The 100th Year of the Western Society of Naturalists

WSN 2016 Conference

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Western Society of Naturalists (WSN) meeting as well as the 50th for Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). Fittingly, this year’s WSN conference saw MLML emeritus professor, Dr. Michael Foster, receive the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for crucial work studying the population and community ecology of marine macroalgae.

Six of MLML’s specified laboratories were represented by students, past and present, as well as one faculty member at this year’s WSN conference. A total of 21 presentations were given with 10 being oral presentations and 11 being posters; 11 MLML alumni presented, 12 current students and 1 faculty member. They Phycology and Invetebrate labs led the pack with the most presentations. Below is a list of highlights from those presentations.


MLML faculty along with students, past & present, taking a group photo with Lifetime Achievement Award winner Mike Foster. (Photo Source: Heather Kramp).

Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and emeritus MLML faculty of phycology, Dr. Mike Foster 


Dr. Mike Foster speaks on behalf of his career at Moss Landing Marine Labs. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Oral Presentations

Jennifer A. Chiu, Fisheries & Conservation Biology: Lesson from 10 Years of Collaborative Fisheries Research in MPAs

Since this project uses volunteer anglers from the community for fish density assessments within MPAs (Marine Protected Areas), the analysis factors in angler expertise as a potential caveat to results where more fish where collected on some occasions versus others.

Pamela Neeb Wade, alumni of the Invertebrate Zoology: The Effect of a Non-Native Species on Juvenile Olympia Oysters in the Elkhorn Slough Estuary

Studied the Olympia Oysters (Ostrea lurida) of Elkhorn Slough which provide genetic connectivity between the populations to the south and north. Ms. Neeb Wade is also a recent MLML graduate who is currently employed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a Senior Education Specialist.

Robert A. San Miguel, alumni of the Phycology Lab: Population Genetic Structure of the Bull-Kelp Nereocystis luetkeana

Mr. San Miguel affectionately referrs to Nereocystis luetkeana, an understudied species, as the Cinderella of the macroalgae (large kelps). Shortly after this presentation, he officially defended his thesis at MLML on the gametophyte (stage of sexual reproduction in an kelp’s life cycle) fitness and costs of self fertilization of Macrocystis pyrifera.


Robert San Miguel presenting on an understudied species of macroalgae. (Photo Credit: Melissa Nehmens)

Cheryl L. Barnes, alumni of the Fisheries & Conservation Biology: A Comparative Assessment of Resource Use by Pacific Halibut and Arrowtooth Flounder from Nearshore Waters of Southeast Alaska

Ms. Barnes studied Pacific Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) as part of her Master thesis at MLML.  A clever part of her current study of diet comparisons between Pacific Halibut and Arrowtooh Flounder (Atheresthes stomias) not only considers body size, but also the influence of mouth gapes on prey size.


Cheryl Barnes presenting on her graduate work at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Cody J. Dawson, Phycology Lab: Physical and Chemical Response to Disturbance by the Fucoid, Stephanocystis osmundacea

Mr. Dawson is using SCUBA diving to design an underwater experiment to study how sensitive these perennial fucoids (a type of brown algae) are to senescence (the gradual deterioration of function).


Cody J. Dawson introducing his oral presentation on his Master’s thesis. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Steven R. Cunningham, Phycology Lab: Decoupling Physical from Biogenic Effects of the Giant Kelp Macrocystis pyrifera on POC Distribution in a Kelp Forest

The methods for this project required the massive assembly of 30ft long artificial kelp and 30-40 volunteers. The process for which demonstrated the high level of comradery among students to support each other’s thesis work.

Melinda Wheelock, Invertebrate Zoology: Shifting Species Boundaries: Native and Introduced Mussels (Mytilus Spp.) on the Pacific Coast

Ms. Wheelock has been spending her time under the docks, literally! Her exploration of fouling communities in local harbors is part of how she’s monitoring the presence of native and non-native mussel species.


Melinda Wheelock presenting her thesis work. (Photo Credit: Melissa Nehmens)

Poster Presentations

Lindsay M. Cooper, Phycology Lab: Storage Mechanisms of Pterygophora californica: How an Understory Kelp can Recover from Disturbance and Thrive


Lindsay M. Cooper is ready to talk kelp with WSN participants! (Photo credit Mason Cole)

Catherine A. Drake, Invertebrate Zoology: Sexual and Ontogenetic Variation in Decoration Choice of the Masking Crab, Loxorynchus crispatus


Catherine Drake is happy to talk about the data she collected on Masking Crabs for her thesis. (Photo Source: Catherine Drake)

Heather Fulton-Bennett, alumni of the Phycology Lab: Reproductive Consequences of Morphological Variation in Egregia Menziesii


Heather Fulton-Bennett, a recent MLML alumna, is talking about her completed masters work. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Scott Gabarra, alumni of the Invertebrate Zoology: Rhodolith Bed Community Structure and Energy Flow at Santa Catalina Island, CA


A meeting of the rhodolith minds over a cup of joe with MLML alumnus, Scott Gabarra. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Heather E. Kramp, Ichthyology Lab: Kelp Forest Fish Community Productivity on Nearshore Reefs Along the California Coast

Evan G. Mattiasen, Ichthyology Lab: Effects of Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia on Behavior and Physiology of Rockfishes (Sebastes Spp.)


Evan Mattiasen points out the latest results from his research on juvenile rockfish. (Photo Credit: Vicky Vásquez)

Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab: The Effect of Male Limitation on the Reproductive Output of the Bluebanded Goby (Lythrpynus dalli)


Stephen Pang is ready to spread the word on his thesis work about the Bluebanded Gobies of Catalina Island. (Photo Source: Stephen Pang)

June Shrestha, Ichthyology Lab: Fish-derived Nutrients in Kelp Forests: The Influence of Marine Reserves on a Hidden Nitrogen Source


June Shrestha explaining her thesis work to a WSN participant. (Photo source June Shrestha)

Kenji J. Soto, Benthic Ecology Lab: Habitat preferences of invertebrates in the near vent environment of the Lau Basin


Kenji Soto points out the exotic study site, the Lau Basin, where his thesis work is based. (Photo credit Vicky Vásquez)

Victoria Elena Vásquez, Pacific Shark Research Center: ‘It’s Hammertime!‘: Uncovering the Secrets of an Iconic Shark with Citizen Science

About Vicky Vásquez

As a graduate student through the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC), I study shark behavior and ecology. I share my expanding research knowledge and engage other in marine science through my role as the Founding Deputy Director of the Ocean Research Foundation (ORF).
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