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Projects Worked On

Project Name Description
Sierra Nevada Meadows Clearinghouse

Mountain meadow wetlands provide disproportionally important ecological services as compared to the area they cover in the Sierra Nevada by providing wetland-associated biodiversity, attenuating floods, and by contributing to downstream water quality and flow. However, degradation and loss of hydrologic function are widespread in Sierran meadows due to past and continuing anthropogenic effects including grazing management, diversions, roads and culverts, as well as non-native species.

Meadow restorations have become increasingly common; however, monitoring for success and sharing results still lags. State and federal agencies have begun to survey the condition of mountain meadows in the Sierra, but historically these efforts have not been integrated or analyzed in such a way as to identify restoration or protection priorities.

In recent years, there has been a concentrated effort on the part of many organizations and individuals to form collaborative partnerships in the interests of meadow science and restoration which is represented by several of the reports below.

The reports below include efforts to:

  1. Determine the condition of meadow systems throughout the Sierra Nevada;
  2. Analyze potential causal relationships between land and water use and meadow condition;
  3. Develop aquatic monitoring protocols appropriate to Sierran meadows, based on fish, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, vegetation, and hydrology;
  4. Examine the effects of meadow restorations on fisheries resources
  5. Develop tools to aid in planning and executing successful meadow restorations.

Collaborators/Funders include: The National Fish and Wildlife foundation, the Natural Heritage Institute, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Fish and Game, the US Forest Service, California Trout, Trout Unlimited, University of Nevada, Reno, the Resource Legacy Fund, and many more.

CosHawk (Cosumnes River Futures Modeling for Swainson's Hawk)

The main objective of this project is to quantitatively assess how changes to the landscape through time will impact Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) habtiat and other potentially beneficial ecosystem services. Accounting for this type of natural capital and how ecosystem services change through time is not well documented in the literature and developing this methodology was a secondary objective for our research group. Despite the loss of natural habitat, this study area and the surrounding region supports the highest density of breeding Swainson’s Hawks in California. Swainson’s Hawk is a species of high conservation concern given historic population declines and its listing as a threatened species in California. It is also a valuable focal species due to its dependence on tree canopy nesting sites, on which many other raptors and riparian species also depend, as well as nearby open-country foraging habitat, which is valuable to a number of other migratory birds. This study area supports a mix of forested areas and agricultural areas, providing excellent habitat for nesting and foraging areas. We conducted a mesoscale landscape assessment to quantify ecosystem services and develop habitat suitability models for Swainson’s Hawk (in partnership with Audubon California) in an agriculturally-dominated area in the Central Valley of California. Specifically, we developed three different management scenarios for the study area projected to 2050; a restoration focused scenario, an increasing urbanization scenario, and an enhanced agriculture scenario intended to benefit Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), a biodiversity conservation target. Using the current configuration of land use across the study area, we quantified the impact of each scenario on four major ecosystem services, carbon storage, water recharge potential to groundwater, biodiversity using B. swainsoni nesting habitat as a proxy, and nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching.

Cosumnes Phase 3

The Center for Watershed Sciences is partnering with The Nature Conservancy in an experimental floodplain restoration on the Cosumnes River. The Center's role in this Department of Fish & Wildlife funded project, "Wildlife And Vegetation Response to Experimental Restoration of Flooded Riparian Forest Habitat for the Cosumnes River Preserve," is intended to conduct biophysical monitoring of an experimental restoration on approximately 800 acres of flooded riparian forest habitat in the Cosumnes River Preserve.

The riparian and floodplain restoration is expected to benefit native fish and wildlife, using natural process restoration techniques where possible and horticultural restoration carried out in an experimental context. This will be one of the first projects to monitor changes in Bay-Delta ecosystem processes resulting from floodplain reconnection.

The project area has been identified as one of the primary locations where riparian restoration can be conducted successfully in the lower Cosumnes River Corridor. 

The Cosumnes Research Group 3 (CRG3) began in the Fall of 2011 to monitor and measure the impact of the planned restoration at the Oneto and Denier Properties along the lower Cosumnes River. The group is currently working on collecting baseline data that will be used to compare with the restored landscape in the following areas: 

  • Groundwater
  • Surface Water
  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Water Quality
  • Soil Carbon
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrochory
PISCES - Fish Distribution Tracking, Modelling, and Analysis

PISCES is software and data describing the best-known ranges for California's native fish. The data is compiled from multiple sources and experts and is stored and exported as rangemaps and summary maps. As of December 2013, it includes data on all of the state's 131 native fish taxa as well as 48 non-native species. You may obtain exported data for those taxa and compiled maps at If you are looking for the software itself, you can download the full software package (advanced computer abilities required) at

Code Library and Tools

As part of numerous other projects, Center for Watershed Sciences staff and researchers have developed code to run analyses, organize and store data, interface with other systems, automate processing, and more. Some of this code is designed to be reusable as standalone products, or as code in other, larger projects. You can find this code below.

