Caltrans District 5, with funding through the Transportation Planning Special Studies Program, provides support for the ESMP; and the University of California at Davis Information Center for the Environment provides technical assistance and facilitation.

For more information, go to

San Joaquin Valley's Future Growth gets a B+


On April 1, 2009 the San Joaquin Valley Policy Council voted to adopt Scenario B+ as the policy scenario that will guide the San Joaquin Valley's future growth. This scenario will guide the Valley's local land use planning jurisdictions as they update their general plans. Growth within the San Joaquin Valley that follows this broad scenario will result in new residential growth that is more than 50% denser than recent growth trends. With local implementation, these policies will result in reduced impacts to the region's economy, environmental health, vehicle use, and natural resources.

The San Joaquin Valley Policy Council consists of two elected officials from each of the eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley. The Policy Council considered four regional scenarios presented by Nathaniel Roth of the Information Center for the Environment (ICE), UC Davis and Barbara Steck, Blueprint Regional Manager, Council of Fresno County Governments at a Policy Board meeting hosted by the Council of Fresno County Governments in Fresno, Ca.

Scenario B+

(Included based on direction from the San Joaquin Policy Council in December, 2008) Reflects the land use assumptions of Scenario B and provides more transportation infrastructure that cross county boundaries. Average dwelling units per acre for new residential development = 6.8.

To read more on the other scenarios offered, go to:

"Citizen Scientist" use of the Tricolored Blackbird Portal helps to conserve the species


Private citizens in California have discovered and used the Tricolored Blackbird Portal, developed and maintained by the Information Center for the Environment, to:

  1. Report observations of color-banded birds to document surprising movements, and
  2. Access information that helped them to take actions that may benefit the species.

The Portal both provides information and enables the input of data, thus helping to enlist a virtually unlimited number of "citizen scientists" who may, sometimes unknowingly, make observations that are quite significant.
In December, 2008 the Portal was used by a city councilwoman from Leona Valley, CA (NW LA County) to record an observation of a bird that was color-banded by ICE staff in 2007. This is significant both because it illustrates the use of the Portal by a private citizen but also because this is the first time a bird banded in the Central Valley has been seen in southern California. As more than 77,000 tricolors have been banded over 7+ decades, this is quite surprising. Once informed of the significance of her observation, the city councilwoman put a link to the Portal on the Leona Valley Town Council website (

Natural Resource Projects Inventory (NRPI) Launches Upgraded Website


Check out the new and improved Natural Resource Projects Inventory (NRPI) Website at:

NRPI users can now search through thousands of conservation, restoration, mitigation, assessment, acquisition and planning projects throughout California. Search by Watershed, County, Funding Program and more with our new Mapping Tool interface or generate even more specific searches with our Query Page. Want to keep your returned results for your own database or to include in your own report? Use our new Report Generator tool to save, print and or download in several formats. NRPI users can continue to submit new projects online and or edit existing project descriptions and they will automatically be harvested for the CERES California Environmental Information Clearinghouse (CEIC), GeoFinder, California Digital Atlas and Google Maps. Lastly, email us your favorite scenic jpeg picture to add to our collection.

We would like to thank the California Resources Agency, Calfed Watershed Program and the California Coastal Conservancy for funding this effort.


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