Joel Gerwein
Oakland, California

 Joel has been a lover of the outdoors and an environmentalist since his youth hiking, camping, backpacking, and canoeing with his parents all around the U.S.  Joel studied biology at Harvard College, and went on to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts-Boston studying old-growth red oak forests in New England.  He has spent the last eleven years working for the California State Coastal Conservancy on projects to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, especially wetlands, on the Northern California Coast, with a focus on Humboldt Bay. Joel’s dedication to restoring wetlands for fish, wildlife and public access to the rich diversity of ecosystems in Humboldt Bay has been exemplary and provides a model for restoring wetland habitats across the nation. Joel has been the impetus in developing projects and acquiring significant funding for seven landscape-scale wetland restoration projects in Humboldt Bay, resulting in significant areas of key habitats in the Humboldt Bay ecosystem restored. Humboldt Bay has lost 90% of its historic tidelands to agriculture, residential, commercial, or industrial uses. The restoration of wetlands in the project area is critical for the recovery of multiple listed species and species of concern including resident and migrating songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds; and several species of fish, including federally threatened coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and endangered tidewater goby. Joel has leveraged SCC funds and authored grant proposals to provide $1,730,000 for the Martin Slough Enhancement Project which was implemented in 2018 and restores 3 acres of salt marsh along the Martin Slough mainstem channel, 1.7 acres of off channel salt marsh, 2,400 ft of mainstem Martin Slough, 3,400 ft of tidal channels, and restores riparian, brackish wetlands and salt marsh vegetation. Joel worked diligently to provide funding for the acquisition of a portion of the project area, prepared the environmental compliance document and authored grants to raise additional funding for the project ($1.4 million). Joel has leveraged SCC funds and authored grant proposals to provide $436,800 for the Wood Creek Enhancement Project which completed implementation in 2017 and restored approximately 5 acres of interconnected, shallow, seasonal brackish and freshwater wetlands to create habitat for shorebirds, migratory birds, and a wide diversity of native plants and wildlife. This project has also restored 2.5 acres of marsh and riparian vegetation and monitoring has shown that threatened coho have immediately recolonized this area and are thriving in these new habitats. Joel has provided leadership and authored grant proposals to provide $540,074 for the South Jacoby Creek Enhancement Project which completed implementation in 2018 and restored a 29-acre complex of wetlands associated with Jacoby Creek in Humboldt Bay. The project restored a 2.21-acre marsh channel network that is permanently flooded, 1.5 acres of freshwater marsh plain, marsh planting islands, a 1.66 acre guide berm to reduce juvenile salmonid stranding, 2 acres of seasonally flooded shallow depressional wetlands, 2,000 feet of freshwater channels and, 3.7 acres of riparian and marsh riparian restoration to provide habitat for threatened salmonids. Joel has authored the environmental compliance documents and secured funding to provide $1,950,000 for the White Slough Enhancement Project which began implementation in 2018 and restores 40 acres of salt marsh in Humboldt Bay. The White Slough Restoration Project involves importing ~250,000 cubic yards of sediment to raise the elevation of subsided diked historic tidelands to salt marsh elevations. Since 2013, Joel has led the effort to secure $1,900,000 for the Humboldt Bay Regional Invasive Spartina Project, worked with partners to conduct research on Spartina removal methodologies, organized symposia on the ecology of invasive Spartina and the effects of removal efforts, and authored environmental compliance documents for the regional effort. Invasive dense-flowered Spartina has infested over 90% of salt marshes in the three adjacent estuaries of Humboldt Bay, the Eel River Delta, and the Mad River Estuary. It is known to displace native vegetation, reducing the biodiversity of the salt marsh dramatically. Joel’s leadership on this project has significantly reduced spartina occurrences in Humboldt Bay, completing 350 of 1,030 mapped acres of Spartina infestation in Humboldt Bay and has provided a model for other west coast estuaries to treat their spartina infestations. Joel provided leadership and secured $950,000 to acquire and protect 116 acres coastal wetlands in Ryan Slough and Ryan Creek as part of the larger McKay Community Forest Project. Ryan Creek is a tributary to Humboldt Bay that supports important habitat for resident and migrating songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds; and critical spawning, rearing, and migration habitat for anadromous fish, including federally threatened coho salmon and steelhead trout. Of the 192-acre project area for this protection effort, approximately 50 percent is comprised of nationally decreasing types of freshwater and brackish marsh and riparian forest, which are imperiled in California. Finally, Joel has led an effort to enhance wetlands and adjacent uplands at PALCO Marsh, a 39 acre tidal marsh utilized by over 90 bird species and over 100 plant species in Humboldt Bay. The project, implemented in 2014, replaced a collapsed culvert currently connecting PALCO Marsh with the bay that resulted in an approximately 0.6-foot increase in tidal range within the marsh, improving the water quality and providing passage for salmonids and other aquatic species. Joel’s dedication to restoring significant acres of freshwater, brackish and saltwater wetlands throughout Humboldt Bay has been inspirational and has had a significant impact on the ecosystem thus far.