Sam Veloz

Name: Sam Veloz
Position/Occupation: Climate Adaptation Group Director, Point Blue Conservation Science
May 2019

Sam Veloz has been working at Point Blue for the past 9 years. He was first hired as a Spatial Ecologist in 2010 before being promoted to Director of Point Blue’s Climate Adaptation Group in 2015.  In his current role Sam provides oversight and management for the San Francisco Bay Program, a tidal marsh monitoring program that has been going on annually since 1996 and tracks the occurrence and abundance of tidal marsh birds such as song sparrows and the federally endangered Ridgway’s Rail throughout the estuary. The data has been used to assess how tidal marsh birds are responding to management actions, including restoration. In 2013, the data helped project tidal marsh bird response to various scenarios of sea level rise and helped prioritize potential tidal marsh restoration projects. The study was published and can be found in Ecosphere.

At the start of 2019, SFBJV staff became employees of Point Blue, housed within the Climate Adaptation Group under the leadership of Sam. He also represents Point Blue on our Management Board and is co-chair of our Science Steering Committee. As part of Point Blue’s current 5 year strategic plan, Sam leads the Protecting Our Shorelines strategic initiative which is focused on conserving, enhancing and restoring coastal habitats to increase the resilience of both natural ecosystems and human communities. This work aligns very well with SFBJV goals to restore bayland habitats. Sam also led the SF Bay portion of the development of the Coastal Resilience Assessment tool, eliciting stakeholder input on relevant data and projects.

With our growing professional relationship, we wanted to know a little more about Sam Veloz and thought you might too! Sam grew up in Redwood City and spent most of his time exploring the open spaces surrounding his neighborhood with friends and family. As he got older, he was often found surfing in the Pacific ocean along the San Mateo and Santa Cruz coast. On one such occasion he had the unforgettable experience of floating on his board inches from a grey whale mother and her calf. For him the intimacy of the moment emphasized how amazing and immense the natural world is and made him realize “people can have a tremendous impact, both positive and negative, on the ability of the natural world to persist into the future.” These foundational experiences of connection with nature instilled in him the importance of protecting our natural environment.

Sam also clearly values and has a passion for research and learning as is demonstrated by his educational past and advanced degrees. He received his undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a Ph.D in ecology from UC Davis.

During the spring and summer of his Santa Cruz years, Sam worked for CA State Parks as a beach lifeguard. His connections with the State Parks led to a job working as an Environmental Services Intern with the Monterey District. That is when he first connected with Point Blue (PRBO at that time) while working on sand dune restoration as part of their effort to monitor and protect Western Snowy Plovers. In addition to restoring the dunes and adjacent beach habitat where the plovers were nesting, Sam helped erect nest fences and mapped the locations of the nests.

Prior to working with Point Blue, he was a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Jack Williams Paleoecology lab where he studied how species have responded to climate change events in the past.  He also assisted in the development of a web application that helped communicate future climate change to a general audience. This proved to be useful experience for his role in the development of decision support tools at Point Blue such as the San Francisco Bay Future Marshes Tool and Our Coast Our Future.

When Sam is not at meetings or his desk in Petaluma, he spends as much time as he can outside with friends and family – still out there surfing, backpacking, skiing and even paragliding. His family also loves to travel and together they “have made it to every continent except Asia and Antarctica.” This summer they spent three weeks in southern Portugal and Spain with a quick day trip to Tangier.  Next on the list…. you’ll have to ask Sam.