Posts Tagged ‘MLML’

May the Flow Be With You!

January 22, 2014

Scott GabaraBy Scott Gabara, Phycology “Seaweed” Lab

Circulating seawater systems are very important for marine laboratories as they need to keep organisms from the ocean alive and use the water to aid in conducting experiments.  We have recently had our Moss Landing Marine Laboratories offshore intake upgraded and we went on a dive to inspect its current status.  The large meshed cylinder sucks in water and supplies our lab with flowing seawater.  We routinely inspect and clean the surface of the grates and the structure. 

One of our MLML intakes rising from the sand.

One of our MLML intakes rising from the sand.

It is interesting to see what invertebrates recruit or move onto the structure.  With sand surrounding us we create a small oasis of life concentrated on the hard substrate.  One of the issues we have to deal with is that seawater contains invertebrate larvae and some species will settle on the inside the pipes and eventually constrict and clog our flow, similar to plaque buildup in an artery.  We have to force a Pigging Inspection Gauge (PIG), a tool which is usually a piece of cylindrical foam, through the inside of the pipe to clean and clear the walls.  It’s great we can get routine cleanings so our seawater system continues flowing and our lab doesn’t have a “heart attack”!

Diana Steller inspects our intake line.

Diana Steller, Dive Safety Officer, inspects our intake line.

Lights Out, Dives In

December 1, 2013

Recently the marine science diving class here at Moss Landing Marine Labs went down to Monterey’s Breakwater to conduct a sunset and night dive.  The first dive was to a rocky outcrop called the Metridium field.  The Metridium are white plumose anemones that look like fluffy cauliflowers and filter particulates out of the water.  It is a stunning sight with so many anemones.

Martin and Metridium

Martin and Metridium

The second dive was conducted by nightfall.  Every diver had a glow-stick to better locate their buddy and stay in visual contact in the dark.  Each diver has a waterproof light, it takes practice to communicate underwater let alone now using a flashlight.  We saw different species like red octopus which were out foraging and rockfish that seemed to hover almost half asleep in the water column.  It is interesting to see these changes that happen as the rocky reef changes from day to night.

Sunset Diving with Martin Guo, Paul Clerkin and Scott Miller (left to right)

Sunset Diving with Martin Guo, Paul Clerkin and Scott Miller (left to right)

World Oceans Day 2013

June 8, 2013

Harbor Seal


Help create a wave of change this World Oceans Day!  Today is a day to spread the word about conservation and our responsibility of improving the health of the oceans.  To find out ways to celebrate go to  Your promise to the oceans could be to start using a reusable water bottle or bringing reusable grocery bags to the store.  We will have a large positive impact on the health of the oceans if each one of us reduces the amount of plastic we use.  You can read in this article about MBARI’s observations of trash in the deep sea.  Of 1100+ observations of garbage in Monterey Bay, 32% were plastic and 23% metal.  Our impacts were detected as deep as 13,000 feet and 300 miles offshore.  We need to reduce our reliance on single use items!  Celebrate in your own way to rise up and be the voice of the ocean!

Giant Kelp



Chronicles of a Curious Beachcomber

February 21, 2013

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

A few Sundays ago — Super Bowl Sunday, in fact — I took a three-hour walk along the beach at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA with Don Glasco, a systems engineer and former cartographer.

This wasn’t a leisurely pursuit, but my volunteer service to the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network’s (SIMoN) Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys, also known as Beach COMBERS.

I meet Don at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina around 9 a.m. After downing the last of my coffee, we head out into the foggy morning.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes. Photo by Angela Szesciorka.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes.


That’s a Moray!

September 30, 2012

The exciting thing about science is we still have so much to learn about the natural world, new discoveries are being made all the time.  Rita Mehta at UCSC has been studying eels, specifically their pharyngeal jaws (see a video here), which are a second set of jaws that help the eels eat larger prey.  Recently MLML helped UCSC researcher Rita Mehta and others to determine how many California moray eels are in an area of Catalina Island, part of the channel islands archipelago.  Further, they are interested in growth of individuals and movement.  They had help from people at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, acoustic tags and acoustic receivers to address eel growth and movement.

