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)

Help TRNERR – Upcoming Fundraiser(s)

Come support education programs at TRNERR. Souplantation will donate 15% of sales generated by Friends of San Diego Wildlife Refuges. You must bring this flyer and everyone must purchase a beverage for the donation to count. Print flyer and see details.

souplantation funraiser072214

Twenty Years of Great!



5pm to 8pm
(ceremony at 5:30pm)

Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center
301 Caspian Way
Imperial Beach, CA 91932

Completed in 1994, and better than ever in 2014! Come to the 20th Anniversary of the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center. Meet the building’s renowned architect Rob Wellington Quigley and the restored watershed map’s public artist Robin Brailsford among others that helped make this award winning facility come to life.

Light refreshments will be served. Reservations required, please RSVP here.


Event Highlights

Watershed Map Restoration
Come see the dynamic new watershed map.

Wick Alexander Installation
Showcasing a large new fossil painting of marine sediments.

Mudflat Madness Discovery Lab
Hands-on activities for the whole family.

Volunteer Training Modules

Watch and complete the modules below.  When you have finished the module, you will receive a passcode.  Email this passcode to your advisor so that they know you have completed that step.  Be sure to record your passcodes on your Volunteer Training Requirements Checklist (also available as WORD).


Required for ALL Long-term Volunteers:

  1. Sensitive Species (14:15)
  2. History Chapter (read and then take quiz)
  3. Tijuana River Watershed Video (35:00 – watch in Visitor Center)
  4. What is a Watershed? (01:22)
  5. What is an Estuary? (05:40)

Additional Documents:
Visitor Center Scavenger Hunt


Additional Training Requirements for Volunteer Positions:

  1. Archaeology (17:15)
  2. Coastal Training Program (06:30)
  3. Front Desk  (06:15)
  4. Injured and Orphaned Wildlife (05:00)
  5. National Wildlife Refuges (03:05)
  6. Research and Monitoring (15:30)
  7. School Programs (13:45)
  8. Stewardship (13:25)

CURRV Informational Products & Reports

CURRV logo

Click here for CURRV home page


Click here for updates on CURRV events, including working group meetings, expert workshops, and trainings



Please find below links to informational products and reports that document the purpose, progress, and results of the CURRV project.  Keep in mind that this process is adaptive, meaning that as new information becomes available the below documents may be updated.


Project Details



This report compiles information about the Tijuana River Valley to ensure that all stakeholders involved in the planning process have a baseline understanding of what resources are present within the valley, how the area is managed, and what threatens the long-term sustainability of the natural habitats and built infrastructure.  Information in this document was compiled with input from participants of the CURRV Kick-off Stakeholder Workshop, providing the foundation for the scenarios and the development of climate adaptation strategies.

This scenario planning guidebook outlines the process of developing four future planning scenarios for the Tijuana River Valley, capturing lessons learned and the results from discussions at workshops and one-on-one interviews.  Executive summary coming soon!

Adaptation Strategies and an Implementation Plan are being developed to inform the 2017 update of the Reserve’s Comprehensive Management Plan, ensuring climate change adaptation is a central component to Reserve management and the core programmatic areas- Cultural & Historical Resources, Education & Community Outreach, Research, Stewardship, and Training. This document will be updated as new stakeholder input is incorporated.


Workshop Summaries

Below are workshop summary reports resulting from collaborative CURRV workshops and trainings. Click here for more information on CURRV events, including working group meetings, expert workshops, and trainings.


Art Exhibit

Our Artist-In-Residence, Audrey Carver, brought the science to life through her painting.  The exhibit contains murals that illustrate the four different possible futures, or scenarios, that scientists developed through CURRV. Each of the four scenes highlights the habitats and wildlife that would be characteristic of each scenario.  The paintings are interpretations of the science behind the scenarios, providing a window into the future. To learn more please visit:



Click on graphic below to enlarge.

CURRV Planning Process

CURRV Planning Process


Future Planning Scenarios



Integrating Scenarios into Vulnerability Assessment & Adaptation Planning

Scenarios, Vulnerability, & Adaptation


GIS: Geographic Information System

A Geographic Information System is a computer system developed to capture, store, manage, analyze and display data that can be linked to geographic information, generating maps as the end product. GIS has been largely used as a tool to answer questions, to solve problems and to help in the decision making process in numerous fields for example, natural resources, about population census, health issues, fire management, urban planning, natural hazards and so forth.

The Tijuana Estuary is a very important ecosystem. Its variability in topography, tidal influence and streamflow results in a nutrient-rich estuary with a diversity of habitats that are home to a wide range of wildlife, aquatic organisms and plants. It has persisted despite disturbance from urban and agricultural land uses. In order to protect and preserve the Reserve, Research is highly necessary to monitor and study the dynamics of the Tijuana Estuary. The Tijuana Estuary’s research and monitoring programs are responsible for collecting data and the research’s GIS Lab stores and manages the data for future analysis and comparisons. Maps are generated according to the needs of specific projects. GIS is not used only within the Reserve, it is also used in projects that include areas like the Tijuana River Valley, South San Diego Bay Salt Ponds and Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. Currently GIS Lab is working with map products for the Climate Understanding & Resilience in the River Valley (CURRV) project, which studies the Tijuana River Valley vulnerabilities to climate change, sea level rise and flood. Another project we are using GIS for is the South San Diego Bay Salt Ponds restoration, which needs map products to analyze  elevation and vegetation data of the site, for example.

