A Feathery Cheer for New Adventures

A view of the ocean and isolated outcrops of rock

A Feathery Cheer for New Adventures

Hi everyone! My name is Avani Fachon, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a Science Communication Assistant with the San Francisco Bay Area Inventory & Monitoring Network (SFAN) this summer.


When I arrived at Fort Cronkhite last week and pulled open the curtains in my new dorm room, I couldn’t believe that my view was the silvery-blue Pacific Ocean. I unpacked my suitcases and took a walk on Rodeo Beach, marveling at the crashing waves and the foggy, windswept landscape (the fog, I have been told, is named Karl). Below my feet were glossy red, green, yellow, and black chert pebbles, pushed and tossed by strong currents. The beach separates the ocean from the Rodeo Lagoon, home to a web of diverse species, including the endangered tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberri) and the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii). I was especially touched when I saw barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) soaring above the lagoon, foraging for flying insects. For more than two years, I have studied Colorado barn swallows with CU Boulder’s Safran Lab, and it felt like these familiar birds— still performing their everyday chatter and behaviors which I witnessed so many times against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, and now, the Pacific Ocean— were sending me feathery cheer for this new adventure.

Close-up of a hand holding a newt
Holding a California rough-skinned newt
A close-up of a purple, blue, and white flower
A lupine growing near to Rodeo Beach
Close-up of a hand holding dark colored pebbles
Glossy pebbles on Rodeo Beach

SFAN monitors twelve different “vital signs”— particular animals, habitats, and abiotic factors which are indicators of the health of their ecosystems. These vital signs, which range from Western snowy plovers, to rocky intertidal habitats, to streamflow, all provide valuable information about the health of park ecosystems. During my internship, I’ll have the opportunity to join field teams studying vital signs in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Pinnacles National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Muir Woods, and John Muir National Historic Site. I’ll be creating outreach materials, which share what network scientists are learning from these vital signs monitoring programs, and why this information is important to better understanding and protecting these important ecosystems.


During my first week, I had the opportunity to join the salmonid monitoring, one of the network’s vital signs programs. On Redwood Creek (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) and Olema Creek (Point Reyes National Seashore), the salmonid team has set up traps where they can capture and monitor coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), an endangered species. Sometimes, other species, such as the California rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa), get caught in these traps as well—one of my favorite moments of my first week was getting to hold one of these incredible little creatures. I’m looking forward to joining other vital signs field teams throughout the summer!


As someone interested in combining ecological research with media-making (in 2021, I graduated with a B.A. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Media Production), being a Science Communication Assistant is a dream role, and I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to develop my science communication skills in such a beautiful environment. Everything which I have experienced this week—the coho salmon, the newts, the windswept beach, and Karl the fog—have only made me even more excited for the adventures to come.

Landscape view of a beach and a fence (foreground), with a row of white buildings and a lagoon (background).
Offices and dorms at Fort Cronkhite, which overlook Rodeo Beach and the Rodeo Lagoon
Purple flowers (foreground) and green hills (background
Grassy cliffs above Rodeo Beach
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