Andrew Gunther PhD

AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST
WHO SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE

AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST WHO SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE

English is my native tongue, but I speak science. I picked it up over 35 years working in my field.

Being fluent in both languages allows me to guide, inspire and advise people who believe there’s a lot at stake for this planet and everyone on it.

We’ve known about the physics driving climate change since the 19th century. It’s time to have a conversation about what a 21st century response looks like.

Background

I applied to be a NASA astronaut, fresh out of Amherst College. The rejection letter that arrived turned out to be a solid shove in the right direction.

I went back to school to earn a PhD in Energy & Resources from UC Berkeley. This led to an array of jobs from testing the impact of DDT on fish to restoring Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

After all I witnessed, I felt an irresistible pull to restore and protect the natural environment, especially close to home in the Bay Area.

I founded the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration in 2000, which became a regional leader in bringing salmon and steelhead back to California’s waterways.

Soon after, I started creating the first State of the Bay Report, an instrument still used today to help assess the health of the bay.

As a natural collaborator I’ve been asked to assemble expert teams, facilitate projects and assist government agencies, NGOs and private corporations like Google. I’m at my best when I can help even the most polarized groups find fact-based solutions in sync with the natural world.

Today I’m honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists and am inspired to make the truth about climate change accessible to all.

Background

I applied to be a NASA astronaut, fresh out of Amherst College. The rejection letter that arrived turned out to be a solid shove in the right direction.

I went back to school to earn a PhD in Energy & Resources from UC Berkeley. This led to an array of jobs from testing the impact of DDT on fish to restoring Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

After all I witnessed, I felt an irresistible pull to restore and protect the natural environment, especially close to home in the Bay Area.

I founded the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration in 2000, which became a regional leader in bringing salmon and steelhead back to California’s waterways.

Soon after, I started creating the first State of the Bay Report, an instrument still used today to help assess the health of the bay.

As a natural collaborator I’ve been asked to assemble expert teams, facilitate projects and assist government agencies, NGOs and private corporations like Google. I’m at my best when I can help even the most polarized groups find fact-based solutions in sync with the natural world.

Today I’m honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists and am inspired to make the truth about climate change accessible to all.

Field notes

ASSISTANT CHIEF SCIENTIST, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Program

An oil tanker had spilled 17 olympic-sized swimming pools of oil into one of the most remote, fragile and productive habitats in the world.

After the massive clean-up and spill response, I was hired to help develop and launch the restoration program. I began by coordinating the review of reports and proposals by calling on the expertise of over 90 top scientists (experts on shorebirds, marine mammals, river otters, seaweed, halibut, chemists, archaeologists, microbiologists, etc.) from around North America.

One day an armada of 60 fishing boats showed up on the horizon displaying banners and blaring horns demanding a more robust investigation of the damages of the oil spill to fisheries. Their blockade shut down the movement of all oil from the pipeline terminal, catching the attention of Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior. Once he agreed to invest $5 million to resolve this, we took the lead.

On a bluebird day in Cordova, we joined local fishermen and scientists from the area out on a dock and talked it out. Together we built the Sound Ecosystem Assessment Program that expanded our ecological understanding of the fisheries of Prince William Sound.

PHOTO: VANESSA VICK

A photo one of my coworkers took of the fishing boat blockade (below)

ASSISTANT CHIEF SCIENTIST, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Restoration Program

An oil tanker had spilled 17 olympic-sized swimming pools of oil into one of the most remote, fragile and productive habitats in the world.

After the massive clean-up and spill response, I was hired to help develop and launch the restoration program. I began by coordinating the review of reports and proposals by calling on the expertise of over 90 top scientists (experts on shorebirds, marine mammals, river otters, seaweed, halibut, chemists, archaeologists, microbiologists, etc.) from around North America.

One day an armada of 60 fishing boats showed up on the horizon displaying banners and blaring horns demanding a more robust investigation of the damages of the oil spill to fisheries. Their blockade shut down the movement of all oil from the pipeline terminal, catching the attention of Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior. Once he agreed to invest $5 million to resolve this, we took the lead.

On a bluebird day in Cordova, we joined local fishermen and scientists from the area out on a dock and talked it out. Together we built the Sound Ecosystem Assessment Program that expanded our ecological understanding of the fisheries of Prince William Sound.

PHOTO: VANESSA VICK

A photo one of my coworkers took of the fishing boat blockade (below)

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, Katmai National Park

My quest to understand the impacts of acid rain took me to one of the most remote places in the United States: Katmai National Park.