Some of the data we use, such as operational boundaries, roads, and trails can be accessed through the links below:

Discovery Labs

Laboratorios de Descubrimiento

Wednesdays /miercoles, 5:00 – 7:00pm
at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center

TRNERR invites the community to a series of open houses to excite and engage the minds of your entire family. FREE!
El Estuario del Río Tijuana invita la comunidad a una serie de Noches de Ciencia para estimular y captar el interés de toda la familia. ¡GRATIS!

In 2017, we will be taking the program to schools and local libraries, more details and dates to come.

(619) 575-3613  ext. 304, 305, or 306



APRIL 20, 2016
What’s Lurking in the Shadows?

Estuary educators and scientists lead hands-on activities featuring bats, grunion, night time adaptations, animal sounds, and how scientists study these critters. Come find out if you’ve seen or heard nocturnal animals in the marsh.

¿Qué es lo que está escondido en las sombras?

¿Qué animales de presa se esconden de los depredadores durante la noche? ¿Cómo los encuentran los depredadores o cómo son engañados? Ven a descubrir si has visto o escuchado animales nocturnos en la marisma.

JUNE 22, 2016
Insectigations: Exploring the World of Insects

They walk, they fly,
They see with multiple eyes!
Beetles, bugs, hoppers, and flies.
Oh why, oh why are there so many kinds?

Become an entomologist as we journey into the largest class of the animal kingdom to investigate this diverse and lively group of organisms.

Insectigaciones: explorando el mundo de los insectos

¡Caminan, vuelan,
Miran con muchos ojos!
Escarabajos, bichos, chapulines, moscas.
¿O por qué, o por qué hay tantos tipos?

Conviértase en un entomólogo (un científico que estudia insectos) al viajar dentro de la clase más grande del reino animal para investigar este grupo de organismos diversos y animados.

#7Tiger beetle_nobox
 CA Horn snail

AUGUST 17, 2016
Why Don’t Animals Wear Clothes?

Delve into the adaptations that Tijuana Estuary animals use to protect themselves and stay warm.

¿Por qué no usan ropa los animales?

Explora las adaptaciones que los animales del Estuario del Río Tijuana usan para protegerse y mantenerse calientitos.

OCTOBER 12, 2016
Trash in the Ocean – Yuck!

Just what happens to our trash in the ocean? Does it disappear, how does it affect marine life, and how you can help?

Basura en el Océano – ¡Puaj!

¿Exactamente qué pasa con nuestra basura que entra en el océano? ¿Se desaparece, cómo afecta la vida marina, y cómo puedes ayudar tú?


Temporal Investigations of Marsh Ecosystems (TIME)


Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 1.48.24 PMWhy this Project?

The Tijuana Estuary is one of the largest intact coastal wetlands in Southern California, and a model case study from which to strengthen our collective understanding of wetland management using information from the past, present, and future.

The TIME project is a collaborative project that brings together the perspectives of scientists and managers to address key needs identified by Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project (SCWRP) and the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team (TRVRT) by developing a decision-making framework. TIME embodies a collaborative approach that, from the project outset, engages stakeholders to ensure development of locally relevant products.

TIME informational flyer

Curious about Project status?  Check out the stakeholder update webinar that partners hosted in May 2015.  For webinar summary click here.

Using information from the past, present, and future

Numerous studies have been conducted to better understand and restore coastal wetlands in Southern California.  The TIME project seeks to explore several essential elements to support effective wetland recovery at the Tijuana Estuary, with an eye on scaling up to the region:

Image 1  1. Understand stakeholder needs through an issues assessment and communicate lessons learned from synthesizing information from the past, present, and future at the Tijuana Estuary that can inform wetland restoration under changing and uncertain conditions;

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 1.23.12 PM  2. Characterize ecosystem services provided by coastal wetlands in southern California and how they may change over time;

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 1.23.21 PM  3. Incorporate information gained from historical ecology studies; and

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 1.35.08 PM  4. Create visualizations to assess historical and future potential characteristics of the Tijuana River Estuary.


The Team

The TIME project is designed and carried out by a diverse team of collaborators that include applied science and collaboration professionals, and the specified end-users of TIME’s products. Collaborators work together to iteratively incorporate stakeholder feedback into the development of each project phase.




Sacramento State Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP)

Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP)

California State Coastal Conservancy

San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI)


Exploring future scenarios for the Tijuana River Estuary.










Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 4.51.36 PM

Please contact Kristen Goodrich, Coastal Training Program Coordinator, for more information: kgoodrich[at]

 This project is funded by a grant from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative.

Stakeholder Workshop Photos

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. Register here (coming soon)

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