a bridge, some boats, and a boom!

November 24, 2015 by

By Catarina Pien, Pacific Shark Research Center

One of the unique consequences of being a student at MLML is the opportunity to participate in research opportunities outside of the institution. Many alumni from MLML end up working at surrounding research agencies and organizations, and thus will turn to the lab to look for students to help out with various projects. For example, while being a student at MLML, I have been able to participate on consulting projects and assorted research cruises, allowing me to gain valuable research experience and insight into my future career goals.

This past month, two of our ichthyology faculty members, Drs. Richard Starr and Scott Hamilton, were contacted by alumnus William VanPeeters, who now works for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), to work on an exciting project involving the demolition of a portion of the old Bay Bridge.


Bay Bridge (new bridge, not being demolished), Photo credit: Ryan Fields

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Tales from the Field: Research at Catalina Island

November 15, 2015 by


By Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab

This past summer began like any good summer does…with a trip to my favorite taco stand. After driving south from Monterey, I had finally arrived in Los Angeles. Five hours of driving (and waking up far earlier than I would have preferred) had caused me to develop a serious hankering for some carne asada topped with onion and cilantro. Three tacos later, I was finally full and continued south to San Pedro where I made my way aboard the Miss Christi. This 45-foot boat is owned and operated by the University of Southern California (USC) and would be taking me to my home for the summer, Santa Catalina Island (often just called Catalina).

The Wrigley Marine Science Center, my home for the summer. Photo by Dr. Mia Adreani.

The Wrigley Marine Science Center, my home for the summer. Photo by Dr. Mia Adreani.

Two hours and 22 miles later, the Miss Christi was pulling into Big Fisherman’s Cove on the northeast end of Catalina. This cove is home to the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC), an environmental research and education facility owned by USC. For the next three months, I would be working on my thesis research here.

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Halloween’s Most Festive Ocean Creatures!

October 25, 2015 by



Vicky Vásquez is a graduate student with the Pacific Shark Research Center and serves as Deputy Director of the Ocean Research Foundation.



Just in time for All Hallow’s Eve here’s a line-up of the ocean’s most festive Halloween animals! Check them out in all their ghastly horror, they’ve been waiting all year to get some haunting attention.

Halloween Crab (Gecarinus quadratus)

This list certainly could not begin without the arthropod waiting all year for its time to Trick and Treat. The Trick? Halloween crabs are not as beachy as you might think. They spend most of their lives in mangroves and rainforests along the Pacific coast of Mexico down to Panama. Since they have a planktonic larval stage, they only head to the ocean to spawn. The Treat? Racoons love them! Halloween crabs are an important food source in areas where the range of these two animals overlap.

Species: Gecarcinus quadratus Common name: Halloween Crab. Photo by E. Mena

Species: Gecarcinus quadratus Common name: Halloween Crab. Photo by E. Mena

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What’s in a Mermaid Purse? (Part 2)

October 3, 2015 by

In public Aquariums, you might had the privilege of viewing an embryo developing in its egg case watching it grow from a little alien-like body to a fully developed shark or skate.

Big skate embryos developing. Photo credit. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Swell Shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) egg cases, photo credit: http://silverparrotdesigns.blogspot.com/

But, have you wondered how did the aquarists were able to exhibit this without harming the developing embryos? I’ll tell you! For my thesis, I have been monitoring the development of a species of skate called the Big skate (Beringraja binoculata). In order to do that, I had to learn how to cut open the egg case, and what better way to learn this technique from than from the experts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a popular exhibit where they display embryos developing in an egg case, so I was very lucky to have one of the aquarists, Kelsey Barker teach me how to implement this.

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What’s inside a Mermaid Purse? (Part 1)

September 26, 2015 by

Have you ever come across a strange peculiar object that looks like a dried out husk along the beach? Believe it or not, they’re not driftwood or anything plant related, but are egg cases!

Egg cases of Common (Dipturus batis) off the shore of Scotland. Photo courtesy of http://www.glaucus.org.uk/Mermaid.htm

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El Niño: the event of the season

September 17, 2015 by

Jackie LindseyBy Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

In the past few months, I have been asked more questions about oceanography than in the entirety of my career at Moss Landing. Inquiring minds want to know: what is this “El Niño storm” that will save us from the drought in California?

What is an El Niño?

We can look at El Niño events in the context of the ENSO, or El Niño Southern Oscillation.  ENSO is a term for a “climate event” that is so large that it can affect global atmospheric circulation.  ENSO fluctuates between three phases, which we refer to as El Niño, La Niña, and Neutral.  How are they different? Let’s talk about the Pacific Ocean. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re A “Big” Deal: The BBC’s “Big Blue Live” Coming to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!

