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San Francisco Chronicle: Diving into climate change on the Northern California coast

August 12, 2019

In the June 23, 2019 travel section of the San Francisco Chronicle I took readers from tide pools to rocky reefs 30 feet below the ocean surface to show how they can witness the effects of climate change on the Northern California coast. For the first article I followed world-class free diver and spearfisherman Greg Fonts underwater to see how sub-tidal ecosystems have changed after kelp forests shrunk by 90 percent in less than a decade. In the second, I explored tide pools off Bodega Bay with UC Davis marine ecologist Eric Sanford to observe intertidal creatures who have moved north to the Sonoma Coast as the ocean has warmed.

Also in the section, I profiled the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s top diver George Z. Peterson and got his top-five scuba diving spots in California. If these stories interest you then check out my article on abalone diving I wrote while a staff writer at The Press Democrat in 2017.

Without abalone, spearfishing hooks North Coast anglers
On a cool, overcast day in May, spearfisherman Greg Fonts floats facedown on the surface of the Pacific Ocean 300 yards off the coast of Fort Bragg, rocking in the swell in a thick wetsuit. A small dive flashlight dangles from his right wrist. His left hand holds a long speargun, an arrow-tipped steel bolt locked in place along the stock with thick rubber tubing.

Through his dive mask, Fonts spots a school of blue rockfish swimming over the rocky reef 20 feet below — a good sign that lingcod may be nearby. With large fang-like teeth, lingcod are marine predators prized for their large fillets of mild, flakey meat. After a deep inhale, Fonts removes his snorkel and duck-dives. With a few kicks of his long flippers, he descends to the reef. Read more…

How is climate change affecting oceans? Check the tide pools
On a sunny afternoon in mid-April, Professor Eric Sanford crouched in a tide pool off Bodega Bay and turned over algae-covered rocks in search of a chocolate porcelain crab, a dime-size crustacean with blue speckles.

The creature has been spotted in small numbers around Bodega Bay for decades. But five years ago a severe marine heat wave, dubbed “the blob,” caused a sharp increase in its numbers north of the Golden Gate, says Sanford, a marine ecologist who researches climate change and coastal ecosystems at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab. Read more…

5 best scuba diving spots in California, from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s dive director
George Z. Peterson’s job as director of dive programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is — in his words — quite simple: “I’m there to get people stoked on the ocean.” No day is the same, says the 49-year-old Peterson, who has worked at the aquarium since 2003. He has brought more than 41,000 kids underwater through the aquarium’s youth dive program, keeps the glass of the massive tanks clean and sea creatures fed with help of more than 100 volunteer divers, and coordinates dives and safety procedures for the aquarium’s 50-plus scientists and research staff who dive for their work. Read more…

 

Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust: Fishermoms and women in commercial fishing

May 12, 2019

I’m happy to have been able to contribute to the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust’s recent newsletter on the important, yet all-too-often overlooked, contributions women have made throughout the history of Monterey Bay’s commercial fisheries. I also dive into why the term “fisherman” is still used when so many women fish and gendered terms are being taken out of common language.

The hidden history of women in Monterey Bay fisheries
Women have always played pivotal roles in the success of the commercial fishing industry, whether as cannery workers, fish cutters, biologists or business managers. Yet, their work has often been overlooked. To remedy this, we’ve taken a deep dive into the work of women in Monterey Bay fisheries, going back more than a century. And while there’s presently still work to be done before achieving gender equality on the water, supporting women within commercial fishing is easier than you might think. Read more…

Why do we still use the word “fisherman?”
There was a time in this country when women were largely excluded from working on boats and catching fish as their occupation. For generations, only men worked as fishermen. But times have changed and there are now more women on the water than ever, so why do we still use the term “fisherman” to describe the men and women who harvest fish?  We asked women who fish and write for a living what their preferred terms are. The answers may — or may not —surprise you. Read more…

San Francisco Chronicle: Monterey history told through pirates & cheese.

April 5, 2019

Monterey’s history as a Spanish, Mexican and United States capital of California is well documented and has become a cottage industry in the small city that hugs the Pacific Ocean. But there are a few stories clouded in mystery, or simply misunderstood for more than a century. Two of which I recently dug into for the San Francisco Chronicle, shedding light on two historical topics beloved by many—pirates and cheese.

California’s only ‘pirate’ raid in history was actually about independence
Volleys of cannon fire echoed through the adobes of Monterey, followed by a group of privateers storming the city from the sea with cannon, muskets and pikes. Eventually they pulled down the Spanish flag before hoisting up the blue-and-white stripes of Argentina under a Californian sky. Read more…

The competing legends of Monterey Jack cheese
The origin story of Monterey Jack cheese is complicated, no matter whom you ask or what version they tell you. It may encompass some or all of the following: a prosperous Mexican land-grant family fallen from grace, a shrewd Gold Rush land baron, the colonization of California’s Central Coast, and possibly a bullfight gone awry. Some historians believe its tendrils even extend to ancient Rome. This semisoft white cheese, homogenized and ubiquitous in dairy aisles across the U.S., carries with it the near entirety of California history dating to Spanish colonization. Read more…

 

San Francisco Chronicle: The intersection of people, politics, places and sports.

