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Before and After 

Robin Grossinger examines Napa Valley's ecology


Like his famously quirky sibling Miranda July, Robin Grossinger studies the unseen webs and natural intricacies that underlie our daily lives. But rather than exploring these ideas through talking cats and interpretive dance, the Berkeley-based scientist does so through historical ecology.

A senior scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, Grossinger muses on such questions as how history teaches us ways to practice smart design, what California looked like before European contact and how buildings can work in harmony with nature.

Grossinger's latest historical ecology study has taken place right here in the North Bay, via the publication of Napa Valley Historical Ecology Atlas: Exploring a Hidden Landscape of Transformation and Resilience. With the help of cartographer Ruth Askevold and local researcher Shari Gardner, the atlas weaves together rare maps, photographs, paintings and travelers accounts to reconstruct early Napa Valley and examine how the land area has changed over last 200 years, the idea being that the study of the past, and the resilience of certain natural features, can teach us ways to increase the health of living landscapes in the future.

Grossinger appears on Thursday, May 24, at the Theatre (formerly Copia). 500 First St., Napa. 7pm. 707.252.8002.

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