Out West student blog

Studying My Favorite Estuary: A Wetlander's Perspective

David Lüdeke, photo taken by his father, sitting on the railing of the backyard deck casually reading the BLC website homepage.

By David Lüdeke '21
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Major: Environmental Systems Engineering (Coastal Track)
Resilient Landscapes Program Intern, The San Francisco Estuary Institute

Why did you want to do this internship?

I wanted to do this internship because I knew it would give me the opportunity to directly contribute to environmental work being done in my own community. Although I grew up in San Francisco, prior to this internship I didn’t have much experience studying the ecology of the Bay—much less the historical ecology. I was excited by the prospect of gaining a deeper understanding of my favorite estuary while at the same time contributing directly to the many efforts underway to preserve and restore the Bay.

How does your role support the host organization’s mission? 

My role supports SFEI’s mission of producing quality science that informs environmental management because I am able to devote extra time to aspects of projects that might otherwise be limited by funding. As a nonprofit organization that gets the vast majority of its funding through deliverables and products (like management or restoration plans for a given city/county/watershed), SFEI needs to be strategic about how they complete projects. My work on a couple of those projects helps to free up other employees, allowing them to make the most of their talents and experience.

Describe a project you will be working on this summer. 

One project I’ll be working on this summer is called Hidden Nature San Francisco, and it aims to provide the public with information on the fascinating historical ecology of San Francisco. Members of the Resilient Landscapes team at SFEI have been working to reconstruct the pre-contact landscape of SF and understand not only what it looked like but also how it functioned—including what wildlife was present. Most of the research and synthesis stages of the project have been completed, so I’ll be helping out more with the final stage: public outreach and engagement. This will involve helping to write an interactive web-based story map of SF’s nature, and may even involve creating scientific illustrations to aid in communicating with the public.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals? 

As an Environmental Systems Engineering major focusing on Coastal Systems, I find this project to be a great opportunity for me to analyze and understand the more ecological and biological processes that shape coastal systems. It is also a perfect opportunity to further develop my skills in science communication. I’m pursuing a Notation in Science Communication through Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR), and it’s amazing to be able to work on science communication that will reach a wide public audience. I’m hoping to apply both my writing and illustration/design skills in communicating this science.

Pine tree (center back) behind my backyard where a pair of red-tailed hawks are nesting—during a Zoom meeting, my co-worker asked if there were red-tailed hawks nesting outside; she had recognized the calls they make to their young (even though I was inside and wearing headphones! I guess the screeches were pretty piercing, plus my coworker is a very experienced birder). (Photo credit: David Lüdeke)

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Visual art in general is something I like to do when I have the time. I love to draw and paint, and right now my favorite medium to work with is watercolor. Aside from art, I’ve recently enjoyed walks around the neighborhood with my dog, an occasional run to Ocean Beach, and listening to extremely long fantasy audiobooks read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (currently on Book 7 of the Wheel of Time series).








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