Nine students defend theses in spring/summer 2018

By June ShresthaIchthyology Lab.

As the summer wraps up, we have had a whirlwind of student thesis defenses at the labs. Congratulations to the following students that successfully defended their theses in the spring and summer of 2018:

  • Cody Dawson, Phycology
  • Evan Mattiasen, Ichthyology
  • Tyler Barnes, Geological Oceanography
  • Catarina Pien, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Natalie Yingling, Biological Oceanography
  • Drew Burrier, Physical Oceanography
  • Jen Chiu, Fisheries and Conservation Biology
  • Anne Tagini, Fisheries and Conservation Biology
  • Suzanne Christensen, Phycology

Read below to learn more about their research. With three months to go until the end of the year,  stay tuned to our blog to learn of the next round of thesis defenses!

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Tales from the Field: Rhodolith Ecology on Santa Catalina Island

By June ShresthaIchthyology Lab.

I recently returned from a field expedition to assist PIs Dr. Diana Steller (MLML) and Dr. Matt Edwards (SDSU) research rhodolith beds on Catalina!

What are rhodoliths, you may ask? 

Rhodoliths exist around the world, yet not much is known about them. They are a calcareous red alga that provides relief and habitat in otherwise sandy soft-bottom stretches of the nearshore coastal environment, supporting invert and fish communities.
They have been a hot topic in recent years due to implications of ocean acidification on their structure, as well as the fact that they exist in areas with lots of boat traffic and moorings. Interestingly, they are not usually included in habitat characterizations or taken into consideration during MPA designations (which maybe they should!).

A rare rhodolith bed, found at only 6 bays/coves in Catalina. (photo: S. Gabara)

Collaboration in Action

The recent research trip was truly a collaborative effort between multiple institutions. Our team was composed of great minds and divers from MLML, SDSU, and even Kunsan National University in South Korea. The research team also featured the one-and-only Scott Gabara, previous grad student at MLML, who is now continuing his research on rhodoliths at SDSU in the Edwards Lab for his PhD (check out his previous Drop-In post about rhodoliths here!)

Further Reading

SDSU Graduate Student, Pike Spector, recently wrote a couple of fantastic blog posts about our work from this trip. I encourage you to check them out for more great pictures and descriptions!

Dr. Diana Steller (red BCD) and Scott Gabara survey the rhodolith bed community along a transect.

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Adventures in Mexico!

Every two years, students and faculty of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories embark on a field studies course in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The field course is intended to give students the opportunity to lead independent field-based research projects in a new environment while promoting international exchange and collaboration. The 2018 class recently returned from Isla Natividad, located off of Point Eugenia on the Pacific coast, with many stories to share! Linked below are the blogs that each student wrote highlighting their experiences in Mexico.

Blogs were compiled and edited for length by TAs June Shrestha and Laurel Lam.

1) Island Life on Isla Natividad

By Jackie Mohay, Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab

“Imagine; you live in a small community on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean where a hardworking life is simple and fulfilling. One day you are told that a group of 20 will be travelling to your island to study it, using your resources and living amongst you for over a week. The people of Isla Natividad welcomed us with more than just open arms”  Read more…

2) And for something completely different… A healthy southern kelp forest

By Ann Bishop, Phycology Lab

Like their terrestrial counter parts, kelp forests reflect the impacts of the human communities who rely on them. Isla Natividad looks the way it does today because of the careful management practices and intense love the people have for their island. The willingness of the co-operative to learn, flexibility to adapt, coupled, with their ability to exclude poachers has resulted in the rich underwater world we were permitted to visit.”  Read more…

3) The Journey to Isla Natividad

By Vivian Ton, Ichthyology Lab

“Diving on Isla Natividad was an amazing experience. There were many habitat types such as rock reef, sandy bottom, surf grass beds, sea palm and kelp forests. There was kelp everywhere, the most they’ve had in the past 10 years. Along with the kelp, there were also so many fishes (especially kelp bass) to be seen and quite a few of them were massive in size.”  Read more…

4) Catching Lizards… For Science!

