Salt Marsh Secrets


This e-book records favorite stories about salt marsh secrets that my collaborators and I uncovered while studying southern California coastal wetlands, from the 1970s to date. In 1986, we became the Pacific Estuarine Research Lab.

Please download the files as they appear online and enjoy learning what we learned…and more. You’ll meet many “detectives,” and you’ll be able to appreciate how they learned so much–undeterred by mud and flood. Learn while exploring the salt marshes near you!

PDF name and brief description:

Preface: Learning while exploring (2 MB)
1. Discovering Secrets: Introducing salt marshes (17 MB)
2. Seasonal Change: How weather and tides change over the year (11 MB)
3. Rare Plant & Bird: An annual plant and a clapper rail (9 MB)
4. Where Plants Grow: The influence of salt and water and more (7 MB)
5. Perennials & Annuals: How short- and long-lived plants get along (22 MB)
6. Salt Marsh Weeds: Which species invade and why (11 MB)
7. Sedimentation: A little sedimentation is good; a lot is not (25 MB)
8. Heterogeneity: Variable elevation and patchiness (16 MB)
9. Transitions: From marsh plain to high marsh to upland (9 MB)
10. Testing Diversity: What diversity affects and what affects diversity (15 MB)
11. Runoff Cattails Algae: Freshwater pulses trigger pesky invaders (18 MB)
12. Dunes: Why our dunes are low and flat (6 MB)
13. Damages: How we damage salt marshes (9 MB)
14. Go Fish: Fish and invertebrates respond to changing waters (10 MB)
15. Animal Mobility: Mobile and immobile species (6 MB)
16. Food Web: Who eats whom (12 MB)
17. Conservation Battles: It wasn’t easy saving salt marshes (6 MB)
18. Restoration: Returning tidal influence (25 MB)
19. Testing Theory: Contributions to the science of ecology (21 MB)
20. References: References cited and other PERL research (2 MB)
21. PERL alumni: Where the “detectives” are now (4 MB)

8th Annual Tijuana River Action Month

What:  Tijuana River Action Month (TRAM) is a series of education and stewardship events held during September and October to benefit the Tijuana River Watershed. The goals 

2014TRAMof Tijuana River Action Month are to mobilize a record number of community volunteers and groups to become stewards of the Tijuana River Watershed; and, to recognize key efforts and investments by public and private agencies, businesses, non-profits and community groups to protect and restore the Tijuana River.

Who:  Open to the public.  All ages are welcome. Community Service available. Volunteers under 18 yrs of age must have a signed waiver by parent or guardian. Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

When: Cleanup and habitat restoration events will take place every Saturday  between September 16 and October 14, 2017. See details below.

Where: Various locations within the Tijuana River Valley and Watershed.

Why: To protect, preserve and restore the Tijuana River Valley and Watershed.

What to wear/bring? Volunteers must work in long pants and boots or sturdy, closed-toe shoes. We also recommend bringing sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats. Work gloves, tools, water and a light snack will be provided.

Pre-registration is required. See below for details and registration links.


Please join us for these and more bi-national events!


Coastal Cleanup Day
Saturday, September 16, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
California Coastal Cleanup Day (CCD) is a statewide beach and coastal and inland waterway cleanup held throughout California each year, part of the largest such cleanup in the country. CCD provides an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to work together and make a positive impact on our waterways and reduce the amount of marine debris the enters our ocean. Cleanup sites on the Reserve are at Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Register here

National Public Lands Day
Saturday, September 23, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Join us for a community-based habitat restoration project to take place at the Tijuana Estuary and Tijuana Slough NWR! All ages welcome. Register here

Community Cleanup Event
Saturday, September 30, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Help us remove ocean-bound trash from the Tijuana River Valley with a community cleanup event at Dairy Mart Road. All ages welcome. Register here

Community Cleanup Event
Saturday, October 7th, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Help us remove ocean-bound trash from the Tijuana River Valley with a community cleanup event at Dairy Mart Road. All ages welcome. To register, contact Paloma Aguirre – paloma(at)

Goat Canyon Cleanup
Saturday, October 14, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Help us remove ocean-bound trash from one of the most environmentally degraded areas in San Diego County! Held at Border Field State Park. Register here

Come for the cleanup and stay for the party! Join us immediately following the cleanup to celebrate the bi-national accomplishments of the 2017 Tijuana River Action Month.
12:00 noon – 2:00 pm on  Monument Mesa at Border Field State Park.
Surfrider and Cerveza Imperial will provide free food & beer (must be over 21 with I.D. to be served alcohol).


For these and additional events, click to go to TRAM website with event calendar.

For more information:

Volunteer Coordinator
(619) 575-3613 x330  office


October is Kids FREE Month!

