Charles “Si” Simenstad

  • Research Professor, SAFS
  • Coordinator, Wetland Ecosystem Team

Research areas

I investigate community and food web structure, and restoration ecology, of estuarine and nearshore coastal ecosystems along the Pacific Northwest coast, from San Francisco Bay, the Oregon and Washington coasts, Puget Sound, and to Alaska. Ecosystems that have especially attracted my interests include: tidal marshes, mudflats and seagrass of Pacific Northwest estuaries; nearshore, kelp-dominated shores of the Aleutian Islands, Alaska; and the San Francisco Bay-Delta. Much of my recent research is involved in the Columbia River estuary, where I am particularly intrigued by the ecological role of brackish-tidal freshwater marshes and forested wetlands in supporting early life history diversity of juvenile Pacific salmon. The underlying question in my research is often “What controls variability in the capacity of these ecosystems and landscapes to support ecologically- and socioculturally-important consumer organisms, particularly juvenile Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), and what alters the integrity of these relationships?”

Much of this research has focused on the role of ecosystem structure and dynamic change, and the associated ecological (e.g., food web) interactions that are regulated by strong ecological interactions (e.g., keystone species such as sea otters), natural disturbance, or sensitivity to anthropogenic effects, such as wetland alteration. I’ve become increasingly interested in large-scale interactions across landscapes that alter fundamental ecosystem structure and processes at local scales, such as river flow diversion and regulation effects on estuarine communities and food webs. Progressively, my research activities have addressed policy-relevant questions about patterns, rates and ‘trajectories’ of tidal wetland restoration, and tools and approaches to strategic planning of ecosystem restoration and preservation at different scales.

Areas of Expertise

  • Estuarine ecosystems
  • Tidal wetlands
  • Juvenile salmon ecology
  • Food webs
  • Restoration planning and assessment

Community Engagement and Awards

Advisory Boards

  • Co-Editor in Chief, Estuaries & Coasts
  • Editorial Board, San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science
  • Editorial Board, Encyclopedia of Puget Sound
  • US Army Corps of Engineers, Chief of Engineers Environmental Advisory Board
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner of Public Lands’ Expert Council on Climate & Environmental Change


  • 1993 University of Washington, PSO Award for Excellence
  • 1994 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2009 NOAA-AFS Nancy Foster Award for Habitat Conservation

Selected publications

  • Goertler, P.A.L., M.D. Scheurell, C.A. Simenstad and D.L. Bottom. 2016. Estimating common growth patterns in juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) from diverse genetic stocks and a large spatial extent. PLoS ONE 11: e0162121 [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.016212]

  • Elliott, M., L. Mander, K. Mazik, C. Simenstad, F. Valesini, E. Wolanski and A. Whitfield. 2016. Ecoengineering with ecohydrology: successes and failures in estuarine restoration. Est. Coast. Shelf Sci. 176:12-35. [DOI: 10:1016/j.ecss.2016.04.003]

  • Flitcroft, R., D. Bottom, K. Bierly, K. Haberman, K. Ellingson, C. Simenstad, A. Gray, K. Jones, E. Baumgartner, T. Cornwell, and L. Campbell. 2016. Expecting the unexpected: how a framework of protection can lead to unforeseen discoveries. Aquat. Conserv. 26 (Supple. 1): 39-59 [DOI: 10.1002/aqe.2660]

  • David, A. T., C.A. Simenstad, J.R. Cordell, J.D. Toft, C. Ellings, A. Gray and H. Berge. 2016. Wetland loss, juvenile salmon foraging performance, and density dependence in Pacific Northwest estuaries. Estuaries Coasts. 39:767-780. [DOI 10.1007/s12237-015-0041-5]

  • Howe, E. R., and C. A. Simenstad. 2015. Using stable isotopes to discern mechanisms of connectivity in estuarine detritus-based food webs. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 518:13-29 [DOI: 10.3354/meps11066]

  • Boström, C., S. Pittman, C. A. Simenstad, and R. T. Kneib. 2011. Seascape ecology of coastal biogenic habitats: advances, gaps and challenges. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 427:191-217. [DOI: 10.3354/meps09051]

  • Borja, A., D.M. Dauer, M. Elliott and C.A. Simenstad. 2010. Medium and long-term recovery of estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems—an approach for new scenarios to restore ecological integrity. Est. Coasts 33: 1249-1260. [DOI 10.1007/s12237-010-9347-5]