Ann Dickinson

Before moving to California almost five years ago, Ann served as Sally Brown Fellow in Environmental Literature at the University of Virginia, where she taught undergraduate seminars on literature and the environment and coordinated an ongoing reading series featuring nationally prominent nature writers. Prior to that, she spent a year as a research assistant at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's field station on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, studying how young leaves defend themselves against herbivores.

What makes a shark a shark?

So, how do the Bay's leopard sharks, soupfin sharks, sevengill sharks, spiny dogfish, and other shark species differ from "non-shark" fishes? Here are a few key distinctions.

A fishy odyssey through the delta

Talk about a wild ride. Every year, millions of fish make a strange and harrowing detour through the Skinner Fish Facility, part of the State Water Project’s facilities in the Delta. In my last post, I wrote about my visit to the Banks Pumping Plant, whose giant pumps slurp water from the Delta to help … Continue reading A fishy odyssey through the delta →

Where Water Runs Uphill

Harvey O. Banks Pumping PlantI’m standing in the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant, part of the State Water Project (SWP), looking at a set of huge pumps that slurp water from the Delta and hoist it 244 feet to the mouth of the California Aqueduct. The sensation is a little akin to the how I … Continue reading Where Water Runs Uphill →

Have sewage, will travel

Unless our sewage happens to end up in the Bay and in the headlines, most of us probably never give a second thought to where our wastewater is headed each time we run the tap or flush the toilet. To learn more about the travels of sewage, I took a tour of the Las Gallinas … Continue reading Have sewage, will travel →

Sticking up for the little guy: the California freshwater shrimp

This year the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) will celebrate its 35th anniversary. Under the ESA over 1,350 species are listed in the United States as threatened or endangered, including over 300 in California. This includes a number of “celebrities” of the conservation world such as the humpback whale and California condor, but also dozens … Continue reading Sticking up for the little guy: the California freshwater shrimp →

Where have all the salmon gone?

Run down Recent news headlines have been full of Chinook salmon, but sadly the same cannot be said of Central Valley waterways. This fall, only about 90,000 Central Valley Chinook salmon returned to their home rivers and streams to spawn, down from more than 800,000 just a few years ago. Like most salmon, Central Valley … Continue reading Where have all the salmon gone? →

Live! from the Green Carpet

January and February are exciting months for movie buffs like me. And no, I’m not referring to Golden Globes, Oscar nominations, or Screen Actors Guild awards. I’m talking about two wonderful “green” film festivals, both right here in our own watershed: the recent Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, and the San … Continue reading Live! from the Green Carpet →

Nursing the marsh-upland transition zone back to health

In the North Bay, a new nursery is lending Mother Nature a hand. On a recent foggy morning, I drove up to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge to tour their native plant nursery with biologist Giselle Block and nursery manager Leia Giambastiani. The Refuge hugs the northern reaches of the Bay (If you’ve … Continue reading Nursing the marsh-upland transition zone back to health →

Oil Spill Adds Insult to Injury

Adding more straw to the Bay’s back. Image source: Jim M. Goldstein, JMG-GalleriesTalk about kicking someone when they’re down down. When the Cosco Busan collided with the Bay Bridge earlier this month, spilling 58,000 gallons of heavy-duty bunker fuel into the Bay, it was a heartbreaking reminder of the Bay’s vulnerability. But what makes the … Continue reading Oil Spill Adds Insult to Injury →

Fish tale: The Old Man and the PCBs

When it comes to our health, the Bay-Delta’s fish are flunking out of school. This past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle Magazine featured an eye-opening story on Cambodian subsistence fishers in Stockton and the health concerns they face from a diet dependent on Delta fish. The piece illustrates how water quality in the Delta is an … Continue reading Fish tale: The Old Man and the PCBs →

To bay or not to bay?

Can you imagine what San Francisco Bay looked like 15,000 years ago? Actually at that time– during the last ice age– San Francisco Bay wasn’t a bay at all. Instead, it was a valley dotted with grazing antelope. Hills jutted up here and there (destined to become the Bay’s islands). The Sacramento and San Joaquin … Continue reading To bay or not to bay? →

Simple things YOU can do to help the Bay

If you’re like me, when you’re doing the dinner dishes you normally aren’t thinking about the fate of the delta smelt, the little native fish that is one of several in steep decline and facing extinction. And yet for millions of Bay Area residents the two things–dishwashing and delta smelt–are connected. In fact, choices we … Continue reading Simple things YOU can do to help the Bay →

Extra! Extra! Keeping climate change in the headlines

Global climate change is arguably the biggest news story of our times. But from a glance at the headlines, you might not know it. Recently I attended the Society of Environmental Journalists conference at Stanford, an annual national gathering that brings together journalists, environmental scientists, policymakers, and activists to discuss environmental issues– and how the … Continue reading Extra! Extra! Keeping climate change in the headlines →