Sierra to Sea

Sierra to Sea Logo

As California droughts and wildfires continue to worsen, we have a critical need to assess the vulnerability of the state’s water source in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The scale of the challenge is vast, and requires a broad effort that engages as many stakeholders as possible.

In the meadows of the Sierra Nevada mountains, citizen scientists are collecting important research data that will inform the management of these critical habitats, and help build a more resilient California. They also see firsthand how important nature is in providing resources such as drinking water.

The program aims to increase the understanding of the impacts of climate change; participants will measure meadow stability, greenhouse gas emission and absorption, and biodiversity value. By working together with local scientists, nonprofits and communities, we will provide local land managers with insights into management and restoration efforts to help protect California’s valuable water for both humans and wildlife.

Research in meadows is the first phase of the Sierra to Sea program. The program will expand to include more key regions required for a resilient California, such as the riverine habitats of the Central Valley and coastal forests along the Pacific Ocean.

Montane Meadows

Found over 500 meters high, montane meadows house numerous diverse plant and animal species, incredibly unique soils, and the vital natural water filtration and cycling processes of California.


One third of California’s water originates in the Sierra Nevada. The montane meadows hold much of the water used by the state’s major metropolitan areas. These meadows act like sponges, absorbing the mountain’s melting snow –and preventing flooding downstream. The meadow’s plants act as filters, removing excess nutrients and trapping sediments. In addition, healthy meadows attract a diverse community of plants and animals that benefit from the habitat. However, the meadows are under threat from climate change and factors such as grazing.


There are over 17,000 meadows in the Sierra Nevada, covering almost 200,000 acres. While many scientists have begun studying meadows’ health, greenhouse gas services, and conservation needs, they are only able scratch the surface of this expansive network of meadows. It is easy to learn how to collect that data and citizen scientists can make a big difference in reaching more meadows in the Sierra. That’s where you come in.

Citizen scientists contribute to three important research projects by participating in Sierra to Sea:

  1. Measuring meadow health using American River’s standardized scorecard assessment. Your determination of if the meadow is a low, medium, or high priority for restoration will be translated to local land managers.
  2. Observing and report wildlife sightings using iNaturalist to help assess biodiversity levels.
  3. Capturing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide using greenhouse gas chambers to find out if meadows are a source or sink of greenhouse gases.


It's easy! Email Ian Ozeroff ( if you are interested in finding out more about the program including joining a citizen science event in the Sierras. Or, visit our Facebook page!

Encourage your family, friends, and co-workers to join you! Everyone will enjoy the hands-on opportunity to conserve their local resources.


These big picture goals can only be achieved by working together. Earthwatch is collaborating with nonprofits, businesses, university and museum scientists, government institutions, and outdoor enthusiasts to develop a program where people from all walks of life can contribute the data needed to answer some of our most pressing research questions about the sustainability of California’s ecosystems.

This program is possible through partnership between:


A citizen scientist measures and documents montane meadow characteristics in the Sierra Nevada.

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