Valley Oaks: An Ecological Journey Through Time

Topics: Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge, Land Use and Land Cover Change

Heritage Oak on the Trefethen Family Winery, Napa, CA.

Photographing 300+ year old Valley oaks in Oak Knoll, Napa

Meeting with advisers to the Valley Oaks production

Photographing herbarium Valley oak specimens from the 1800s

1895 Valley Oak specimen from the California Academy of Sciences Botany collection.

Georeferencing historic Valley oak museum specimens

Comparing SFEI’s historical ecology maps to present day scenery

Hand made Valley Oak acorn cakelets from Jolie Lonner-Egert.

California native peoples managed oak landscapes to benefit the environment and their communities

Robin Grossinger, Ryan Wyatt, Healy Hamilton presenting in Morrison Planetarium

Photosynthesis in June

Oort Cloud, field of asteroids surrounding our Sun brought water and other elements to Earth that are the building blocks of life

Early 1800’s grasslands, marshes, streams, and Valley Oak savannas of Napa Valley

Turrill and Miller Photograph, 1906 Napa Valley

Society of California Pioneers

Oaks before clearing, 1942. St. Helena

USDA aerial photo

Former oak savanna, 2009. St. Helena

USDA NAIP aerial photo

“Re-Oaking” in suburban parking lot. Napa, CA.

Valley Oak distribution projection for the year 2020 under “business-as-usual” greenhouse gas emission scenario

Valley Oak distribution projection for the year 2050 under “business-as-usual” greenhouse gas emission scenario

Scott Gabaldon (Mishewal Wappo Tribe), Nick Tipon (Coast Miwok), Valentin Lopez (Amah Mutsun Tribe) and friends at live event

Valley Oaks: An Ecological Journey Through Time takes a journey from the canopy to the cosmos, exploring the history and ecology of one of California’s most iconic and threatened tree species, the Valley Oak. California Academy scientists, indigenous partners, and historical ecologists from the San Francisco Estuary Institute reveal how Valley Oaks and humans are intertwined in a relationship of disturbance and adaptation, with implications for the health and well-being of Bay Area communities.

This event originally took place at the California Academy of Sciences’ Morrison Planetarium (San Francisco, CA) on December 8, 2011. There were two screenings and dialogues that hosted over 520 people representing a diverse array of participants ranging from policy makers, local tribes, NGOs, educators, and scientists working to help re-establish the Valley Oak in Northern California as well as public audiences during the Academy’s NightLife after-hours event.

Program Kit

Storyboard & Script


Uniview Installer Files

Data Sources

Why Trees

Re-Oaking the Valleys

A poster from the San Francisco Estuary Institute about bringing native trees back into California’s suburban landscapes.

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Of Forests and Men

This film was made by Yann Arthus-Bertrand for the UN International Year of Forests.

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The Green World Campaign

It’s amazing what one seed can grow! Read more about the Green World Campaign.

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About the Green World Campaign

ReGreen the World

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The Urban Forest Tree Map

About San Francisco’s “Tree Census

Plant Productivity in a Warming World

The past decade is the warmest on record since instrumental measurements began in the 1880s. Previous research suggested that in the ’80s and ’90s, warmer global temperatures and higher levels of precipitation — factors associated with climate change – were generally good for plant productivity. An updated analysis published this week in Science indicates that as temperatures have continued to rise, the benefits to plants are now overwhelmed by longer and more frequent droughts. High-resolution data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, indicate a net decrease in NPP from 2000-2009, as compared to the previous two decades.

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Tree and Water-Related Efforts in the Bay Area

Ecosystem Services

Historical Ecology

Indigenous Knowledge

Preserves and Education


  • Re-Oaking the Valley: Bringing Native Trees Back into California’s Suburban Landscapes
    “Re-Oaking” is an approach to reintegrating oaks and other native trees within the developed California landscape to provide a range of ecosystem services. The concept has emerged from SFEI’s research into the distribution and characteristics of California’s former valley oak savannas — a distinctive, widespread habitat that was mostly lost a century ago. Now valley oaks and other native trees are being recognized for the benefits they did — and could again – provide, as communities design the ecologically healthy and resilient landscapes of the future.
  • California Oaks
    Education about Oak trees in order to preserve and protect them
  • Planting an Oak in Your Yard
  • Green World Campaign
    We plant trees to restore the ecology and economy of some of the world’s poorest places. We help communities develop sustainable livelihoods, return barren soil to fertility, nurture biodiversity, and preserve cultural values.
  • American Forests
    American Forests, the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the country, advocates for the protection and expansion of America’s forests. Since 1990, we have planted nearly 40 million trees. Our goal is to work with our partners to plant an additional 25-30 million trees in forest restoration projects during the next five years. We restore watersheds to help provide clean drinking water. We replant forests destroyed by human action and by natural disasters.
  • Eden Reforestation Projects
    Poverty reduction through environmental stewardship


  • National Tree Benefit Calculator
    A tool for calculating the economic and ecological benefits of your tree.
  • ecoSmart
    Use this program to evaluate the economic trade-offs between different landscape designs on residential parcels.
  • i-Tree
    Provides urban forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools that help communities to strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy efforts.
  • CITYgreen
    GIS application for land use planning and policy-making that calculates dollar benefits based on specific site conditions.
  • American Forests Tree Doctor
    Answers questions about tree care, tree health and anything about trees.
  • Carbon Footprint Calculator
    Measure your carbon footprint and offset emissions by planting trees.
  • Tree Carbon Calculator (CTCC)
    Provides information on the amount of biomass and carbon stored in a tree and the benefits associated with energy conservation projects, such as using a tree to shade a building.
  • Natural Capital Project InVEST tool
    Maps and values the goods and services from nature which are essential for sustaining and fulfilling human life.



