Exploring the Presido Trust

Western Pond Turtle. Photo © W. St. John.

Western Pond Turtle. Photo © W. St. John.

By: Noah Henry

On Friday, October 23, our class visited the Presidio of San Francisco which was hosted by members of Presidio Trust. We left Sonoma State at around 9 AM and arrived between 11 and 12 PM. Our mission was to witness a restoration project in action and learn more about what was going on in Presidio of San Francisco.

Jason Lizenby, our guide, started us off by explaining what the Presidio was all about; its features, accomplishments, projects, goals, and more information. We learned that Presidio Trust is a federal agency that was created to save and protect the Presidio of San Francisco: a former military base that was turned into a park. It consists of much biodiversity, a forest, trails, two watersheds, Mountain Lake, and surrounding historical buildings. Some of the work that has been undertaken in the Presidio includes improving habitat values of degraded ecosystems, restoring historical buildings in the park and making them habitable again, and attempting to bring back biodiversity to natural areas.

The class  visited several interesting sites at the Presidio. There was a valley we looked upon that was restored in the 1990’s. It was a very disturbed habit from previous military use. The valley looked in great shape with lots of introduced and restored species of vegetation. We even saw a coyote.

Our friend at Presidio

Our friend at Presidio. Photo Credit. Noah Henry

There was also a restored site nicknamed “Deadman’s Dunes” which was fenced off.  Lew Stringer, a staff ecologist,  gave us the story of this habitat.  The dunes has areas of natural and reintroduced vegetation which covered landfills filled with dead bodies. What made it even more impressive was that it used to be a parking lot. Now the site has attracted species such as pocket gophers and different species of birds and has multiple vegetations types.


A restored habitat. With dead bodies

A restored habitat with dead bodies beneath. Photo Credit. Noah Henry.

We also visited Mountain Lake. The Presidio again wanted to turn something disturbed into a functioning ecosystem. Currently the staff is trying to prepare and protect Mountain Lake and other sites from the upcoming El Nino and potential stormwater. Some of the changes they made to Mountain Lake include removing sedimentation from the lake in 2013 and establishing more aquatic species partially by controlling algae growth.


We learned the lake is ready for reintroduction of several species such as the Stickleback. We got good information from Dana Terry, a Sonoma State graduate student who works at the presidio; about the successful reintroduction of Western Pond Turtles to Mountain Lake and how Sonoma State helped made the reintroduction possible. Currently  50-52 out of the original 54 turtles remain in Mountain Lake. They are tracked with attached tags and individual codes. A highlight for many students was when Dana Terry took two of the turtles out of a trap by the lake to show us.

Turtle at Mammoth Lake. Photo Credit. Noah henry

Turtle at Mountain Lake.
Photo Credit. Noah Henry

Overall it was a nice getaway trip for the day. It was informative, fun, and relaxing and there were a lot of neat sights to see.