By Helaina Lindsey, Ichthyology Lab

“Every inch of the island was covered in my chosen study species: Uta stansburiana, the side-blotched lizard. At first glance these lizards are unremarkable; they are small and brown, infesting every home in town and scattering like cockroaches when disturbed. However, if you’re able to get your hands on one, you’ll see there’s more to them than meets the eye. They are adorable, managing to look both impish and prehistoric, and have a brilliantly colored throat. They are heliotherms, meaning that they rely on the sun to maintain their body temperature. I aim to explore the nature of their behavioral thermoregulation, but first I need to catch them.” Read more…

5) Life Was Simpler on Isla Natividad

By Katie Cieri, Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab

“The simplicity of life that results from a unique combination of isolation and intense focus is one of the utter joys of field work. I had toyed with such bliss before… but my elation in Baja California Sur dwarfed that of previous excursions. Perhaps I have matured as a naturalist, or perhaps, as I suspect, Baja is a truly transcendent place.”  Read more…

6) What does a Sheephead eat?

By Rachel Brooks, Ichthyology Lab

“For my project, I was interested in exploring the variability in diet of California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) across the island. Once we were suited up, our dive guide Ivan, dive buddy Laurel and I flipped over the side and began our descent through the lush kelp canopy towards the bottom. It took only a matter of seconds before I saw my first Sheephead swim by. Eager to get my first fish, I loaded my speargun and zoned in with little success. It took what seemed like an eternity (20 minutes) before I got my first fish, but when I did, I was overflowing with excitement.”  Read more…

7) Best-made Plans vs. the Reality of Adjusting to Field Conditions

By Hali Rederer, California State University Sacramento

“My fellow students and I were immersed in rich practical “hands on” experiences integrating scientific field methods with experimental design.  This course was comprehensive and the pace was fast. Designing and carrying out a tide pool fish study, in a very short time frame, in a place I had never been, presented challenges requiring flexibility and creative approaches.”  Read more…

8) Vivan Los Aves!

By Nikki Inglis, CSU Monterey Bay – Applied Marine & Watershed Science

“It wasn’t until the last star came out on moonless night that we heard it. At first, it sounded like the incessant wind whipping around the wooden cabin walls. We heard wings gliding in from the Pacific Ocean and a welling up of some invisible kind of energy. Within minutes, the sound was everywhere. The hills teemed, wings flapped frantically around us. We couldn’t see any of it, but the soundscape was three-dimensional, painting a picture of tens of thousands of birds reveling in their moonless refuge. Isla Natividad’s black-vented shearwater colony had come to life.”  Read more…

9) Recollections from a Baja Field Notebook

By Sloane Lofy, Phycology Lab

[Written from the point of view of her field notebook] “Hello! I would like to introduce myself; I am the field notebook of Sloane Lofy… As a requirement for the course each student must keep a field notebook so that thoughts, ideas, and notes from the field can be used in their research papers later. To give you a feel for what the trip to Baja was like from leaving the parking lot to coming home I will share with you some of her entries.”  Read more…

10) From Scientist to Local

By Jacoby Baker, Ichthyology Lab

“Every day we worked with locals, spending hours with them in the pangas, learning the areas where we were diving and what species we may find. Our relationships quickly morphed from strangers, to colleagues, and finally to friends as we shared our dives and helped each other with our projects. The diving was fantastic, but the chance to be taken in by the town and being accepted so fully into their culture was an experience that you can’t find just anywhere.”  Read more…

11) Snails and Goat Tacos: The Flavors of Baja

By Dan Gossard, Phycology Lab

“Science is not typically described as “easy”. This trip to a beautiful, remote, desert island wasn’t the easy-going vacation-esque experience one may have expected. Hard work was paramount to collect as much data as possible in a relatively short amount of time. Conducting science at Isla Natividad was a privilege that I greatly appreciated and I hope to return there one day to follow up on my research.”  Read more… 