UCSC researchers Ben Higgins and Leith Miller measure a California moray.

Using traps, eels would be raised to the boat then a series of body measurements and total weight were taken, they would be PIT tagged and released in the area of capture.  If they caught an individual again who had previously had a PIT tag, they could use the body measurements from before and compare them to the current measurements to learn  how much they grew in that time period.

Eels were caught and then brought to the boat for measurements using these traps.

To learn more about eel movement, a subset of eels had an acoustic tag surgically implanted into them.  Acoustic receivers were deployed at each cove which would detect the surgically implanted acoustic tags in the eels, if they were nearby.  They believe that moray eels may go out to feed during night but not much is known.  In two weeks, with over 300 unique eels measured and PIT tagged, you could imagine how dramatic and important an impact they have on the ecosystem!

Acoustic receivers were deployed in each cove to aid in understanding moray eel movement.

Fish Feeding Frenzy

August 18, 2012

In the southern California bight, the channel islands archipeligo sits in warm subtropical waters brought north along the coast from Mexico to the islands.  Toward the east, Santa Catalina Island supports many different fishes living in these warm waters.  On a recent thesis sampling trip, frenzied fish behavior was observed.  Similar to people gathering at a popular eatery, small orange cigar shaped fish called Senorita, and speckled kelp bass, schooled near disturbances created by divers.  You may see the small grayish crab in the photo just underneath the fish’s mouth (see below).  These fish would say that algae mats provide a home for many tasty invertebrates!

Happy World Ocean Day June 8th 2012!

June 8, 2012

Help create a wave of change this World Ocean Day!  Today is a day to spread the word about conservation and our responsibility of improving the health of the ocean.  To find out ways to celebrate go to  Today I am continuing to make a lifestyle change and rode my bike to get to the UC Santa Cruz library to study and make this post!  Celebrate in your own way to rise up and be the voice of the ocean!

It’s Whale Soup Out Here!

June 5, 2012

Looking for whales in Monterey Bay

Ok, so it’s not literally whale soup out here, but Monterey Bay has been full of humpback whales for the past few weeks.  Casey Clark, a graduate student at Moss Landing Marine Labs, has been taking advantage of this opportunity to investigate migrations and feeding behavior humpback whales in this region.  Each whale’s tail (known as a fluke) has a unique pattern of black and white markings and scars, which can be used to identify individual whales, much like fingerprints are used to identify humans.  As part of his research, Casey has been photographing the flukes of whales encountered in the bay and referencing them to a catalog to determine when and where they have been seen in the past.  Spring and summer are great times to see humpback and blue whales in Monterey bay, so keep your eyes out for a glimpse of these huge marine mammals!

Last look at a humpback whale.

Chilean Columns of Basalt!

February 7, 2012

The characteristic hexagonal pattern of the basalt columns form after the rock cools.

While on a beach down in Chile, South America the Moss Landing Marine Labs Global Systems class stumbled on a series of interesting rock features.  The low silica rock of Chile flows easily and comes from molten lava, when it cools it contracts and forms.  These cracks that form from cooling are roughly 6-sided, or hexagonal, and can form huge columns as seen at California’s Devils Postpile National Park.  We took the liberty of testing the rock’s structural integrity while trying to climb these amazing columns.  The columns seem man made, but knowing some basic geology helps to determine the origin, even when in another hemisphere from home.

You can tell these columns shifted after the time they were created by the way they tilt to the side.


Magical isotopes: Where Did Your Food Come From?

February 5, 2012

Chilean and American students combine forces to process green algae samples for isotopic analysis.

The Moss Landing Marine Labs Global Kelp Systems class went to Chile and learned to process samples of algae and invertebrates to get carbon and nitrogen isotopes.  These isotopes were collected to help scientists learn about the impact of creating a kelp farm where kelp would not have been otherwise.  Algae and inverts have different isotope signals, so isotopes can help in tracking where nutrients go.  What did this kelp crab have for dinner?  Looks like algae from the kelp farm!

Different red algae samples for isotope analysis.


These inverts were collected in the kelp bed to track where kelp nutrients go.



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