  • Robin Grossinger (SFEI)
  • Healy Hamilton (CAS)
  • Ryan Wyatt (CAS)


  • Ned Gardiner (NOAA)
  • Robin Grossinger (SFEI)
  • Healy Hamilton (CAS)
  • Lindsay Irving (CAS)
  • David McConville (The Elumenati)
  • Chuck Striplen (SFEI)

GIS & Visualizations

  • Stephanie Auer
  • Miguel Fernandez
  • Ned Gardiner (NOAA)
  • Tim Horn (CAS)
  • Lindsay Irving (CAS)

Ecological Forecasting

  • Miguel Fernandez
  • Stephanie Auer

Historical Imagery & Data

  • San Francisco Estuary Institute
  • Museum Collection Data
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • California Consortium of Herbaria
  • CAS Dudley Herbarium of Stanford University

Production Coordination

  • Lindsay Irving (CAS)

Creative Direction

  • David McConville (The Elumenati)

Technical Support

  • Ned Gardiner (NOAA)
  • Tim Horn (CAS
  • Lindsay Irving (CAS)
  • Greg Mancari (DMNS)
  • David McConville (The Elumenati)
  • Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)

Research / Production Assistance

  • Kat Collaco (CAS)

California Academy of Sciences Support

  • Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics
  • CAS Guest Services
  • CAS Special Events
  • CAS Visualization Studi


  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Christensen Fund
  • Yahoo Employee Foundation
  • Google Earth Outreach
  • Save the Redwoods League
  • Gerbode Foundation
  • Packard Foundation
  • Moore Foundation
  • Sempervirens Fund


  • Patrick Lowe (Napa County Planning Department and Watershed Information Center and Conservancy)
  • Shari Gardner (Friends of the Napa River)
  • Jon Christensen (Stanford University Bill Lane Center of the American West)
  • Todd Keeler-Wolf (California Deptartment of Fish and Game Vegetation Classification & Mapping Program)
  • Walt Koenig (UC Hastings Reserve)
  • Sage Lapena (Nomptipom Wintu)
  • Frank Davis (UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management Biogeography Lab)
  • Blair McLaughlin (UC Santa Cruz Department of Environmental Studies)
  • Ed Ketchum (Amah Mutsun Tribal Council)
  • Nick Tipon (Graton Rancheria Tribe)
  • UKat Anderson (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences)


  • Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
  • Audubon Canyon Ranch, Marin
  • Bay Nature Magazine
  • Brewster Design Arts
  • Buckminster Fuller Institute
  • California Academy of Sciences Botany Department
  • California Institute for Integral Studies
  • Calflora
  • California Department of Transportation
  • Canopy – Trees for Palo Alto
  • Capacitor Dance Company
  • Center for Ecoliteracy
  • Chabot Space and Science Center
  • Children’s Discovery Museum
  • City of San Jose Arborist
  • Coastal Conservancy
  • Committee for Green Foothills
  • Conservation Biology Institute
  • Contra Costa, Department of Conservation and Development
  • Cosmic Serpent Fellows
  • The Cultural Conservancy
  • Daily Acts
  • Environment Strategies, Inc.
  • Exploratorium
  • Franciscan Winery
  • Friends of the Napa River
  • Go Wild Consulting
  • Graton Rancheria
  • GreenMeme
  • Humankind Philanthropy
  • iNaturalist
  • Indigenous Education Institute
  • Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation
  • Land Trust of Napa County
  • Landscapes for a Future
  • Mishwal Wappo Tribe
  • Montalvo Arts Center
  • Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project
  • Napa County Conservation, Development and Planning Department
  • Napa County Parks and Open Space District
  • Napa County Resource Conservation District
  • Napa Flood Control and Water Conservation District
  • National Park Service
  • NOAA Office of Education
  • Princeton University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • REOS Partners
  • San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • San Francisco Department of the Environment
  • Save Mount Diablo
  • Science and Nonduality Conference
  • Sonoma County Parks
  • Stanford University Bill Lane Center of the American West
  • Stanford University Environmental Humanities Project
  • Stanford University Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve
  • Stanford University Program in Modern Thought and Literature
  • Trefethen Family Vineyards
  • UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science TEAMS
  • UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory
  • UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing
  • UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy
  • UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences
  • UC Hastings Reserve
  • UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management Biogeography Lab
  • UC Santa Cruz Department of Environmental Studies
  • US Department of Agriculture, Plants and Animals
  • US Geological Survey
  • Watershed Information Center and Conservancy
  • Wilderness Torah, David Brower Center
  • Worldlink