Faces of Conservation: Jaymee Marty

California Grasslands

View a slideshow of the California grasslands.

"If you think about things a little differently, sometimes the answer’s right in front of you."

Jaymee Marty, lead scientist for the Central Valley and Mountains region

Jaymee Marty, lead scientist for the Central Valley and Mountains region, uses her scientific findings to solve real-world environmental challenges. She is a major in the Air Force Reserves and in her spare time is a marathon runner trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials.

I love grasslands. I love the open expanses, that huge canvas of a landscape. As a scientist, I want to answer fundamental questions about their conservation and restoration.

I’ve undertaken a 10-year study looking into the effects that cattle grazing has on vernal pool grasslands. These are seasonal wetlands found in California that support hundreds of plant and animal species.

Of Pools and Cows

I learned that grazing is important to maintaining the pools. Cattle grazing keeps the non-native grasses from crowding out the native plants and sucking up all the water in the pool. Non-grazed pools have a much shorter lifespan, significantly impacting the species that depend on them.

My research shows that we can have a profitable ranching economy and still maintain species biodiversity. It's changing the way people think about grasslands and cattle, and it’s changing public policy. The results marry conservation with traditional livelihoods. I care deeply about conserving nature. It’s why I do this job.

In for the Long Haul

Long-term monitoring like this is rare because grants typically have a three- to five-year lifespan, but because we have our own scientists at the Conservancy we can do this. Robust data like this is very powerful. I can really see what’s happening, and we can be better informed on how vernal pool grasslands will be affected by our changing climate.

What’s cool about the Conservancy is that we use the scientific method, asking a question and then seeking its answer, in everything we do. For instance, with climate change, we’ll ask the question, “How will this affect oak woodlands?” Then we'll go about answering that question. We’re constantly asking and finding answers.


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