If you have seen photos of coral reefs, you probably agree that coral reefs are beautiful, colorful seascapes. Coral reefs are indeed picturesque, but they are also extremely important to humans for a number of reasons. Coral reefs protect coastlines from storm surges and erosion, support local economies through tourism, and uphold diverse ecosystems that sustain important fisheries. The services of reefs are valued at $375 billion per year and 25% of fish depend on these key habitats.
Despite their economic and ecological value, coral reefs around the world are dying. Pollution and overfishing contribute to coral decline, but increasing ocean temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions is the most severe threat to coral reefs. Continue reading
As a graduate student in the Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) Ichthyology Lab, I spend a lot of time thinking about fish. Over the years, I have become aware of the importance of effective resource management. Healthy fish stocks are crucial as they are a main protein source for over three billion people globally. To ensure that there will be fish in the ocean for future generations, we must ask ourselves how our ocean resources are managed and how our fisheries will be affected by climate change.
One of the earliest forms of fisheries management consisted of exclusive fishing grounds. People would only fish in designated boundaries. This gave fishermen incentive to only fish for what was needed in order to conserve the population for future years. Most countries in the world have now switched to more modern policies. Today, fisheries managers make decisions that are informed by scientists to determine catch limits, gear restrictions, and no-fish zones (marine reserves), to name a few. The goal of these restrictions is to prevent overfishing and ensure fish stocks are healthy for long-term harvesting. However, the effects of climate change add another layer of complexity to the management of marine resources. Continue reading
The hotline rang at 2pm and I quickly ran across the lab to grab the phone, excited to find out what new adventure awaited me. “Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Stranding Network, this is Lauren,” I answered. The caller had been out for a walk on Del Monte Beach in Monterey, California and had stumbled upon a deceased California sea lion. He relayed to me his location and a brief description of the animal. I thanked him for reporting the sea lion to our hotline, packed up my equipment and headed out the door, excited for another glamorous (or maybe not) day of marine mammal field work!
What stresses you out? As a 24-year-old graduate student, I use the phrase “I’m stressed” at least once a day. I’m sure most readers can relate. Between classes, thesis deadlines, work, and rent, there are a lot of things that make my cortisol levels rise daily.
A blackeye goby next to its hole. Photo taken by Kristin Saksa at Stillwater Cove, Pebble Beach.
My personal stressors inspired me to study how stress affects a common Monterey Bay fish: the blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii). I know what you’re thinking… what could possibly stress out a fish? Didn’t Sebastian from The Little Mermaid sing a whole song about how “life under the sea is better than anything they got up there?” Well, it turns out there are a lot of things that cause a fish’s heart to race and cortisol to spike. Anything from predators being nearby to a slight increase in temperature is enough to set off a full stress response. Continue reading
Life. I have been lucky enough to have known a lot of kindness in this life. For a long time, I believed I had seen all the kindness – and more – than I could have asked for in a lifetime. And yet, life and the people in it continue to surprise me.
There is a place named Parismina – it’s a tiny dot on our map – a village of about 500 people in the heart of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, accessible only by boat. My first introduction here was in 2014, and I’ve never lost touch since. I last spent 4 months here in 2018 doing my thesis research with leatherbacks, working alongside ASTOP (Asociacion Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina), a local nonprofit sea turtle organization. During this time, I walked over 500 miles. I measured leatherback turtles – giant behemoths of the unknown – weighed their eggs, moved their nests, and watched their babies dig their way up from the sand to crawl into the same water their mothers came from. Continue reading
As a marine biologist, part of my job is to study the behavior of whales and how they interact with their environment. Many projects I am involved in are long-term (40+ years) studies that follow individual whales throughout their lives. Long-term projects allow researchers to document how whales have reacted to changes in their environment in the past and how that affected the population as a whole. These data can help determine how whales are responding to climate change and how their response may affect their long-term survival.
I’m happy to share that we’ve had a total of 13 students students defend their theses in 2019! Please join me in congratulating the students, and read below to learn a little more about their research.
The following students defended in the summer or fall:
- Steven Cunningham, Phycology
- Amanda Heidt, Invertebrate Zoology
- Sharon Hsu, Vertebrate Ecology
- Brijonnay Madrigal, Vertebrate Ecology
- Cynthia Michaud, Physical Oceanography
- Elizabeth Ramsay, Phycology
- Katie Harrington, Vertebrate Ecology
The following students defended in the spring:
- Jessica Jang, Pacific Shark Research Center
- Melissa Nehmens, Pacific Shark Research Center
- Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab
- Patrick Daniel, Physical Oceanography
- Heather Barrett, Vertebrate Ecology
- Sierra Helmann, Biological Oceanography