In 2019, the PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem Fellowship was established to help turn science into action by shaping and improving water management in California. For the first few years of the fellowship, we worked with early- and mid-career experts in freshwater ecosystems to produce groundbreaking reports on environmental flows, advancing ecosystem restoration with smarter permitting, and improving reservoir operations to help freshwater ecosystems.
This year, we’ve decided to try something different: We’re going to look at the human dimension of three river restoration projects. We’re bringing on three early- to mid-career journalists to report on community involvement in restoration efforts on a trio of critical but under-reported rivers: the Eel River, the San Joaquin River, and Trabuco Creek.
Why put the spotlight on community engagement in river restoration?
Restoration is becoming increasingly urgent for the state’s freshwater ecosystems, but as experiences on the Klamath River have shown, community involvement in the process is key. A lack of community engagement during river restoration can lead to poorer outcomes for communities and for the restoration effort itself.
Each fellow will take an in-depth look at community participation in the restoration projects and author at least one feature-length story on the river.
While the fellows will have broad leeway to shape the stories they’ll be telling, we are asking them to capture a picture of what community engagement looks like in each of these river basins. What’s working—and what’s not? Where are the pain points? Where are the unlikely partnerships? How were conflicts resolved? Where can we celebrate success?
In the coming months, the three PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem fellows will seek answers to these and other important questions. The fellows are:
- Francisco Martínezcuello is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He served 20 years in the US Marine Corps with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His writing focuses on the environment, science, and military affairs/veterans’ issues. Publications and more can be found on his website. He will be reporting on Orange County’s Trabuco Creek, the historic site of a significant steelhead trout run.
- Cameron Nielsen is a San Francisco Bay Area-based documentary filmmaker who loves telling cinematic stories with an important message. He has published films with PBS “Truly CA” and screened at festivals such as Mountainfilm. Cameron has worked as a freelance producer and cinematographer for organizations such as Business Insider and AJ+. Cameron recently graduated from the documentary program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He will be reporting on the Eel River in northwestern California.
- Molly Peterson is a reporter focused on science, climate change, catastrophe, and risk in the west. She began her career as an environment reporter covering water, and specifically the San Joaquin River, for KQED in 2003. Then she reported on Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, including on ecosystem restoration and coastal water issues. For many years, she was environment correspondent at Southern California Public Radio. More recently, her work has appeared at The New York Times, The Guardian, on NPR, at High Country News, on Code Switch, and other national outlets. She will be reporting on the San Joaquin River, the longest river in Central California and the site of an ambitious restoration program.
We hope you’ll join us in welcoming the three 2022–23 PPIC CalTrout fellows, and we look forward to sharing their work with you as it progresses.
We’re grateful to the donors who make the PPIC CalTrout Ecosystem Fellowship possible: Gary and Delores Arabian, John S. Osterweis, Pat and Berniece Patterson, and the Rosenberg Ach Foundation.