They say you can cross the creeks in this 4 million acres of Alaskan wilderness by walking across the backs of salmon. The rivers in this region feed Bristol Bay, the greatest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

I flew in on an amphibious aircraft. The windows went underwater upon landing and remained partially submerged until we rolled up onto the beach. Some days were spent collecting and measuring water samples, sometimes requiring me to precariously lean over the front end of a floatplane in the middle of icy-cold lakes.

The chemical signature of human activity, undetectable to the eye, showed up even in this wild and pristine landscape. I returned with a commitment to preserve and restore the wild parts of places closer to home.

My “office” with a fence to annoy interested grizzly bears

Enjoying a break from heavy rains while sampling the chemistry of Brooks Lake

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, Katmai Regional Park

My quest to understand the impacts of acid rain took me to one of the most remote places in the United States: Katmai National Park.

They say you can cross the creeks in this 4 million acres of Alaskan wilderness by walking across the backs of salmon. The rivers in this region feed Bristol Bay, the greatest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.

I flew in on an amphibious aircraft. The windows went underwater upon landing and remained partially submerged until we rolled up onto the beach. Some days were spent collecting and measuring water samples, sometimes requiring me to precariously lean over the front end of a floatplane in the middle of icy-cold lakes.

The chemical signature of human activity, undetectable to the eye, showed up even in this wild and pristine landscape. I returned with a commitment to preserve and restore the wild parts of places closer to home.

Enjoying a break from heavy rains while sampling the chemistry of Brooks Lake

My “office” with a fence to annoy interested grizzly bears

PROJECT LEADER, "State of the Bay" Report

With funding from the US Environmental Agency and the state of California, I took on a Herculean task: to find out if San Francisco Bay is healthy. Before beginning, it took me and my colleagues a decade to invent a method, bring the right experts together and figure out how to organize masses of data on everything from wetlands to wildlife, pollution to dredging, salt ponds to bay trails. Only with that underway could we find out if we were doing enough to protect the health of the bay.

The first report made its debut in 2011. It was given the banner headline in the SF Chronicle. In the Mercury News I was quoted saying, “We still have a way to go. Starting with the Gold Rush, we had a century of degrading the bay. And we’ve only been restoring it since the early 1970s.”

I’m proud to say the State of the Bay report continues on today. If you want to know if it’s safe to swim in the bay, eat fish you catch or find out if invasive species of plants are on the rise, it’s the place to look.

PHOTO: JUDY IRVING

San Francisco Bay is a vital stopover for birds migrating along the coast of North America

PROJECT LEADER, "State of the Bay" Report

With funding from the US Environmental Agency and the state of California, I took on a Herculean task: to find out if San Francisco Bay is healthy. Before beginning, it took me and my colleagues a decade to invent a method, bring the right experts together and figure out how to organize masses of data on everything from wetlands to wildlife, pollution to dredging, salt ponds to bay trails. Only with that underway could we find out if we were doing enough to protect the health of the bay.

The first report made its debut in 2011. It was given the banner headline in the SF Chronicle. In the Mercury News I was quoted saying, “We still have a way to go. Starting with the Gold Rush, we had a century of degrading the bay. And we’ve only been restoring it since the early 1970s.”

I’m proud to say the State of the Bay report continues on today. If you want to know if it’s safe to swim in the bay, eat fish you catch or find out if invasive species of plants are on the rise, it’s the place to look.

PHOTO: JUDY IRVING

San Francisco Bay is a vital stopover for birds migrating along the coast of North America

ADVISOR, Emmy Award Winning Series “The Years of Living Dangerously”

Through celebrity reporters and master storytellers, I watched the science of climate change become gripping television.

I worked with the producers on story ideas and offered background information on climate change solutions in California. The episode “The Death of the Central Valley” warns of a global water crisis featuring our struggle with drought.

I didn’t get to shake Don Cheadle’s hand but I did get an invitation to the premiere at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was a night to celebrate science and communication joining forces for urgent climate awareness. Being part of an effort that is reaching tens of million people through the show and social media was powerful.

PHOTO: TARMO HARNULA/
REGISTER PAJARONIAN

ADVISOR, Emmy Award Winning Series “The Years of Living Dangerously”

Through celebrity reporters and master storytellers, I watched the science of climate change become gripping television.

I worked with the producers on story ideas and offered background information on climate change solutions in California. The episode “The Death of the Central Valley” warns of a global water crisis featuring our struggle with drought.

I didn’t get to shake Don Cheadle’s hand but I did get an invitation to the premiere at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was a night to celebrate science and communication joining forces for urgent climate awareness. Being part of an effort that is reaching tens of million people through the show and social media was powerful.