March 15, 2019

For some respite from a few years of writing about cops, crime, mayhem and disasters, I’ve started writing stories about the intersection of adventure sports, politics and history in the state of California.

Here are a few highlights of recent interviews: Chris Burkard, surf photographer who looked to the Arctic for inspiration; Jeremy Jones, a big mountain snowboarder-turned climate activist; and Frosty Hesson, an avuncular big-wave surfer who’d pioneered Mavericks and always ready to impart life-wisdom. Many more stories to come.

Surf photographer and SLO native Chris Burkard shares his favorite local spots
Chris Burkard has become synonymous with images of the icy landscapes and deadly cold waters of Alaska, Norway, Iceland and Russia, and his work is recognized beyond the surf world. In the 33-year-old’s short career, he has published eight books, directed four films, garnered more than a dozen awards, given a TED Talk, and gained 3.3 million followers on Instagram. Forbes named him a top social influencer in 2017. Read more…

Q&A: Jeremy Jones on why the outdoor industry needs to speak out about climate change
While hiking atop crusty springtime snow on a ridgeline in California’s John Muir Wilderness, pre-eminent big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones wondered whether or not his descent down the slope would be the last by anyone on skis or a snowboard because of lack of future snow. Read more…

Surfing legend Frosty Hesson’s guide to California’s most iconic breaks
Large statured and emblazoned with platinum-white hair, surfing icon Richard “Frosty” Hesson is often found standing near his home at the end of 36th Avenue in Santa Cruz, watching the swell come in, as he has for decades. He’s quick to strike up conversations with people passing by. His face might not be familiar, but his nickname is. Read more…

National Fisherman: California crab fishermen fight to save fishery after three-year spike in whale entanglements.

September 1, 2018

The future of California’s iconic Dungeness crab fishery seemed uncertain after a three-year spike in the number of whales entangled in fishing gear from 2015 to 2017. A warm-water blob, domoic acid and a coinciding of whale migrations and fishing caused by the delayed start of the Dungeness crab season spurred a record number of whales and other marine animals to become twisted in crab gear.

Few fisheries were spared entanglement issues on the Pacific Coast, but California Dungeness crab fishermen came under fire for their lines snaring the largest number of whales. Negative publicity, threats of a federal shutdown and a lawsuit in federal court made California crabbers fear the worst. But with ocean conditions returning in the direction of normal and state legislative effort looking to head off litigation, crab fishermen can breathe easier. Still, there’s no returning to the way things were.

The Press Democrat: California Highway Patrol data shows where DUI suspects drank most recently

June 17, 2018

Sonoma County is a drinking destination. Roads swell with traffic on summer weekends when out-of-county visitors go tasting at more than 425 wineries and two dozen breweries that call the county home.

People line up for hours in downtown Santa Rosa every February to get their three 10-ounce glasses of Pliny the Younger triple IPA — a ration designed to prevent people from drinking too much of the high-octane 10.25 percent alcohol beer.

More than 7 million people come to Sonoma County annually, 4.6 million of whom cite beer and wine as their reason for visiting, according to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

While some locals blame beer-drinking and wine-tasting tourists for making Sonoma County roadways less safe, the fact is most drunken drivers in Sonoma County are residents whose last drink came at home, a bar or a restaurant.

Read more at The Press Democrat…

Northern California 2017 wildfire coverage for The Press Democrat

April 16, 2018

Fires jumped from wildlands into the city of Santa Rosa, one of the largest cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, on Oct. 8. In the end, 24 people lost their lives and more than 5,000 homes were destroyed displacing thousands in Sonoma County alone.

This is where I lived and worked. My job at The Press Democrat took me to the frontline of the blazes and to the response mounted by municipal, county, state and federal agencies.

For our efforts The Press Democrat was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Here are some clips from documenting the devastation in what is now the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.

Most SoCo Alert calls failed to connect in first hours of Sonoma County wildfires (Dec. 15)
Sonoma County prosecutors charge six landlords with price gouging (Dec. 7)
‘Please hurry up it’s really close’: Speed, terror of fires revealed in 911 calls (Dec. 5)
Mendocino County Sheriff examines lessons learned from Redwood Valley fire (Nov. 9)
Carl’s Jr. in Santa Rosa catches fire while making burgers for first responders (Oct. 26)
ICE statement about wildfire-related arson arrest ‘misleading and inflammatory’ (Oct. 19)
State prison firefighters on the frontlines of Sonoma County wildfires (Oct. 19)
Firefighters close in on full containment as Sonoma County turns toward recovery (Oct. 17)
Homes destroyed by fire outside of downtown Sonoma (Oct. 14)
Sonoma County’s emergency alerts face scrutiny in wake of deadly wildfires (Oct. 12)
Sonoma, Napa fires wreak havoc with gas, electricity & cellphone service (Oct. 10)