VISIT: for more information and to print your free coupon.

Kids are invited to explore San Diego’s diverse museums – for FREE! From October 1 – 31, children ages 12 and under receive FREE admission with a paid adult (limit 2) at 40 arts, cultural, and science museums. Explore the hidden treasures of the ocean or the far reaches of outer space. Delve into local history, visual arts, botanical gardens, architectural treasures – and more!

To participate, download the Kids Free in October voucher at Simply present the voucher at the participating museum’s admissions desk. A full directory of participating venues can be found on the San Diego Museum Council’s website.

Note: This offer does not include special events/exhibits or field trips.

TIP: You need one coupon per museum visit, so print out several to have on hand. One coupon is good for 2 children.



Museum Mash-Up!

EVENT DATE: Sunday, October 1, 2017
TIME: 10 am to 1 pm
The New Children’s Museum Park, 200 W. Island Ave.,
in downtown San Diego.
COST: Free to attend

Kids Free in October kicks off with Museum Mash Up!

Museum Mash Up will be held at The New Children’s Museum Park, 200 W. Island Ave., in downtown San Diego. Families are invited to check out fun, hands-on activities presented by ten museums, including the Fleet Science Center, San Diego Natural History Museum, Barona Museum, San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Tijuana Estuary, and more!

Plus, kids will love the live animal encounter with Living Coast Discovery Center, and interactive performances by Ms. Smarty-Plants™️ with The Water Conservation Garden and a Drum Circle with the Museum of Making Music. But wait, there’s more! The grand finale will be a performance by musicians from the San Diego Symphony!

Check out the Facebook event page HERE.

The park and museum area easily accessible by bus or trolley. Children 12 and under ride free with a paid adult on the MTS trolley and bus routes on Saturdays and Sundays!

Free to attend! Come out and have some family fun.

Vehicle Access to Border Field State Park – OPEN

Enjoy a picnic this summer with friends and family on top of Monument Mesa.



  • Border Field is open to vehicles
    Friday to Sunday, 9:30am – 6:00pm.
  • $5 vehicle entrance fee.
  • Please stay on designated roads.


  • Border Field is open to vehicles Friday to Sunday, 9:30am – 7:00pm.
  • The gate will be open on the 4th of July and Labor Day.
  • $5 vehicle entrance fee. Please stay on designated roads.



Due to a sewage spill in Yogurt Canyon, the park road will be closed to vehicles this weekend.  Please check-in for updates. Pedestrians should access Monument Mesa/Friendship Park via the Beach Trail.


  • Border Field is open to vehicles Friday to Sunday, 9:30am – 7:00pm.
  • The gate will be open on the 4th of July and Labor Day.
  • $5 vehicle entrance fee. Please stay on designated roads.




Park closed to vehicle traffic until further notice. The park is still accessible to pedestrians and equestrians. For your health, please follow detour signs to access Monument Mesa via the beach.



  • Border Field is open to vehicles on weekends, 9:30am – 6:00pm.
  • Barring any rain, the gate is open to vehicles Thursday – Sunday through October.
  • $5 vehicle entrance fee. Please stay on designated roads.

    Yogurt Canyon – Flooding leads to massive potholes on Monument Road.


Free Walks & Talks

Bird Walks: 1st, 3rd & 5th Sundays of the month at 3:00 p.m.

Nature Walks: 2nd & 4th Saturdays of the Month at 11:00 a.m.

Herpetologist, Chris Brown, introduces everyone to local reptiles during the monthly Speaker Series.

Saturday Speaker Series: 3rd Saturday of the Even Months at 10:00 a.m. Invited guest speakers engage the community in topics related to the Tijuana Estuary and its watershed. Check the calendar to see who is speaking this month (flyer below).

For a complete listing of events and activities at the Reserve, visit the online calendar.




Jr. Rangers

Jr Rangers Mudflat Inverts Activity

The Tijuana Estuary offers free activities for students 7-12 years of age, every Thursday from 3:30-4:30pm (check schedule for holidays), with different topics presented at each session. Jr. Rangers learn about the ecology of estuaries, the importance of wetlands and will discover an appreciation for this disappearing ecosystem by participating in related hands-on activities. Kids can earn patches, buttons and more as they progress through the program! Programs are held rain or shine and it’s FREE!

Children with special needs or large groups should be coordinated in advance with education staff, (619) 575-3613 ext. 305/306.

One time visitors who wish to become Jr Rangers and cannot attend the regularly scheduled program, can pick up a copy of the California State Parks Junior Ranger Adventure Guide in the visitor center.

Click here to view the 2017 Jr. Ranger Schedule.

Jr. Rangers in the news – Click to read the Union Tribune article.