PHOTO: TARMO HARNULA/
REGISTER PAJARONIAN

VICE PRESIDENT, Applied Marine Sciences

When a whale carcass washes up it’s an opportunity to learn about pollution out in the ocean. My skills with “ultra-clean” lab techniques landed me jobs sampling whales in the early 1990s. The canoe ride to a whale on the Emeryville flats was nothing compared to crossing the Golden Gate channel to a whale near Diablo Point. That required an ocean-going zodiac, a dry suit to keep from freezing and an iron stomach. On the docks of the Tiburon marine laboratory I assisted in a full dissection of a grey whale. I positioned myself upwind as often as possible.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration (CEMAR)

Working with engineering partners we developed designs to modify barriers like bridge supports that prevented salmon and steelhead from migrating to the streams where they were born. Absent for over 50 years, you can now see them thriving in Napa River, Sonoma Creek and other Bay Area waters.

PROJECT LEADER, Regional Monitoring Program San Francisco Bay

I pulled together a team of scientists from UC Santa Cruz and other labs to beat out two goliath consulting firms. Our prize was to provide the state for the first time with regular credible measurements of water quality at the parts per billion level. We boated out with coolers of clams, mussels, oysters to different locations in the Bay Area and suspended them in cages below the surface. Months and many trips later, these filter-feeders (plus samples from bay mud and water) yielded 40,000 data points and valuable clues for regulating contaminants in the bay.

Taking a whale sample so that EPA scientists could test its blubber for toxic chemicals

Roped together for safety due to zero visibility at depth, divers deploy caged clams as pollution monitors

VICE PRESIDENT, Applied Marine Sciences

When a whale carcass washes up it’s an opportunity to learn about pollution out in the ocean. My skills with “ultra-clean” lab techniques landed me jobs sampling whales in the early 1990s. The canoe ride to a whale on the Emeryville flats was nothing compared to crossing the Golden Gate channel to a whale near Diablo Point. That required an ocean-going zodiac, a dry suit to keep from freezing and an iron stomach. On the docks of the Tiburon marine laboratory I assisted in a full dissection of a grey whale. I positioned myself upwind as often as possible.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration (CEMAR)

Working with engineering partners we developed designs to modify barriers like bridge supports that prevented salmon and steelhead from migrating to the streams where they were born. Absent for over 50 years, you can now see them thriving in Napa River, Sonoma Creek and other Bay Area waters.

PROJECT LEADER, Regional Monitoring Program San Francisco Bay

I pulled together a team of scientists from UC Santa Cruz and other labs to beat out two goliath consulting firms. Our prize was to provide the state for the first time with regular credible measurements of water quality at the parts per billion level. We boated out with coolers of clams, mussels, oysters to different locations in the Bay Area and suspended them in cages below the surface. Months and many trips later, these filter-feeders (plus samples from bay mud and water) yielded 40,000 data points and valuable clues for regulating contaminants in the bay.

Taking a whale sample so that EPA scientists could test its blubber for toxic chemicals

Roped together for safety due to zero visibility at depth, divers deploy caged clams as pollution monitors

EXPLORER, from the Galapagos to Antarctica

To a scientist it doesn’t get much better than traveling to one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Species of plants and animals exist in the Galapagos that can be seen nowhere else on earth.

A few years after being there, I was in London at the Natural History Museum, Darwin Centre. I walked right up to glass jars of specimens Darwin collected during his trip to the Galapagos in 1835. The labels were written in his own hand. I felt part of a continuum of scientists searching to understand the natural world.

I’ve set foot on every continent on earth.

From the icy shores of Antarctica to the warm plateaus of Uganda, where I poked my head out of the sunroof of a Volkswagon van to take in the wildlife. At that time humans were just the observers and not a force on the landscape.

I can tell you about the time I was charged by a rhino, but I’m just as passionate talking science. Because science is a universal language, one that is understood wherever you go.

I was right next to the photographer when this Humpback whale breached

EXPLORER, from the Galapagos to Antarctica

To a scientist it doesn’t get much better than traveling to one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Species of plants and animals exist in the Galapagos that can be seen nowhere else on earth.

A few years after being there, I was in London at the Natural History Museum, Darwin Centre. I walked right up to glass jars of specimens Darwin collected during his trip to the Galapagos in 1835. The labels were written in his own hand. I felt part of a continuum of scientists searching to understand the natural world.

I’ve set foot on every continent on earth.

From the icy shores of Antarctica to the warm plateaus of Uganda, where I poked my head out of the sunroof of a Volkswagon van to take in the wildlife. At that time humans were just the observers and not a force on the landscape.

I can tell you about the time I was charged by a rhino, but I’m just as passionate talking science. Because science is a universal language, one that is understood wherever you go.

I was right next to the photographer when this Humpback whale breached