For decades, Elkhorn Slough in Central California has been home to a unique collaboration between farmers and conservationists, who are working together to protect this 7-mile-long estuary from algal blooms (above, foreground) and other effects of fertilizer runoff. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan

Outtakes: Between Land & Sea

August/September 2016

Photographer Kiliii Yuyan almost lost all of his belongings while treading through waist-deep mud to capture the diversity of wildlife at Elkhorn Slough for a story in Nature Conservancy magazine.

“As I tried to walk forward, I nearly walked out of the giant pants we called ‘waders,’” says Yuyan, who was following biologists through the California estuary. “I could barely keep my camera from falling in from laughing so hard!”

The challenging shoot and Yuyan’s positive attitude were ultimately rewarded with incredible photographs of the estuary’s teeming wildlife—including seals, sea otters, and Caspian terns.

Yuyan’s images of agriculture and coastal development also help document the complicated story of the estuary, and its ability to support a rich density of wildlife in the midst of a working landscape.

Here, we’ve posted some of the photographs from Yuyan’s shoot that did not make it into the magazine story. (See more photos and read the story from our August/September 2016 issue here.)

Corey Hamza (left) and Ken Collins (right) plant native bunchgrasses on a plot upland from the slough to study their impact on waste washing into the estuary. Collins and Hamza are stewards at the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, both of which have partnered with The Nature Conservancy to help protect this region. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Corey Hamza (left) and Ken Collins (right) plant native bunchgrasses on a plot upland from the slough to study their impact on waste washing into the estuary. Collins and Hamza are stewards at the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, both of which have partnered with The Nature Conservancy to help protect this region. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Cows line up to feed at Moon Glow Dairy, a farm located in the estuary. Innovative conservation methods are helping protect the area’s water quality from becoming degraded by nearby farms. One example is the re-creation of buffer areas surrounding the estuary that can naturally filter out agricultural runoff and prevent it from entering the wetland. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Cows line up to feed at MoonGlow Dairy, a farm located in the estuary. Innovative conservation methods are helping protect the area’s water quality from becoming degraded by nearby farms. One example is the re-creation of buffer areas surrounding the estuary that can naturally filter out agricultural runoff and prevent it from entering the wetland. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Collaborative conservation efforts to protect lands and reduce runoff and water pollution help protect a variety of birds at Elkhorn Slough. Western gulls reside on a nesting colony island, and great blue herons nest in a rookery near Moon Glow Dairy farm. Photos © Kiliii Yuyan
Collaborative conservation efforts to protect lands and reduce runoff and water pollution help protect a variety of birds at Elkhorn Slough. Western gulls reside on a nesting colony island, and great blue herons nest in a rookery near MoonGlow Dairy farm. Photos © Kiliii Yuyan
The slough’s inhabitants were forced to adapt to dramatic tides and other changes when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers carved a new channel to create Moss Landing Harbor in 1947. Today, American white pelicans fish the tidal channels of Elkhorn Slough during low tide. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
The slough’s inhabitants were forced to adapt to dramatic tides and other changes when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers carved a new channel to create Moss Landing Harbor in 1947. Today, American white pelicans fish the tidal channels of Elkhorn Slough during low tide. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
University of California, Santa Cruz researcher Brent Hughes (seen here beneath net) and two student research volunteers use a beach seine net to capture and survey populations of perch and flatfish at lower Elkhorn Slough. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
University of California, Santa Cruz researcher Brent Hughes (seen here beneath net) and two student research volunteers use a beach seine net to capture and survey populations of perch and flatfish at lower Elkhorn Slough. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Sea otters frequent the Slough for crab, mussels, and other shellfish. Precisely because of their diet, restoring a healthy sea otter population has been crucial to the recovery of Elkhorn Slough’s sea grass since the 1980s. Previously otters were overhunted and exterminated by some fishing communities, leading to booming crustacean populations, which devoured the small, grazing animals that kept algae from smothering sea grass. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Sea otters frequent the Slough for crab, mussels, and other shellfish. Precisely because of their diet, restoring a healthy sea otter population has been crucial to the recovery of Elkhorn Slough’s sea grass since the 1980s. Previously otters were overhunted and exterminated by some fishing communities, leading to booming crustacean populations, which devoured the small, grazing animals that kept algae from smothering sea grass. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Biologist Carleton Eyster studies a near-threatened snowy plover egg and nest site on the lower Elkhorn Slough. Snowy plovers are especially vulnerable to human activities because they breed and build their nests on the ground. Eyster works at the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science to help plovers and other wildlife in similarly vulnerable situations. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan
Biologist Carleton Eyster studies a near-threatened snowy plover egg and nest site on the lower Elkhorn Slough. Snowy plovers are especially vulnerable to human activities because they breed and build their nests on the ground. Eyster works at the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science to help plovers and other wildlife in similarly vulnerable situations. Photo © Kiliii Yuyan

— NCM

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2 comments

  1. In the photo with the 4 white pelicans the one flying looks as though something is around its neck and on its back and right side. Is that just something that it picks up when fishing? Or is that some garbage it got caught in? I’m assuming it is natural, but I was curious/concerned.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Donna, I had the same concern when I first saw this, but on closer inspection, I am fairly certain that it’s some seaweed, seagrass, or other vegetation that the bird has picked up. If you look at the bird below him, you can see a similar substance in it’s bill, but more of it and I think it helps to clarify that this is something natural. I will check to see if I can can find an expert to confirm. Thank you for the question!