Skip to content
Grist home
All donations DOUBLED

Articles by Matt Baume

Matt Baume is a writer and photographer in San Francisco, focusing on the science of cities. From hybrid transit to urban frogs to underground rivers to invisible airborne toxins, he dives into the amazing discoveries that make city life possible. Growing up in rural Connecticut, he learned to appreciate nature; striking out in downtown Boston, he learned to appreciate density; and settling in California, he learned to appreciate weirdos. You can follow his work at

Featured Article

These salt ponds are going to be transformed in the next few years. The question is how. (Photo by Matt Baume.)

In a collection of salt evaporation ponds tucked between a freeway, a sleepy little marina, and the headquarters of Dreamworks Animation, the San Francisco Bay’s ecological future hangs in the balance.

The ponds themselves look deceptively blank: Vast flat rectangles of shallow water once used by Cargill to produce salt, the two-and-a-quarter square miles are fenced-off and nearly featureless, like an enormous bank of flattened solar panels.

To the west is Bair Island, itself a former salt pond. After four years of restoration, veiny tributaries and puffs of native scrub have begun to reemerge, drawing threatened species like the California Clapper Rail and Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

To the east is Bayfront Park, a capped landfill where you can climb a slope with rolling green hills on one side and Cargill’s barren salt ponds on the other.

Although the future is uncertain, this much is clear: The salt ponds are going away. But there’s a debate over what takes their place, and both parties say t... Read more

All Articles