Peter is the preeminent expert on California native fishes. He became involved with Putah Creek Council at the very beginning because his students had been sampling fish in the creek since the late 1970s and he knew that Putah Creek had a lot of potential value for teaching and research. Peter gave generously of his time and expertise during the litigation, trial and settlement negotiations and he was one of our most important expert witnesses. The sampling data his students collected since 1979 formed the basis of our arguments about how the old dry-year release flows negatively affected the native fish fauna. In addition, Peter's recommendation for pulse flows, agreed to in the Accord, has led to increasing numbers of fall-run Chinook salmon making their way back up Lower Putah Creek to spawn upstream of Stevenson Bridge.
Peter came to U.C. Davis in 1972 after teaching at Fresno State for three years where he travelled all over the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra foothills with his students sampling fish. His first memory of Putah Creek was from an early evening walk to the "picnic grounds" where Camp Putah is now held. In 1972 that reach was being mined by UCD for gravel, there was no vegetation and Putah Creek was a thin thread of water winding through the edge of the gravel pit. Peter and another Assistant Professor at the time, Kerry Dawson, soon became interested in establishing a riparian reserve along Putah Creek on the south side of campus.
Peter continues to teach and do research at U.C. Davis where he is a Distinguished Professor and former Chair of the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. He and his laboratory group have been studying the ecology and conservation of freshwater and estuarine fishes in California for over 40 years.
Listen to Peter's oral history recording below.