IMS Directory Listing

David Herbst
  • Title
    • research scientist
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Institute of Marine Sciences
  • Affiliations Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Long Marine Lab Ocean Health Building, 103 Doyle
  • Mail Stop Long Marine Lab
  • Mailing Address
    • 115 McAllister (Ocean Health, Long Marine Lab, 103 Doyle)
    • Santa Cruz CA 95060

Research Interests

1. Climate change, drought, and the ecological integrity of headwater stream ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada: Climate change in not just something of concern in the future, it is with us already, and evidence indicates that the hydrology of Sierra streams already show increased frequency and intensity of drought and floods.  The consequences of drought are severe in headwater streams, altering habitat and reducing the biodiversity and function of the inhabitant communities of small streams that are dominated by snow melt. Community structure of benthic invertebrates in riffle and pool habitats, and how these are altered during drought are especially informative of how climate change will affect montane stream ecosystems.

2. Saline lake ecosystems and changing lake levels: Diversion of streams from closed-basin lakes and increasing drought conditions are causing falling lake levels and rising salinity in many desert lakes. Comparative ecological studies and experimental research have show that the physiological stress imposed by increased salinity is limiting the growth, survival, size at maturity and reproductive capacity of benthic invertebrates in Great Basin lakes including Mono Lake, Owens Lake, Walker Lake, and Abert Lake.  Conservation of these lakes and their food web links to migratory and breeding bird populations requires salinity management.

3. Recovery of streams exposed to acid mine drainage from the Leviathan mine superfund site in the central Sierra Nevada has been documented in long-term monitoring studies that shows the progress of remediation work and the toxicity thresholds for benthic inveretebrate communities expsoed to combined metals.

4. Sediment deposition is streams exposed to erosion caused by land disturbances in watersheds can alter taxonomic structure, reduce diversity, and impair the function of benthic invertebrate communities.  Studies done in coastal streams and in the Sierra reveal different patterns of deposition and responses to the amount of habitat covers by fine and sand particles (<2mm). These studies will contribute to developing standards for deposited sediments to limit habitat degradation.

Biography, Education and Training

I am a California native, now making my home on the central coast, in Santa Cruz.  I've been doing research on streams of the Sierra Nevada and saline lakes of the Great Basin for over 40 years, stationed at the University of California Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab in the beautiful eastern Sierra, and recently (2018) moved to UC Santa Cruz. My primary interests are related to climate change and headwater streams of the Sierra, ecological effects of sediment in streams, salinity increase in salt lakes, acid mine drainage recovery in streams, meadow restoration, and studies of coastal tributary streams of the San Lorenzo and Pajaro River watersheds.  I received a BS degree from UC Davis in 1976, and MS and PhD from Oregon State University in 1980 and 1986.  PostDoc at UC Irvine 1986-88.  I am a research scientist with both UC Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute, and UC Santa Cruz Institute of Marine Sciences.

Selected Publications



Drought ecohydrology alters the structure and function of benthic invertebrate communities in mountain streams. 2019. D.B. Herbst, S.D. Cooper, R.B. Medhurst, S. Wiseman, and C. Hunsaker. Freshwater Biology – In Press

A comparison of the taxonomic and trait structure of macroinvertebrates between the riffles and pools of montane headwater streams. 2018. D.B. Herbst, S.D. Cooper, R.B. Medhurst, S. Wiseman, and C. Hunsaker. Hydrobiologia 820:115-133.

Long-term monitoring of recovery of streams from acid mine drainage and evaluation of toxic metals threshold ranges for macroinvertebrate community re-assembly. 2018. D.B. Herbst, R.B. Medhurst, and N.J.P. Black. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 37:2575-2592.

California Climate Assessment Report, 4th edition: Central Coast Report: River, Streams and Riparian Areas, pp 47-50. 2018. Herbst, D.B.  California Natural Resources Agency publication.

Evaluating the adequacy of a reference-site pool for ecological assessments in environmentally complex regions. 2016. P.R. Ode, A.C. Rehn, R.D. Mazor, K.C. Schiff, E.D. Stein, J.T. May, L.R. Brown, D.B. Herbst, D. Gillett, K. Lunde, and C.P. Hawkins. Freshwater Science 35:237-248.

Bioassessment in complex environments: designing an index for consistent meaning in different settings. R.D. Mazor, A.C. Rehn, P.R. Ode, M. Engeln, K.C. Schiff, E.D. Stein, D.J. Gillett, D.B. Herbst, and C.P. Hawkins. Freshwater Science 35:249-271.

Anthropogenic land-use signals propagate through stream food webs in a California, USA, watershed. 2014. Moore, J.W. T.D. Lambert, W.N. Heady, S.E. Honig, A.K. Osterback, C.C. Phillis, A.L. Quiros, N.A. Retford, D.B. Herbst. Limnologica 46:124-130

Walker Lake – terminal lake at the brink. 2014. Herbst, D.B., R.B. Medhurst, I.D. Bell, G. Chisholm. LakeLine 34(4):11-14

Mono Lake – streams taken and given back, but still waiting. 2014. Herbst, D.B. LakeLine 34(4):21-24

Owens Lake – from dustbowl to mosaic of salt water habitats. 2014. Herbst, D.B. and M. Prather. LakeLine 34(4):34-38

Defining salinity limits on the survival and growth of benthic insects as conservation management targets for saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA. 2013. Herbst, D.B., S.W. Roberts and R.B. Medhurst. Journal of Insect Conservation 17:877-883.

