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Tina Swanson, Director, Science Center, San Francisco

Tina Swanson

I have always loved fish. For my middle school science project, I tested the effect of population density on population growth with guppies — the result of my experiment was hundreds of guppies. So began my journey as a scientist. After completing my bachelor’s degree in biology at Cornell University and a couple of years teaching marine biology and maritime history at a southern California educational non-profit, my doctoral research with UCLA took me to Hawaii and to the Philippines as a Fulbright Fellow. Post-doctoral work at UC Davis brought me back home to the San Francisco Bay Area and new work on water and the fishes of California’s largest watershed and estuary. I made the leap into the science and policy arena in 1999, joining a local environmental NGO, The Bay Institute, as fisheries scientist and eventually serving as the organization’s Executive Director and Chief Scientist. In May 2011, I became Director of NRDC’s Science Center, a unique cross-program resource to support and enhance our scientific work.

Science is a foundational element of NRDC’s legal and advocacy work in environmental and public health protection. Today, as the country’s current political realities are placing the heritage and fundamental framework of our environmental protections at risk, science is also under attack. It has never been more important to communicate to policy-makers, influence-shapers, and the general public what science is telling us about the natural world and the systems on which all life depends.

Recent Posts

Scientists Speak Out to Support EPA's Watershed Assessment and Urge Protection of Bristol Bay

Posted February 4, 2014 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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“In my view, it is no longer acceptable for scientists to remain on the sidelines,” wrote Michael Mann in the New York Times last month. He went on to argue that if scientists do not engage to “ensure that the policy...continued

Science Makes the Case to Preserve the Bristol Bay Watershed

Posted February 4, 2014 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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This post was originally published on LiveScience. As a fish biologist who has worked for years to protect and restore California's beleaguered salmon fisheries, I have always been awed by — and a bit envious of — Alaska's Bristol Bay...continued

The Power of Measurement, Part II: Projected Freshwater Inflow to the San Francisco Bay Estuary with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Posted December 17, 2013 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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If your doctor, or even the pharmacist at your local drug store, measured your blood pressure, found that it was higher than what modern medicine tells us is healthy, and advised you to lose weight, get more exercise and reduce...continued

The Power of Measurement, Part I: The State of Freshwater Inflow to the San Francisco Bay Estuary

Posted December 16, 2013 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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I believe in the power of measurement. Since I’m a scientist, I suppose this is to be expected.  Measurements are a way to answer questions, spot patterns, and connect the dots.  They make you think and, at least for some...continued

Trouble Brewing in the Marriage of Science and Policy in the Bay-Delta

Posted February 20, 2013 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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Last October, I sat in a “town hall” meeting arranged to give scientists the opportunity to speak directly to policy-makers in charge of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The marriage of science and policy is a difficult but (usually) rewarding relationship....continued

Some Observations on What Really Drives Water Supply Reliability in California's Delta

Posted September 27, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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Yesterday, I posted this piece about California’s recent experiences with its Delta water supply and the challenges that the ongoing Bay Delta Conservation Plan process still faces to develop a plan to meet state-mandated co-equal goals to provide a “reliable water...continued

Feast and Famine: Time for a Reality Check on California's Quest for a Reliable Delta Water Supply

Posted September 26, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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In 2008 and 2009, supplies of water exported from California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta plummeted 37%, from a record high ten-year average of 5.6 million acre-feet per year during the previous decade to just 3.5 million acre-feet.[1]  Since Delta exports provide...continued

Anatomy of a Man-made Drought in the San Francisco Bay

Posted July 18, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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I grew up next to San Francisco Bay and these days I commute to my NRDC office by boat, riding the ferry past the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.   Most people know the Bay as the iconic backdrop...continued

California's Bay Delta Conservation Plan Has No Clothes

Posted April 17, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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Remember the story of the emperor’s new clothes?  Two tailors promise the emperor a magnificent suit of clothes made of fabric that is invisible to those who are unworthy of their positions.  The emperor, who can’t see the fabric himself...continued

New Lows in the War on Science - But This Time Science Wins One

Posted March 9, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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Imagine you’re sick and you go to the hospital seeking diagnosis and treatment from a doctor.  After taking your history, giving you a thorough examination and doing a huge number of expensive tests, your doctor determines that you are being...continued

Science in action: What do you do when you learn something new? Don't look to EPA's new beach pollution standards for a good example

Posted March 4, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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Science is an emergent process.  Now, before your eyes glaze over with this wonky jargon, this just means is that science, as a body of knowledge and as a method for figuring out things, is always growing.  It continuously builds...continued

When science is lost in translation: Lessons from California's Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Posted January 10, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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Yesterday, I posted this piece about the role of science in developing plans to solve environmental and public health problems.  Over the coming months, I’ll write about specific efforts that exemplify effective use of the “three step” approach and of the...continued

Science as a second language: Three simple steps for translating science into a plan

Posted January 9, 2012 by Tina Swanson in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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Listening to the news and public discourse these days, there seems to be a lot of confusion about science—what it is and what it’s good for.  Public understanding of science has fallen and, in some arenas, science is under attack,...continued

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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