Salmon documentary produced by UCSC team to air on KQED

‘Southern Range’ was directed by Soc Doc alumnus Kyle Baker and produced by the Seymour Center and the Fisheries Collaborative Program at UCSC

salmon illustration with film title

A documentary film about salmon struggling to survive at the southern edge of their range, produced by the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and the Fisheries Collaborative Program at UC Santa Cruz, will air on the Bay Area public television station KQED in June.

Southern Range: Salmon in the Santa Cruz Mountains was directed by UCSC alumnus Kyle Baker, who earned his MFA in social documentation in 2020. The film explores the deep and tangled relationships between salmon, fire, human beings, and our shared environment.

The documentary will air on KQED in two prominent slots in June: Friday, June 2, at 8:30 p.m. and Wednesday, June 21, at 8 p.m. (streaming live at It will also air on the KQED PLUS channel on Friday, June 9, at 5 p.m.

Eric Palkovacs, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the Fisheries Collaborative Program, and Jonathan Hicken, executive director of the Seymour Center, worked closely with Baker to bring the project to fruition.

“This was a collaborative project from day one,” Hicken said. “Eric brought his expertise in fisheries science, I brought community connections, and Kyle brought the creativity to tell the story of our local salmon and the community-based efforts to help them.”

Palkovacs and Baker first met when Baker was filming a series of short interviews about salmon for another project (see Salmon Nation interview). At the time, they discussed the idea of a longer documentary and agreed to keep in touch. Then the CZU Lightning Complex wildfire burned through the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2020, creating new challenges for the endangered coho salmon population on the Central Coast.

“That gave us a central theme for the documentary that pulled together the scientists, the folks at the hatchery, conservationists, the angling community—everyone was focused on the impacts of the fire and climate change,” Palkovacs said.

Scientists at UCSC and NOAA have been working closely with conservation organizations and local groups on salmon recovery efforts in the Scott Creek watershed, which hosts the only remaining coho salmon population south of the Golden Gate.

“This is an iconic species that depends on the health of the forests and the freshwater and ocean habitats, and they are increasingly challenged by climate change,” Palkovacs said. “This story is about more than salmon—it’s indicative of our overall situation and relevant to the fates of a lot of species in a rapidly changing climate.”

Southern Range had its premiere at the Seymour Center last year during Salmon Week and has since been selected for screening at four film festivals.

“This film proves that combining science, culture, and community-based climate adaptation makes for compelling stories,” Hicken said. “Countless other stories are out there, and I implore anyone with a similar story to approach us at the Seymour Center. Let’s see if there’s a way to share your story, too.”