Tracking the movement of sediment and contaminants from northern California wildfire areas to San Francisco Bay

Release Date:

USGS research geologist Renee Takesue of the Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center collected 20 sediment samples from Sonoma Creek and Napa River north of San Francisco Bay on March 17.

Working with Takesue was Brett Tipple, associate project scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They will analyze the samples for sediment and contaminants released after the October 2017 Atlas and Nuns wildfires in northern California. Wildfires can exacerbate erosion and runoff of sediment and toxic debris. Contaminants delivered to San Francisco Bay with post-fire runoff could negatively impact San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and local marsh-restoration projects. Takesue and Tipple will use geochemical fingerprinting to track the dispersal of post-fire runoff in these sensitive nearshore environments.

A man is leaning over and is scooping soil from a wildfire-charred hillslope and placing the soil in a sample bag.

Brett Tipple (University of California, Santa Cruz) collects a sample of charcoal and soil adjacent to a gully forming on a hillslope above Sonoma Creek, which was burned by the Nuns wildfire in October 2017.