Archive for the ‘Take Action!’ Category

First Thoughts From a First Year

August 25, 2015


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)


Happy World Oceans Day!

June 8, 2015

Happy World Oceans Day!

A lemon shark swims near the ARMS deployed in Tetiaroa, Society Islands, French Polynesia.

A lemon shark swims by the ARMS deployed in Tetiaroa, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Photo: Christopher Meyer, Smithsonian


Every June 8th, marine and citizen scientists around the globe spread the word about celebrating our oceans and taking action to protect the diversity of life within. We are celebrating World Oceans Day on the island of Tetiaroa in French Polynesia! (more…)

How well do you know your Batoids?

April 20, 2015

When people think of sharks, they think of the majestic White (Carcharodon carcharias), the sleek Blue (Prionace glauca), or the fast Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus).

White shark; photo credit: Raul Touzon

White shark; photo credit: Raul Touzon

Blue Shark

Shortfin mako


What is a Ray?

However, many people do not know that sharks have other relatives. Elasmobranchs refers to fishes that have a cartilaginous skeleton, no swim bladders, and have five to seven gill slits. We will be focusing on the batoids, aka ‘flatsharks’. People might be familiar with the word ‘ray’, but what defines a ray? A ray is a flattened shark, with the gill slits only visible on the ventral side. Currently, there are six orders of elasmobranchs taxanomists have defined as batoids. They include: Pristiformes (Sawfishes), Rhiniformes (Wedgefishes), Rhinobatiformes (Guitarfishes), Torpediniformes (Electric Rays), Myliobatiformes (Stingrays), and the Rajiformes (Skates).

Here are what some of these batoids look like:

Dwarf sawfish (Pristis clavata)

Black Spotted Torpedo Ray (Torpedo fuscomaculata)

Shovelnose guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus)

Bowmouth guitarfish (Rhina ancylostoma)

Smoothnose wedgefish (Rhynchobatus laevis)

As you can see even these flat sharks are variable in morphology! If you are interested in how these orders are related in-depth, please check out the Tree of Life! We will go through all these different orders at a later time, but let’s focus on two orders: Myliobatiformes (Stingrays), and the Rajiformes (Skates). People often confuse these two groups, since they have similar body plans, but let’s take a closer look at their differences.


Do you know where your seafood comes from?

January 23, 2015

With oceans covering over 75% of Earth’s surface, nearly one billion people depend on seafood for sustenance. As more people continue to add seafood into their diets, our seafood resources are becoming depleted. Some seafood such as bluefin tuna are very valuable, resulting in unmanaged fisheries. To keep up with the demands and profits, products are purposely being mislabeled in hopes that the consumers will continue buying these products. Today, around 25 – 75% of the seafood we consume is mislabeled. This is an alarming issue, as seafood fraud encourages increased illegal fishing activities and impairs consumers right choices in seafood and can impact our health.

Seafood is an important source of food for many people, especially in Japan. Here is the famous Tsukiji Fish Market known for selling high quality bluefin tuna; photo credit to Japan-Guide


Whalefest: Not Just a Tale of Whales

February 3, 2014

By Melissa Nehmens, PSRC

Whalefest banner 2014

Whalefest banner 2014

On January 25th and 26th, the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf held its 4th annual Whalefest event to celebrate the migration of grey whales. Thanks to the efforts of fellow Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) student, Kristin Walovich, the PSRC and Friends of Moss Landing Marine Labs, hosted a booth at the event, speaking to attendees and passersby about what Moss Landing Marine Labs is all about!

Table attractions for the PSRC included a dehydrated Mako shark head and shark fin from our museum collection, and an anatomical model of a great white that allows you to see the inside of a shark. An interactive matching game, created by PSRC student Jessica Jang, was another favorite allowing people to test their shark knowledge by matching a shark to its description and name. We also showcased a story done by Central Coast News, interviewing PSRC director, Dave Ebert, about the lab’s role in international shark research.

How well do you know your sharks? PSRC student, Vicky Vasquez, helps a girl figure it out.

How well do you know your sharks? PSRC student, Vicky Vasquez, helps a girl figure it out.


Government Shutdown Causes Heartbreak and Hardship for Scientists

October 15, 2013

By Dorota Szuta

Benthic Ecology Lab

View of the Antarctic, photo by Clint Collins.

A research team at MLML has been conducting research in the Antarctic for many years, but this year their plans may be shutdown. View of the Antarctic, photo by Clint Collins.

To be honest, I was sure this would have been over by now. When the government shutdown first started, I didn’t think it could reasonably last more than a couple of days. Even now in the second week, many people are still not seeing serious ramifications of the shutdown in their own lives. I, however, am feeling its effects greatly.

I started the Moss Landing Marine Lab graduate program last year after working as a research assistant in the Benthic Ecology Lab for a couple of years. My thesis work focuses on changes in Antarctic bottom-dwelling communities along a depth gradient, under the guidance of Dr. Stacy Kim. I’ve taken this current semester off from coursework in order to go to Antarctica to do field work for three months. Despite not being in any classes, I’ve been surprisingly busy getting ready for the trip. In order to physically qualify to work in Antartica, there are a series of medical tests everyone must pass involving EKG’s, full dental x-rays, blood work, and vaccinations. The diving we were planning on doing in Antarctica is deep, in sub-zero temperatures, and under a thick sheet of ice—considerably different than diving here in the Monterey Bay, so I had a lot of dive training to complete. Our team (you can read more about our work here: was scheduled to live in a field camp where we would be collecting data through a hole in the ice with our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called SCINI, so since the summer we’ve been testing its functioning and practicing driving it. Needless to say, our engineers have been busy.


