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Tioga Pass watch: Current conditions

May 20th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Dana Meadows, at the top of Tioga Pass, looking northeast towards Tioga Peak. Photo by Nora Livingston.

On Saturday, May 18, I tagged along with a researcher studying sparrows up Tioga Pass. We drove all the way to the Yosemite National Park entrance station to check out the current conditions and set up a weather station for her study plot. It is still a winter wonderland up there! … more »

Court memorial honors Judge Finney

May 17th, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

On the wall at Mono Lake Committee headquarters, quietly perched above the fray, it reads, “People protecting Mono Lake for future generations.” There are many protectors—birders, scientists, students, lawyers … a bright star in that constellation, Terrence Finney passed away in November 2018, but his legacy will forever shine at Mono Lake.

Honored to have been part of hearings in his courtroom: restoration consultant Scott English, hydrogeographer Peter Vorster, and attorney Richard Roos-Collins with a photo (from Storm Over Mono) of Judge Terrence Finney, at the court memorial in January. Photo courtesy of Richard Roos-Collins.

According to the El Dorado County Superior Court, in Judge Finney’s 20 years of service, the Mono Lake case was “the biggest case of his career.” It certainly was vital to the protection of Mono Lake and restoration of the tributary streams.

In 1989 Judge Finney’s courtroom became the epicenter of … more »

Record attendance at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival

May 15th, 2019 by Joslyn, Project Specialist

The Mono Lake Committee hosted our eighth annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Pasadena and Santa Monica this past March.

The Committee’s eighth annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival in LA was a great success. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Each year Committee staff migrate to Los Angeles to bring a selection of inspiring films to our friends and members on the southern end of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. This year marked … more »

2019 Andrea Lawrence Award presented to Elsa Lopez

May 10th, 2019 by Anna, Philanthropy Director

Community members, friends, and family of Andrea Mead Lawrence gathered at Mammoth Mountain’s Parallax Restaurant on May 3 to present Los Angeles community leader Elsa Lopez with the 2019 Andrea Lawrence Award.

Current and former Mono Lake Committee staff with Quentin Lawrence and 2019 award recipient Elsa Lopez (second and third from left). Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Elsa is a pioneering educator and activist committed to strengthening the link between Los Angeles and Mono Lake. Beginning in the 1980s, Elsa engaged her organization, Mothers of East Los Angeles–Santa Isabel, in the successful implementation of LA’s ultra-low-flush toilet retrofit program, creating effective water conservation solutions in her community. … more »

Birds galore in the Mono Basin

May 9th, 2019 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

On Saturday, May 4, I participated in the eBird Global Big Day, which encourages birders around the world to contribute to citizen science efforts by birding and entering checklists into eBird on a single day.

Green-tailed Towhee singing from a pinyon pine. Photo by Nora Livingston.

I decided to use this Big Day as a chance to scout my local hotspots and catch up with migration. In the past two weeks, neotropical migrants have been moving north to their breeding grounds, so there have been new species arriving daily. As the … more »

Vorster Center tackles critical hydrology questions

May 6th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

For over 40 years, the Mono Lake Committee has pursued the best scientific understanding of Mono Basin hydrology. Last year we created the Vorster Center for Mono Basin Hydrology (see Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter) to address new questions in an era of climate change and to serve as a hub for data collection, modeling, analysis, forecasting, and real world hydrology applications. The Vorster Center is not a physical space, rather … more »

Lake level forecast report: net lake rise of 1.5 feet this water year

May 2nd, 2019 by Arya, Communications Director

April 1 is the start of the 2019–2020 runoff year, celebrated by the official reading of the lake level. From there both the Mono Lake Committee and DWP take snowpack numbers, similar year types, and a bunch of other statistical data, crunch it all together, and come up with the Mono Lake Level Forecast report for the runoff year.

This year’s forecast is for a 1.5 foot net rise, which means that on April 1, 2020 we expect Mono Lake to be 1.5 feet higher than … more »

California Gulls at Mono Lake featured on Science Friday

May 1st, 2019 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator

It wasn’t long ago when Mono Lake’s unique alkali flies made a splash in the news, and today another iconic Mono Basin animal is making headlines on Science Friday: the California Gull. Beloved by some and unpopular with others, the California Gull is a bird that is sure to generate a reaction—whether it’s of awe of their seasonal migration to inland salt lakes, like Mono, or of irritation because a clever gull once stole your ice cream cone.

Regardless of how you feel about California Gulls, Mono Lake provides a critical nesting habitat for these birds as well as an abundant natural food supply of brine shrimp and alkali flies. In the video posted today on Science Friday’s website, Kristie Nelson, Mono Lake Gull Project manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, discusses her research on this important population of birds at Mono Lake, numbering in the tens of thousands—one of the largest colonies of California Gulls in the world. I hope this video gives you a newfound appreciation for the gulls and Mono Lake.

Policy notes from the Mono Lake Newsletter

April 30th, 2019 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

Caltrans Lee Vining US 395 Rehab Project

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is developing plans for a new highway project along five miles of Highway 395.

Plans for the Caltrans Rehab Project include significant amenities for the town of Lee Vining, such as upgrading sidewalks and drainage, replacing pavement, and improving safety. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The project area is between Highway 120 west and Cemetery Road past The Mono Inn (see Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter). The Lee Vining US 395 Rehab Project will replace pavement throughout the project area, improve sidewalks and curbs in Lee Vining, upgrade drainage systems, and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

While the in-town section allows for significant … more »

A growing problem for California Gulls: Invasive weed rapidly encroaches on nesting habitat

April 24th, 2019 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

Last century’s water diversions from the Mono Basin greatly changed the ecosystem of Mono Lake, and that legacy continues to test successive generations of California Gulls. A falling lake level, the first emergence of the landbridge in 1979, coyotes crossing to Negit Island, and gulls abandoning their once-secure breeding colony—these were tragic events. California Gulls (Larus californicus) became one of the rallying points for saving Mono Lake, and while the colony suffered, the birds adapted and shifted nesting to the newly-emerged islets adjacent to Negit that provided refuge from coyotes because they were still surrounded by water.

By 2018, Bassia hyssopifolia had spread rapidly on the Negit Islets, significantly reducing California Gull nesting habitat. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Challenges stack up

Because of lake level fluctuations the coyote problem never completely went away, and even … more »

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