Science Center Objects

The Davis Field Station is home to research programs that focus on coastal ecosystem dynamics, ecological stressors, and their effects on wildlife populations. These studies primarily take place along the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to southern California. Current projects investigate sea-level rise along both coasts of North America, landscape-scale aquatic and terrestrial ecology, and disease susceptibility/immune function in a variety of marine and terrestrial organisms.

Located on the campus of the University of California, Davis, USGS ecologists collaborate with university faculty and federal and state agencies nationwide to address the following issues:

  • Distribution, fate, and effects of contaminants on marine vertebrates and invertebrates along the Pacific coast
  • Effects of thermal stress on migrating Chinook salmon
  • Effects of sea level rise on tidal wetlands along the Pacific coast
  • Ecological stressors on mangroves and marshes
  • Assessing impacts from sea-level rise and storms on wildlife

Scientists at the Davis Field Station assist or partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal, state, and local client agencies that include the California Bay Delta Authority, California Coastal Conservancy, and California Department of Fish and Game.

Collecting clams in Katmai National Park & Preserve

Photo credit: Jim Pfeiffenberger/NPS. WERC ecologist Lizabeth Bowen, right, and colleague search for intertidal clams in Katmai National Park & Preserve, AK. These clams serve as sentinels for the nearshore marine ecosystem, as well as provide food for grizzlies and other wildlife.


Project Lead/Lead Ecologist: Lizabeth Bowen

Lead ecologist, Dr. Lizabeth Bowen, and staff biologists study the physiological responses of diverse wildlife to stressors and changes in their environment. Their research is providing new insight into stressors affecting both coastal and desert ecosystems and informing the management of listed species such as the southern sea otter and Desert Bighorn Sheep. Broadly, Dr. Bowen’s research investigates:

  • Distribution, fate, and effects of contaminants on marine vertebrates and invertebrates in Alaska
  • Chinook salmon response to heat stress in the Yukon River, Alaska
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep
  • Polar bears
  • Brown bears
WERC scientists heading out onto the Petaluma River

Photo credit: Erika Sanchez-Chopitea/USGS. WERC biologists are measuring the elevation and other characteristics of Pacific tidal wetlands to anticipate how rising seas will affect them as far as a century into the future.


Principal Investigator: Karen Thorne

Tidal wetlands provide for both human and wildlife communities along coastlines. Threatened and endangered species depend on wetland habitat for food and shelter, while coastal towns benefit from healthier fisheries and protection from storm surges and flooding.

Projected rates of sea-level rise have the potential to drown these unique ecosystems and eliminate the services they offer. To inform their management, Dr. Karen Thorne and staff biologists are using field and laboratory data to predict how tidal wetlands worldwide will respond to anticipated rates of sea level rise through the end of the century.