Substratum associations and depth distribution of benthic invertebrates in saline Walker Lake, Nevada. 2013. Herbst, D.B., R.B. Medhurst, S.W. Roberts and R. Jellison.  Hydrobiologia 700:61-72.

Effects of livestock exclusion on in-stream habitat and benthic invertebrate assemblages in montane streams. 2012. Herbst, D.B., M.T. Bogan, S.K. Roll and H.D. Safford. Freshwater Biology 57:204-217

Stream community and ecosystem responses to the boom and bust of an invading snail.  2012. Moore, J.W., D.B. Herbst, W.M. Heady and S.M. Carlson.  Biological Invasions 14:2435-2446

Before and after the deluge: rain-on-snow flooding effects on aquatic invertebrate communities of small streams in the Sierra Nevada, California. 2010. Herbst, D.B. and S.D. Cooper. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29:1354-1366.

Responses of aquatic macroinvertebrates to stream channel reconstruction in a degraded rangeland creek in the Sierra Nevada. 2009. Herbst, D.B and J.M. Kane. Ecological Restoration 27:76-88.      

The influence of introduced trout on native aquatic invertebrate communities in a paired watershed study of streams in Yosemite National Park. 2009. Herbst, D.B., E.L. Silldorff and S.D. Cooper. Freshwater Biology 54:1324-1342.

Low specific conductivity limits growth and survival of the New Zealand Mud Snail from the Upper Owens River, California. 2008. Herbst, D.B., M.T. Bogan and R.A. Lusardi. Western North American Naturalist 68:324-333.

Comparisons of the performance of different bioassessment methods: similar evaluations of biotic integrity from separate programs and procedures. 2006. Herbst, D.B and E.L. Silldorff. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 25:513-530.

Salinity controls on trophic interactions among invertebrates and algae of solar evaporations ponds in the Mojave desert in relation to shorebird foraging and selenium risk. 2006. Herbst, D.B. Wetlands 26:475-485.

Gradients of salinity stress, environmental stability and water chemistry as a templet for defining habitat types and physiological strategies in inland salt waters. 2001. Herbst, D.B. Hydrobiologia 466:209:219.

Biogeography and physiological adaptations of the brine fly genus Ephydra (Diptera: Ephydridae) in saline waters of the Great Basin. 1999. Herbst, D.B. Great Basin Naturalist 59:127-135.

Experimental mesocosm studies of salinity effects on the benthic algal community of a saline lake. 1998. Herbst, D.B. and D.W. Blinn. Journal of Phycology 34:772-778.

Potential salinity limitations on nitrogen fixation in sediments from Mono Lake, California. 1998. Herbst, D.B. International Journal of Salt Lake Research 7:261-274.


Invertebrates in salt lakes of the Bolivian Altiplano. 1995. Williams, W.D., T.R. Carrick, I.A.E. Bayly, J. Green & D.B. Herbst. International Journal of Saline Lake Research 4:65-77.

Growth of the filamentous green alga Ctenocladus circinnatus (Chaetophorales, Chlorophyceae) in relation to environmental salinity. 1994. Herbst, D.B. and R.W. Castenholz. Journal of Phycology 30:588-593.

Growth and survival of larvae of Ephydra hians Say (Diptera: Ephydridae) on unialgal diets. 1994. Bradley, T.J. and D.B. Herbst. Environmental Entomology 23:276-281.

A population model for the alkali fly at Mono Lake: depth distribution and changing habitat availability. 1993. Herbst, D.B. and T.J. Bradley. Hydrobiologia 267:191-201.

Taxonomy and distribution of benthic diatoms from Mono Lake, California, U.S.A. 1992. Kociolek, J.P. and D.B. Herbst. Transactions American Microscopical Society 111:338-355.

Distribution and abundance of the alkali fly (Ephydra hians Say) at Mono Lake, California (USA) in relation to physical habitat. 1990. Herbst, D.B. Hydrobiologia 197:193-205.

A Malpighian tubule lime gland in an insect inhabiting alkaline salt lakes. 1989. Herbst, D.B. and T.J. Bradley. Journal of Experimental Biology 145:63-78.

Salinity and nutrient limitations on the growth of benthic algae from two alkaline salt lakes of the Western Great Basin (USA). 1989. Herbst, D.B. and T.J. Bradley. Journal of Phycology 25:673-678.

Osmoregulation in dolichopodid larve (Hydrophorus plumbeus) from a saline lake. 1988 Herbst, D.B. and T.J. Bradley. Journal of Insect Physiology 34:369-372.

Osmoregulation in an alkaline salt lake insect, Ephydra (Hydropyrus) hians Say (Diptera: Ephydridae) in relation to water chemistry. 1988. Herbst, D.B., F.P. Conte and V.J. Brookes. Journal of Insect Physiology 34:903-909.

Comparative population ecology of Ephydra hians Say (Diptera: Ephydridae) at Mono Lake (California) and Abert Lake (Oregon). 1988. Herbst, D.B. Hydrobiologia 158:145-166.


Selected Recordings

Walker Lake and changes in a saline lake ecosystem