Beyond the Obituaries: the shining stars of conservation work

June 17, 2013

Beyond the Obituaries: the shinning stars of conservation work

By Michelle Marraffini
Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab

Coral Reef

Artist illustration of coral reef. Photo from; illustration by Gina Mikel.

Conservation science can sometimes feel like it is all doom and gloom stories with reports of have few of a species are left or what factors may lead a species to go extinct. Dr. Knowlton, a career scientist with the Smithsonian, realized that after attending conferences and taking surveys of conservation scientist, people tend to think of conservation science as a losing business. Nancy Knowlton and her work on a project called “Beyond the Obituaries” is trying to change that image. She highlights stories of groups that make conservation work; they include fishing villages that enact their own Marine Protected Areas, species saved by local activists, protecting turtles and sharks by reducing by-catch, and many more success stories of ocean science. “I felt it was really important to give people a reason to think that there is something you can do” Dr. Knowlton explained when asked about her recent work. By focusing on solutions rather then failures, hopefully she will reassure people that there is still time to save the coral reefs and safeguard marine biodiversity around the world.

Saving the Oceans through positive thinking

Dr. Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian. Saving the oceans through the power of positive thinking. Photo from Smithsonian website

Dr. Knowlton recently gave a seminar at MLML and in an hour inspired many of our students to take a more positive outlook on science. By focusing on the victories and learning what works we can help preserve more of the world’s oceans for the future. So now I am challenging you to listen to Dr. Knowlton’s talk (linked below) and do your small part to save the world’s oceans and inspire those around you to do the same.

You can hear Dr. Knowlton’s “Beyond the Obituaries: Success Stories in Ocean Conservation” on youtube and find more information on their website. She also has a book with National Geographic!

Citizens of the Sea

Citizens of the Sea, National Geographic book by Nancy Knowlton

World Oceans Day 2013

June 8, 2013

Harbor Seal


Help create a wave of change this World Oceans Day!  Today is a day to spread the word about conservation and our responsibility of improving the health of the oceans.  To find out ways to celebrate go to  Your promise to the oceans could be to start using a reusable water bottle or bringing reusable grocery bags to the store.  We will have a large positive impact on the health of the oceans if each one of us reduces the amount of plastic we use.  You can read in this article about MBARI’s observations of trash in the deep sea.  Of 1100+ observations of garbage in Monterey Bay, 32% were plastic and 23% metal.  Our impacts were detected as deep as 13,000 feet and 300 miles offshore.  We need to reduce our reliance on single use items!  Celebrate in your own way to rise up and be the voice of the ocean!

Giant Kelp



One woman, one horse, and one dog: A 450-mile adventure!

May 17, 2013

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Warning, this is about horses — terrestrial mammals, yes. But as you may know, cetaceans did come from an ungulate lineage. So settle down kids.

I wanted to tell you all a little bit about my sister’s upcoming epic journey.

On May 25, my sister, Samantha, will embark on a 28-day journey across Nevada on horseback.

Why you ask?

Because no one ever has!

This will be the first solo equestrian ride along the Nevada portion of the American Discovery Trail, the coast-to-coast trail across the United Stated from Point Reyes National Seashore in California to the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware. (more…)

‘Spot a Basking Shark’ Project. How can you help save this endangered shark?

April 9, 2013
Photo by Greg Skomal

You can help the PSRC collect information to save the Basking Shark! Photo by Greg Skomal

By Kristin Walovich, Pacific Shark Research Center

Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal of gigantic man-eating sharks, the three largest species of shark spend their time peacefully roaming the ocean’s surface munching on the ocean’s smallest creatures.  Basking Sharks, the second largest species of shark, cruise the seas in search of plankton, filtering up to 2,000 tons of water across its gills per hour. Reaching lengths of thirty five feet, this shark exists worldwide, yet very little is known about how they live or where they go.

To discover more information about this vulnerable species, scientists from the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have begun a new type of shark hunt. Unlike the crazed and frantic scenes from the JAWS movie, this shark hunt only requires a boat, camera and telephone! The Spot a Basking Shark Project enlists the help of local sea-farers to uncover the demographics and distribution of the California Basking Shark.

Once common along the California coast, these gentle giants are now a rare sight. In the past, these social creatures were seen in schools of hundreds or thousands; however since 1993 no more than three basking sharks have been spotted together. Fishing and eradication efforts by fishermen who believed them to be ‘man-eaters’ contributed heavily to their population decline. Despite the fishery closure in the late 1950s, Basking Shark numbers have remained low, mostly due to human impacts like vessel strikes, fisheries bycatch and illegal shark fining. Based on the decline of Basking Shark numbers and lack of species information, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species as endangered.

If you see a Basking Shark, the PSRC and NMFS want to know! These sharks can be identified by their large size, pointed snouts, and large gill slits that encircle the head. Basking sharks have dorsal fins up to three feet tall that are visible as they slowly swim along the surface with mouths wide open catching plankton.  If you see a Basking Shark, call or email the PSRC with your location, date and time of the sighting and any photos or videos. Your information helps the PSRC document and understand these majestic and peaceful creatures.

Visit the PSRC Website to report a sighting and to learn more about Basking Sharks!

Photo by Andrew Parsons

The basking shark can filter 2,000 gallons of water per hour while searching for plankton. Photo by Andrew Parsons


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