August 30, 2015 by

DSC_0838By Catherine Drake, graduate student in the Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Have you ever heard of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary? If not, I bet you’ve stepped foot in the Sanctuary! If you’ve ever gone to the beach and stuck your toes into Monterey Bay waters (like many of our MLML graduate students have time and time again), you’re in the Sanctuary! A National Marine Sanctuary is like a National Park or Forest, except that the protected area is underwater, starting at the high tide line. There are a total of fourteen Sanctuaries in United States’ waters, including four along the California coast (from south to north): Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries. Like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), the other Sanctuaries were created to ensure that as we utilize the ocean’s resources available to us, we also work toward sustainable practices and habitat protection.

Photo Credit: NOAA.

The fourteen National Marine Sanctuaries in the United States. One of the fourteen locations (Papahanaumokuakea) is designated a Marine National Monument. Photo Credit: NOAA.

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First Thoughts From a First Year

August 25, 2015 by


Amanda is a first-year graduate student working in the Invertebrate Zoology lab at MLML. She’s here to provide an insider’s opinion on the graduate process beginning with day one. You can follow Amanda on Instagram (@scatter_cushion) for more sciency goings-ons and the weekly #SeaCreatureSunday.


Greetings to any and all fellow readers and allow me to take the time to introduce myself. My name is Amanda and I am but a small part of the new cohort of graduate students here at Moss Landing. I’m coming into the Invertebrate Lab under Dr. Geller. During orientation, the lack of a new student’s perspective was bemoaned by the powers that be, and so I have offered myself up as candid, quivering bait. I realize that there’s not much I can say that can be of much import, returning as I have to the low wrung of the academic ladder. But all self-deprecating aside I hope that at least some of my fellow new blood can read this and know that maybe it’s ok to feel any and all things I’m sure we have felt this week.

This is me! (Photo courtesy of Colin Prior)

This is me! (Photo courtesy of Colin Prior)

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Tales from the Field in Antarctica: Post 6

August 18, 2015 by
In the field for their current work in Antarctica is adjunct professor, Dr. Valerie Loeb (right) with the team's blog writer, Jamie Sibley Yin.

In the field for their current work in Antarctica is adjunct professor, Dr. Valerie Loeb (right) with the team’s blog writer, Jamie Sibley Yin.

Dr. Valerie Loeb is an adjunct professor at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Currently, she functions as an independent Antarctic ecosystem research scientist collaborating with Jarrod Santora of UC Santa Cruz. In April, she headed out to sea with a new NSF funded project entitled “Pilot Study:   Addition of Biological Sampling to Drake Passage Transits of the ‘LM Gould’”.  The following are updates from the field by Jamie Sibley Yin who is in charge of communications.





Fish for Days

Palmer sunrise.

Palmer sunrise.

We are on another fishing trip.  We left a day early from station because the seawater pumps failed in the Palmer Station aquarium and all the fish died.  It was tragic, and the need for more fish was urgent.  Since this leg of the cruise was dedicated to the fishing group, and we were not sampling, I was left with little to do and so helped with the fishing efforts.  This included deploying the pots and trawling.

Three penguin.

Three penguin.

First we deployed the pots, which are left out for 24 hours.  We had to prepare bait for the bait bags that lure the fish into the pots.  The bait is hung on the mesh inside of the pots by large, industrial safety pins.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tales From the Field, Back to Baja: Three weeks in the Gulf of California.

August 12, 2015 by


Although MLML has some great resources on campus, students also occasionally have opportunities to get out of central California and do some work in other areas. Some of you may remember my post about my time in the Gulf of California last year with MLML’s “Baja class” where I studied herbivorous fishes. Well, I was given the opportunity to go back to Baja earlier this year to build upon the study that I began previously. In mid-June, I was part of a research team with two other MLML students and our dive safety officer / research faculty, Dr. Diana Steller, to help out on some projects through UC – Santa Cruz and to work on the herbivore project.

Because we needed to transport some large supplies, including scuba tanks and the field air compressor (to fill up the scuba tanks), we needed to drive down and back again this year. Although it sounds tough, the drive is only 3-4 days, and it’s definitely part of the adventure!

Just after sunset at our desert campsite in Cataviña, Baja California.

Just after sunset at our desert campsite in Cataviña, Baja California.

Driving isn’t too bad when you get to camp at sites such as this at Playa Requesón! Photo by Heather Fulton-Bennett

Driving isn’t too bad when you get to camp at sites such as this at Playa Requesón! Photo by Heather Fulton-Bennett

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