Conservation of inland fish biodivesity

Knowledge of species' spatial distributions is crucial to the identification and prioritization of watersheds in need of restoration.  Coupled with species' status, the presence and or absence of species can indicate biologically diverse vs. depauperate areas. 

Because California inland native fish species have been extensiverly studied (e.g, Moyle 1976, Moyle et al. 1989, Moyle et al. 1995,  Moyle 2002, Moyle et al. 2011, Moyle et al. 2013), changes in species distribution and status can be used as indicators of changes in overall aquatic ecosystem health.  

In this project, we are compiling all available data for California inland native fish species (134) to create current and historical distribution maps using the PISCES database. 

We are also incorporating status scores for most taxon for the years 1976, 2011, and 2013 in order to track changes in species imperilment or preservation.  Because this data is spatially implicit, we will now be able to analyze biodiveristy patterns at multiple scales (statewide, regional, watershed). 

Our goal is to identify areas most likely to protect aquatic biodiveristy into the future as well as areas needing different levels of restoration. 

Future studies will also analyze existing and potential threats to biodiveristy throughout the state, including climate change, dam operations, and extractive landuses. 

The ultimate goal is the prescription of conservation strategies specific to each area.

Streamlapse: Time Lapse River Videos and Data

StreamLapse is a software system to build videos from time lapse river photos and data. It allows for rapidly viewing a season of rivers and cross-comparison between sites and years.


Creative Commons License

StreamLapse V1 by UCD Center for Watershed Sciences is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Crop Economics Map 1998-2010

California Crop Economics Map

This website provides preliminary information on irrigated land areas, water use and crop value over various hydrologic boundaries. Information from the California Department of Water Resources ( on land and water use, and economic information from the SWAP model ( for 20 crop groups are employed. You can select the hydrologic boundaries, and the parameter to display by checking the appropriate boxes. The sliding rule allows you to select the year of the information from 1998 to 2010. This will be updated as more data becomes available. Please contact Josue Medellin for any questions or comments. Last update: 1/21/2016.

, , California Environmental Flows Framework

Flow alterations are a significant driver of species population declines and biodiversity loss in California and globally. When stream flows are altered by human intervention, a wide range of physical and biological processes can be affected, triggering fundamental changes to habitat condition, and the distribution, diversity, and abundance of species. Ensuring the preservation of key flow components can improve riparian and freshwater ecosystem health by restoring physical processes and habitat conditions.

Multiple state and local agencies across California share responsibility for setting flow criteria and prescriptions that protect and improve the ecological health of California’s water resources. These approaches historically have not been coordinated at the statewide level, resulting in fragmented and siloed flow management programs. Consequently:

  • There is no overall framework or guidance for estimating flow criteria,
  • Agencies tend to focus on site-specific solutions, instead of holistically managing the health of California watersheds,
  • Environmental flow data are not readily available or comparable across the state,
  • Improving coordination across California is a challenge,
  • Environmental conditions and pressures vary widely, as do the priorities and capacities of agencies responsible for water resource management.

In 2016, a group of experts self-organized to pool knowledge and data, evaluate methods, and ultimately develop a statewide framework for determining environmental flow criteria for California. The strategy is organized into an approach that varies in scale and detail.

The framework will provide a set of functional flow criteria for all streams in California and a technical guidance document for estimating ecological flow prescriptions.


Process for developing ecological flow criteria and prescriptions in California. CEFF process in green and blue (sections 2 and 3). Orange box indicates additional considerations stakeholders should take outside of the technical process to ultimately arrive at environmental flow objectives (section 4).

Key CEFF products:

  • Reference-based ecological flow criteria: Use the California natural stream classes and the functional flows approach to set flow criteria statewide
    • Statewide applicable method to set flow criteria protective of river-dependent ecosystems
  • Refined ecological flow criteria and ecological flow prescriptions: Provide guidelines for estimating ecological flow prescriptions depending on the regional, local or site-specific context
    • A tailored approach that incorporates specific environmental and water management factors and priorities


The Technical team will continue communicating and collaborating with diverse partners at the state and local level engaged in flow management via the Environmental Flows Workgroup, a sub-group of the California Water Quality Monitoring Council comprised of state and federal agencies with responsibility for environmental flows through their various programs and authorities.