Posts Tagged ‘Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’

Battle Under the Docks

June 25, 2012

By Michelle Marraffini

Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab

With continued global expansion of humankind and climate change, how will native communities be affected by introduced species?  Recent state surveys identified at least 312 non-native species in California coastal waters, many of which are known to have strong negative impacts on shipping, recreational and commercial fishing, and native habitats and local species (CDFG, 2008).  Factors regulating the success of non-indigenous species are of interest to scientists and managers.

A view of boats that use Monterey Harbor and may unknowingly transport invertebrates from other marinas and harbors.

Artificial habitats like floating docks and pontoons act as ground zero for newly arrived non-indigenous species.  These species arrive though many mechanisms, such as ballast water and fouling on the bottom of boats; we heard all about ballast water from fellow MLML student Catherine Drake, The Ballast Water Balancing Act.  Species that settle in marinas and harbors can than travel along the open coast and into estuaries, where they may outcompete native species for resources and become dominant on human structures such as water pipes, sewer grates, and aquaculture cages.

Dockside view of my thesis installation with helpers Hannah and Heather. Photo by Scott Gabara

Under the floating docks of Monterey Harbor animals are battling for space. For my thesis at MLML, I am studying the role of native invertebrate species on invasion success.   I will look at the sessile invertebrates like tunicates (Phylum Chordata), mussels (Phylum Mullusca), bryozoans (Phylum Byrozoa), hydrozoans (Phylum Cnidaria), feather-duster worms (Phlyum Annelida) and anemones (Phylum Cnidaria).   By making experimental treatments that vary the number of species, the amount of native verse non-native species, and the amount of open space in artificial communities hopefully I can untangle part of the story about how non-native species become established.

Take a look under the dock as the battle is under way and stay tuned for the winner!

Diver, Heather Hawk helps steady treatment plots of native and non-native sessile invertebrates Photo by Scott Gabara

Students and Faculty Compete for Glory in Inaugural MLML 3K

June 20, 2012

by Diane Wyse, Physical Oceanography Lab

In the spirit of community building and maintaining positive energy during finals in May, MLML Student Body hosted the first official Moss Landing Marine Labs 3K race.  The course covered what most students, staff, and faculty know as “the loop,” with the race starting and ending at the entrance to the labs.  Students challenged the faculty to a friendly cross-country style competition.  While the faculty team gave the students a run for their money, the students’ overwhelming turnout dominated the competition. Approximately two dozen participants and supporters came out for the inaugural race and post-race BBQ.  Stay tuned for the next running of this fun and sporting community event!

Participants prepare to go the distance
(Photo: A. Woods)

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.

Welcome to Moss Landing Marine Labs!

April 30, 2012

Michelle Marraffini

Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology

Have you ever wondered about the secret life of deep sea fishes?  Or what the inside of a whale looks like?  Have you touched one of the largest sea slugs in the world?  Well, visitors to this year’s Open House at MLML got a chance to do all of this and more!   Over the course of this two day event students, faculty, and staff opened their labs and their minds to over 2300 visitors of all ages from around the Monterey Bay area.  If you missed it come on a tour with me and walk through the labs.  At the first stop we see a large mahi mahi fish and skeletons of local and far away fish.

Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi on display at Open House

Fish skeleton to be viewed but not touched in the Ichthyology Lab


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.


Farming Underwater in Chile, South America

February 3, 2012

Moss Landing diver holds a kelp crab that is eating the Giant Kelp being grown on the farm.

The Moss Landing Global Kelp Systems class was fortunate enough to dive in a kelp farm designed to grow Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera on lines.  The kelp farm had large kelp crabs which aggregated because the kelp is their preferred food, similar to insects eating on our crop fields on land.  The cute baby kelp is shown below growing on lines, hopefully they will not be eaten and make it to adulthood.  It was an interesting experience seeing an underwater farm, its easier to farm in the water with kelp as the nitrogen fertilizer is naturally in the water!

Baby kelp, they are cute!

Trawling for Booty in the Briny Sea

November 23, 2011

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Classes at Moss Landing Marine Labs involve a lot of field trips, and this semester is no exception. On November 7, 2011 the marine ecology students ventured seaward to explore the ocean benthos.


The students waited with anticipation, saying goodbye to the familiar Moss Landing Harbor as the 135-foot Point Sur pulled slowly out into the open ocean.


Licking rocks?

October 18, 2011

Arch at Panther Beach made of sandstone.

During the MS 141 Geologic Oceanography field trip on monday October the 10th, I learned something new about a place I have been visiting for years.  Panther Beach is about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz and a diverse, dynamic beach to visit.  With a huge sandstone arch and places to boulder and rock climb it has much to offer and changes with the seasons as the sand is removed during winter and deposited back during summer.  Little did I know, but a rock outcrop I had walked by for years was composed of mud and many, many diatoms, tiny algae phytoplankton which are made of silica and leave behind their skeleton when they pass away.  If you were to lick a fresh portion of this rock it seems like the rock is sticky, this is because of the many tubes of the diatom skeletons creating suction on your tongue!!!  The study of rocks definitely rocks!

Mudstone made of diatoms and of course mud.


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