Posts Tagged ‘Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’

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.

300 million year old rock made of organism skeletons!

October 11, 2011

Radiolarian chert in San Francisco overview

The MS 141 Geological Oceanography class traveled to the Marin headlands to visit many rocky outcrops.  The folded rock near rodeo beach San Francisco was most impressive.  This rock was around 300 million years old.  Composed of layer upon layer of radiolarian skeletons, tiny creatures with mineral bodies that get left behind, the outcrop has layers that span millions of years that have since been down-lifted, compressed and uplifted.  This is some rock that rocks!

Professor Ivano Aiello speaking about the radiolarian chert and how the outcrop was formed around 300 million years ago.

Big Creek, Little Steelhead

August 22, 2011


Year old Steelhead (smolts) were seen during Moss Landing’s Scientific Diving class, in August, at Big Creek Reserve.  These fish are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater and then spend most of their lives at sea before returning to the freshwater to breed.  They get to experience both fresh and saltwater worlds!








Checkup on Mr./Mrs. Wolf Eel

July 21, 2011

This eel has been eating.

Checking in with Mr./Mrs. Eel,  it appears the eel has been eating some delicious crab.  This broken up crab carapace sits in front of the eel den, with some bat stars getting whatever is left over from the meal.  The crab carapace is made of chitin, similar to keratin which makes up our nails and hair!


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