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)

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 – 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.