12) 600 Miles South of the Border

By Lauren Parker, Ichthyology Lab

“If there is one thing I have learned from traveling, it’s that nothing turns out exactly the way you plan it. Tires crack, caravans split up, radios fail, water jugs leak, and you realize that coffee for 20 people cannot be made quickly enough to satisfy the demand. However, beautiful things happen just as often as the unfortunate. Friendships form and others strengthen; new skills are discovered and developed. A flowering cactus forest turns out to be one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. The wind slows and the sun comes out.”  Read more…


Eager to reminisce about previous trips to Baja?? Check out our previous posts:


Posted in Classes, Field Trip, June Shrestha, Tales from the Classroom

Another “Thank You” to Dr. Kenneth Coale: A Student’s Perspective

Moss Landing has had a series of faculty retirements in the last year, including many who have been a part of the local community for decades. Kenneth Coale has long been synonymous with the lab space, helping students in the shop and forever carrying his coffee mug down the hallway. While we welcome this influx of new blood in the near future, we feel keenly the loss of familiarity and trust. Sharon Hsu, a student in the Vertebrate Ecology lab, wrote this piece to read aloud during Kenneth’s retirement party. It echoes a sentiment many of us in the student body feel keenly.

– Amanda Heidt

I’m really mad at Kenneth.

Wait, let me explain.

The first time I met Kenneth, he was shining a laser pointer on giant squid in a plastic tube. I had seen him before, in the hallways, making what I know now are trips to the staff room coffee pot, but I’d never spoken with him before.

I said, “What are you doing?”

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Congratulations to our 2017 graduates!

By June ShresthaIchthyology Lab.

Congratulations to 14 students who defended their research theses and graduated from our program this year! Student research spanned across continents, taking us from the kelp forests of California, to the deep seas of South Africa, and even Antarctica!

The following students were awarded a Masters of Science in Marine Science:

  • Angela Zepp, Phycology
  • Devona Yates, Ichthyology
  • Maureen Wise, Chemical Oceanography & Phycology
  • Melinda Wheelock, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Kristin Walovich, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Dorota Szuta, Benthic Ecology
  • Scott Miller, Ichthyology
  • Ryan Manzer, Physical Oceanography
  • James Knuckey, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Jen Keliher, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Jinchen (Martin) Guo, Invertebrate Zoology
  • Christian Denney, Fisheries and Conservation Biology
  • Paul Clerkin, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Stephan Bitterwolf, Phycology

Read below to learn more about the graduates’ research. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

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Geological Oceanography: Field Trip to Manresa State Beach

Kathleen Cieri_Starr Lab
Guest blog post from student, Kathleen Cieri, of the Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab.
On Wednesday, September 27th, Professor Ivano Aielloo and GA Tyler Barnes lead the students of Geological Oceanography on an exploration of the fascinating sedimentary record at Manresa State Beach. It was a beautiful day for a beach adventure, and a pod of dolphins blessed the budding geologists with aerial displays.
After bushwhacking their way through invasive pampas grass and ice plant, the students were rewarded with a remarkable record of California’s coastal geologic history. The eager pupils got up-close and personal with the marine terraces in order to piece together the fascinating story of sea level rise and fall over the last 120 thousand years.

The students of Geological Oceanography gather at the base of a marine terrace at Manresa State Beach after a productive afternoon. (Photo Source: Kathleen Cieri).

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Aquacultural Methods for the Restoration of the Olympia Oyster ( Ostrea lurida) in Elkhorn Slough



Post by guest blogger, Daniel Gossard, a graduate student in our Phycology Lab.


VIDEO CAPTION: A compound microscope shows an up close and personal view of one of the Oly larva. After some time having developed within the mantle cavity of the mother, the mature oyster will spew a cloud of larvae into the environment. This larval stage, the pediveliger, is a free-swimming stage that actively feeds on phytoplankton. Quick movement of the ring of cilia, also known as the vellum, directs tiny plankton towards the larva’s mouth. This vellum also provides the pediveliger with the ability to move around in the water column. This stage also has a transparent shell protecting its delicate innards that the oyster can withdraw into after picking up environmental sensory cues. (Video Source: Daniel Gossard).

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