Current Projects

The California Grizzly Research Network is pursuing around twenty distinct but interrelated projects, from academic journal articles to books, meetings, multimedia materials, and educational curricula. This page contains only projects that are well underway as of summer 2017, one year into our group's work. For a list of future and proposed projects, click here.               

1. Public Knowledge Of and Attitudes About California Grizzlies

This project uses a public opinion survey of California residents to understand their knowledge of and attitudes about grizzlies, what they believe could be the costs and benefits of having grizzlies here, and to what extent they support grizzly reintroduction. Our group is particularly interested in whether there are differences in knowledge or attitudes between the state’s urban and rural residents. California is the most urban state in the nation, with 95 percent of its nearly 40 million people living in cities. Yet, rural residents would be more likely to feel the effects—both positive and negative—of a grizzly reintroduction effort.

Preliminary results suggest that differences among rural and urban constituencies are modest, and that Californians generally support the idea of reintroduction. Yet residents know little about the history or status of grizzlies in this state, or the complex issues that reintroduction presents. Around 75 percent of Californians, for example, aren’t aware that grizzlies do not currently exist in the wild here. 

Team members: Chris Miljanich, Sarah E. Anderson, Elizabeth Hiroyasu, Alex DeGolia

2. Historical Grizzly Diet in California

Grizzlies are omnivores. They eat fungi, insects, rodents, fish, and ungulates such as deer and elk. They also eat a variety of plants including berries, roots, nuts, and grasses. Grizzlies seek the most nutritious foods, but the kinds of foods available to them vary by location and season. Most research on grizzly diet and ecology in North America has focused on mountainous or boreal regions such as the Northern Rockies, British Columbia, and Alaska—places quite different from California.

When animals such as grizzlies (or humans) eat, the elements in their foods leave traces in their body tissues. In this project, we are seeking to understand how grizzlies' diets varied through time and space in California using a well-established scientific method called stable isotope analysis. Our goals are both to understand the historical ecology of grizzlies here and to provide information that will help us map potential future grizzly habitat in this state.

Team members: Alexis Mychajliw, Andrea Adams, Kevin Brown, Mark Page, Molly Hardesty-Moore, Peter Alagona, Scott Cooper, Zoe Welch

3. Mapping Potential Grizzly Habitat in California

Grizzly bears are wide-ranging creatures able to exploit diverse resources and live in a remarkable assortment of habitats, from rainforests to deserts, wherever people are willing to tolerate them. This project uses historical records, biological data, social data, geographic information systems, and computer models of population viability to create maps of potential future grizzly habitat in California.

We are attempting to answer three questions: (1) Where in California does potential future grizzly habitat exist? (2) Is there enough of this habitat, with sufficient resources and connectivity, to support one or more viable populations? (3) Where are the hot spots within and around these potential habitat areas that present the greatest risk for conflict between grizzlies and people?

Team members: Kevin Brown, Elizabeth Forbes, Molly Hardesty-Moore, Robert Heilmayr, Elizabeth Hiroyasu, Lacey Hughey, Bruce Kendall, Ian McCullough

4. BearMap: A Historical Atlas of California Grizzlies

Wild grizzlies may not live in California today, but they left a rich historical record of their long presence in this state in the form of documents, biological specimens, artwork, place names, and monuments.

This project is bringing together these diverse forms of evidence to create an interactive digital atlas of California's missing mascot. Users will be able to search the atlas by time and place, locating historical grizzly observations and finding primary source materials documenting these animals' remarkable history.

We anticipate posting the atlas on this website by the fall of 2017.

Team members: Robert Heilmayr, Andrea Anderiasian, Kevin Brown, Pete Alagona

5. Grizzly Ethics, Values, and Policy

In the spring of 2017, the California Grizzly Study Group teamed up with the Committee on Environmental Thought at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to examine the ethics and values of grizzly reintroduction in California and the Southwest. Potential topics for future study include human responsibilities to eradicated species, the prioritization of scarce conservation resources, the dangers to individual animals posed by population-level recovery programs, public safety and risk perception, the distribution of social costs and benefits associated with reintroduction proposals, and the relations between law and ethics in conservation. Stay tuned for more information as this exciting new collaboration develops.

Team members: Peter Alagona, Jennifer Martin, Zoe Welch, Elizabeth Forbes, Brian Tyrrell, Benjamin Hale, Alexander P. Lee, Lydia Anne Lawhon, Harry Brann, Alex Hamilton

6. Defining the "Extinction Gap"

For this paper project, we are using the California grizzly as a case study to think more broadly about species reintroduction. The literature on reintroduction has grown significantly in recent years. Yet, scholars have paid little attention to questions of history and time, even though many key factors can change during the interval between a local extinction and a reintroduction effort. These include changes in the biophysical environment, changes in the socio-cultural environment, and changes in scientific knowledge. We call this complex constellation of changes the "extinction gap." In our draft manuscript, scheduled for submission in winter 2018, we coin and define the concept of the extinction gap and explore its importance in species reintroduction efforts.

Team members: Peter Alagona, Bruce Kendall, Sarah Anderson, Ian McCullugh, Andrea Adams, Kevin Brown, Molly Hardesty-Moore, Scott Cooper, Zoe Welch, Elizabeth Hiroyasu, Chris Miljanich, Jolie Colby, Jennifer Martin.

7. Little Bruins: A Grizzly Bear Curriculum for California Kids

Californians are increasingly interested in the past, present, and future of grizzlies in their state, yet our research shows that they know little about these iconic animals. The California Grizzly Study Group plans several education and outreach initiatives, and one of our most important audiences is children.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, this project will work with undergraduate students training for careers in environmental education to create a project-based curriculum on grizzly bear history, science, and conservation for two- to five-year-olds. We will develop this curriculum in prekindgergarten classes at the UCSB Children’s Center, and then look to expand it outward from there.

Team members: Jolie Colby

8. The Ecology of Reintroduction

Reintroducing grizzly bears would affect other species in California. What are the potential ecological impacts of reintroducing grizzlies, and what might their return do to other species of interest--such as mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and feral pigs--in the Golden State? This project seeks to answer these and other questions through a review of the literature and modeling exercise. Its goal is help scientists and managers better understand the potential ecological repercussions of bringing back grizzlies, and develop testable hypothesis that could contribute to the management of these and other important wildlife species.

Project leader: Scott Cooper
Other team members will be announced in winter 2018.