Stanford University
Historical Ecology of the Upper San Francisquito Watershed
In collaboration with Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford Heritage Services, the Searsville Steering Committee and the broader community, this project reflects an ongoing academic engagement with the study of Stanford's ecological and historical context. The project's focus is the San Francisquito Creek watershed, home to the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.

Building on past efforts by Jon Christensen (Critical Habitat - checkerspot butterflies), we are developing a broad-scale regional historical ecologies highlighting the major land cover changes over the past two centuries and a detailed historical reconstruction of the Searsville Reservoir area circa 1800. 

The historical reconstruction starts with a somewhat detailed description of the evolution of the watershed over the last two centuries. This is a first step into a written and visual narrative of the rich history of the watershed. We focus on environmental changes, particularly land cover and hydrological changes that coincide with the establishment of nearby missions, logging, European-American settlement, the construction of the Searsville Dam and the subsequent 125 years of urbanization on the watershed. For this purpose multiple data sources are stapled together to give a view of the history of the watershed and its surroundings, describing some key historical events.

The historical reconstruction will be a hypothetical representation of the hydrology, topography, and landscape prior to the large-scale landscape change brought on by past 200 years of urbanization on the Peninsula. This creative effort will draw on the disciplines of history, hydrology, archaeology and botany in a series of workshops focused on reconstructing the historical ecology of this critical area. Our goal is to help visually untangle the delicate restoration decisions that will determine the long term future of this watershed.

Producing visual analogs for past landscapes allows us to envision a past and a possible future for ecological restoration. The results of this effort may help inform the decision-making process for the future of Searsville Dam and its sediment-filled reservoir, the center of a challenging restoration controversy balancing the habitat value of the human-made wetlands with that of the spawning restrictions on local salmonids and the potential downstream impacts on local properties. 

Former Lab Staff:
Matt Bryant
Former Research Assistant:
Matthew Walter

Critical Habitat
Jasper Ridge Bay Checkerspot Butterfly Populations, 1960-1998
Extinctions of Bay Checkerspot Butterfly Populations, 1960-2008

Spatial History