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The Campaign for UC Davis

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Portrait of California Waterways

Doctoral student Robyn Suddeth, M.S. ’09, is studying the Yolo Bypass to improve fish and waterfowl ecosystems.

Robyn Suddeth found her watershed moment while on spring break.

It happened when a friend took her on a family rafting trip down the South Fork of the American River near Coloma.

“I fell in love with the activity and, probably more importantly, with the place,” Suddeth said.

Suddeth took summer jobs as a whitewater rafting guide and, after graduating from UCLA with degrees in political science and economics, she moved to Coloma and became a web marketer for rafting companies. During that time the debate on the proposed Auburn Dam drew Suddeth into the policy arena of river management; but she felt that to be more effective in the debate, she needed a scientific understanding of how rivers and water management systems work.

Suddeth then enrolled in UC Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences, a unit of the John Muir Institute of the Environment. While pursuing a master’s in geography, Suddeth conducted research on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Her research has been instrumental in helping shape and inform the public debate about the best ways to manage this critical water resource. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in hydrologic sciences and conducting research on managing human land uses and healthy ecosystems for fish and waterfowl in the Yolo Bypass.

“I hope this project can impress on people that there’s not just one way to accomplish habitat restoration in floodplains,” said Suddeth, whose UC Davis studies have been completely funded by private gifts to the Center for Watershed Sciences, “but rather that there are many different alternatives, each with its own mix of habitat benefits and economic tradeoffs.”