February 9, 2015 – San Diego, CA – The San Diego Foundation announced grants for three local climate change research projects from San Diego State University, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography that support up-and-coming scientists while improving the quality of life in San Diego.

The 2015 Environment Blasker awards total just over $117,000, and will help our region understand how insects can serve as an indicator of the overall health of our natural environment in a changing climate, as well as the effect of extreme weather and climate change on estuaries, bays and coastal wetlands. The grants are designed to advance The Foundation’s climate initiative by supporting research that enhances our understanding of how to address climate change in the San Diego region.

“While each project selected this year has a different emphasis, they share a common theme in that if we understand what changes we are already seeing and likely to see more of in the future, we can better protect the health of our environment for future generations,” San Diego Foundation Vice President of Community Impact Dr. Emily Young said.

The 2015 grants were awarded to:

San Diego State University
Arthropod Ecosystem Services as Indicators of Ecosystem Health and Resiliency for Conservation Management and Climate Change Planning
Principal Investigator: Dr. Douglas Deutschman
Why it matters: Arthropods are an integral but relatively poorly understood part of San Diego’s natural ecosystems. Arthropods generally go unnoticed, but are prized food for animals of conservation concern like cactus wrens and burrowing owls. They also provide valuable services to the entire ecosystem like pollination and decomposition.

Most people are surprised to hear that nature’s health depends on thousands of species of arthropods (yes, insects). This project will help researchers understand how nature’s functioning depends on the number and types of arthropods. Equipped with this knowledge, local agencies and land managers will be able to implement more effective management of San Diego’s precious natural resources.

UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Estuarine Response to Extreme Events: Storms and Droughts as Indicators of Future Climate Conditions in Southern California Estuaries and Bays
Principal Investigator: Dr. Sarah Giddings
Why it matters: Understanding how San Diego’s lagoon-type estuaries respond to extreme events (including large waves, wind, high precipitation, drought, etc.) will allow researchers to better understand valuable ecosystems, better predict their response to future change, and start to investigate whether they can provide a buffer region in a changing climate. The models developed will not only be scientifically valuable, but useful to help coastal managers plan for the future and for community education.

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association
Climate Change Impacts in San Diego’s Coastal Wetlands
Principal Investigator: Dr. Jeff Crooks
Why it matters: There is a growing body of work on how sea level rise might influence these sensitive systems, but the potential effects of factors such as increased water temperature and ocean acidification on wetland species and habitats is less well understood. The first step in the process is to mine available data to characterize the conditions that species within local wetlands already experience. For example, experts expect warming waters and decreased pH with climate change, but what do the species within these systems already experience? This project will look for answers and use that information to learn how to better interpret predicted changes in these drivers over time, as well as explore some potential biological responses to a changing climate.

The Blasker awards are made possible through the Blasker-Rose-Miah Fund at The San Diego Foundation. This $8.9 million endowment nurtures and develops unique and innovative discoveries and experiences that may be of benefit to all mankind. The fund supports and encourages individuals with high potential in the scientific, engineering, and medical fields to reach their full potential in their chosen areas of study, work, and analysis.

The fund was set up by former local aeronautical engineer Samuel L. Blasker to honor his mother, as well as foster scientific innovation. More than $1.95 million has supported early career scientists in research that advances solutions to the region’s most pressing environmental concerns. The Foundation has supported more than 20 climate change research projects in San Diego County to date, enhancing local planners’ understanding of greenhouse gas emissions sources, air pollution at the border, sea level rise and coastal flooding, as well as climate change impacts to our regional water supply and demand.

For more information about the Blasker-Rose-Miah Fund, visit sdfoundation.org/BlaskerEnvironment.

About The San Diego Foundation
Founded in 1975, The San Diego Foundation’s purpose is to promote and increase effective and responsible charitable giving. The Foundation manages more than $668 million in assets, more than half of which reside in permanent endowment funds that extend the impact of today’s gifts to future generations. Since its inception, The Foundation has granted more than $900 million to the San Diego region’s nonprofit community. For additional information, please visit The San Diego Foundation at sdfoundation.org.

Vince Heald, Beck Ellman Heald, 858-453-9600, vheald@behmedia.com
Theresa Nakata, The San Diego Foundation, 619-235-2300, theresan@sdfoundation.org