Conference in Catalina? Yes, please!

Three weekends ago (3/18~3/20), the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Northeast Pacific Shark Symposium.This symposium was to gather elasmobranch biologists and aquarists from the west coast and share their research and potentially collaborate on future research. People from Canada and Mexico were able to join us for this bi-annual event. What better way to have this conference at the famous USC Wrigley Center in Catalina!

All of us board the ferry at 8 AM and then prepared to spend two days talking about elasmobranchs!


The USC Wrigley Institute

We had a couple hours to explore the island before the first set of presentations, I had the opportunity to hike around the island and look at the beautiful scenery.



After having lunch, had people present about their research and learned lots of really neat things about elasmobranch research; the talks ranged from the charismatic white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) to the less attentive batoids (flat sharks). We also became aware of the new opportunities to collaborate with other scientists.



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Thank you from the MLML students

Dear MLML Open House Visitors,

As a recipient of the 2016 Wave Award, I would like to sincerely thank the visitors of the 2015 Open House Event.

The Wave Award, funded by the generous contributions of Open House attendees, was established by the MLML Student Body to recognize graduate students who have generously given their time and shown continued dedication to MLML community service. At last year’s event, more than 2,000 attendees contributed $5,000 to student scholarships. The seven Wave Awards given this year will directly support our thesis research.

Students at MLML often juggle full time school, multiple jobs, a family, and maybe even some free time to complete our degrees. The financial support provided by this award is a welcome and wholeheartedly appreciated gift from the community, and I greatly appreciate your support.

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the 2015 Open House Event. We hope to see you this year again April 30th and May 1st! Please visit the 2016 Open House Event Website for more information about this year’s very special 50th anniversary event.

Sincerely, Kristin Walovich

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Kelp Forest Community

By Heather Fulton-BennettPhycology Lab

While every student at Moss Landing Marine Labs designs their own thesis, sometimes one comes along that really requires the entire community.

Phycology student Steven Cunningham is looking at the effect of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, detritus on the plankton community. Macrocystis is considered a foundation species because thousands of species that depend on it for habitat and food. Steven is constructing an artificial kelp forest to disentangle the impact of structure and nutrients on the kelp fores community. With so many plants to make, he rallied the labs this past weekend, complete with movies and BBQ to keep everyone fed and amused.

Kelp Helpers working through the weekend to get this forest built! Photo: Lindsay Cooper

Kelp Helpers working through the weekend to get this forest built! Photo: Lindsay Cooper

The artificial kelp is made from marine-grade polypropylene rope and tarp with concrete holdfasts that will be bolted to the substrate. With the artificial kelp being deployed at 25 ft depth and multiple stipes per plant, it came it thousands of feet of rope and thousands of individual tarp blades, each attached by hand. Over 30 people came to help and hang out, making the work go much faster. It was great to see so much of the MLML community come to support one thesis, and a good reminder of how we can never get through this degree by ourselves.

From the holdfast to the canopy, Steven Cunningham designed this kelp to mimic Macrocystis pyrifera

From the holdfast to the canopy, this kelp to mimic the structure of natural Macrocystis integrifolia beds. Photo: Lindsay Cooper

With all the help, Steven hopes to deploy his fake kelp in the next month!

Thousands of fake blades are attached to hundreds of polypro stipes to make up the plants. Photo: Lindsay Cooper

Thousands of fake blades are attached to hundreds of polypro stipes to make up the plants. Photo: Lindsay Cooper



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Spring has sprung, the grass has riz


By Jackie Lindsey, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

We are just breaths away from the first day of spring, and the wildlife of Moss Landing, CA is in a flurry. High above the the heads of kayakers and sea otters in Elkhorn Slough, birds have started constructing their condos in the tall eucalyptus trees that line the shore of this estuary. Egrets, cormorants, and herons are gathering supplies and strength to begin chick rearing.  In just a few weeks these silent efforts will be rewarded with the arrival of fluffy chicks, clamoring for their next meal. These particular condos have reached surprisingly high densities in past years, nearing 200 nests!

Great Egret (Ardea alba) nest with three chicks at the in the Mo

Great Egret (Ardea alba) nest with three chicks at the in the Morro Bay Heron Rookery. 21 May 2009. Photo by Michael “Mike” L. Baird

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Tales from the Field: Research at Catalina Island Part II

230855_10150295628783835_1400708_nBy Stephen Pang, Ichthyology Lab

If you read my previous blog post, you may remember that I spent my summer out on Santa Catalina Island at the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC), a research facility owned and operated by the University of Southern California (USC). While there, I began my thesis research examining the effect of male limitation on the reproductive output of blackeye gobies, a temperate sex-changing fish. While we were able to successfully set up the project, we were unable to collect any useable data.


A blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii). My study species for this project. Source: Ron’s Critter of the Day.

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Climate Change, Upwelling, and Our Deep Sea Canyon

By Catherine Drake, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

One of the many great aspects about doing marine research in Monterey Bay is that there are many institutions in the area, all of which are interested in uncovering the unknown about our Pacific Ocean. Many Moss Landing Marine Labs graduate students often continue their careers at these institutions. In fact, right down the street from our lab is Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI for short), and many former graduate students now work there. Much of the research performed at MBARI involves taking ROVs into our canyon and exploring what lies beneath the water we see from MLML’s windows.

For the last 25+ years, scientists at MBARI have been monitoring a site deemed “Station M” within the Monterey Canyon that is 126 miles offshore and 2.5 miles below the surface. For 20 of those 25 years, the ecosystem has been relatively stable and sponges were the dominant invertebrates in the area.

Then, between 2011 and 2014, scientists noticed that sea cucumbers immigrated into Station M and out-competed the sponges. One interesting fact about these squishy deep sea echinoderms is that, in addition to inching along like caterpillars, they can actually also swim around! They rely on sinking and decaying detritus for food, and increased decaying plant life around Station M is what allowed the sea cucumbers to take over.


Two deep sea peniagone sea cucumbers scouring the seafloor for food in 2013. (Photo by: MBARI)

But why was there a sudden increase in food, and where did it come from? These were among the questions asked by MBARI scientists, and they believe the decaying plant life may have been pushed into the system through upwelling. Seasonal winds cause upwelling, which brings cold, nutrient rich waters to the surface. Scientists believe that climate change is causing an increase in these winds, which in turn, is increasing the frequency of upwelling.


Schematic of the upwelling process. (Photo by: Seos Project)

Christine Huffard, a scientist on the project said, “What we do on the surface waters does affect the deep sea. We are not just changing our immediate everyday surroundings, we are changing the greatest depths of the ocean.” So, as we humans heat up the Earth, that changes how the ocean works, which then affects even the deepest part of our canyon. For its inhabitants, that means more food for sea cucumbers, and for us, it means food for thought of our actions on land!

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Fisheries Course Navigates Students Through the Rocky Seas of Management

By June Shrestha, Ichthyology Lab.

Understanding how people use the ocean and its resources is not straightforward. Some fish for a job. Some fish for fun. Some don’t fish at all and use the waters for recreation, tourism, or science. How can we manage the ocean when so many different groups (stakeholders) have different needs and wants?

Last semester, students explored these issues in the Fisheries Biology and Resource Management seminar course taught by Dr. Scott Hamilton (Ichthyology) and Dr. Rick Starr (Fisheries and Conservation Biology). We learned that many fisheries around the world are overexploited, such as the decline of Nassau Grouper in the Bahamas, Common Thresher sharks around the world, and the Brown Sea Cucumber in the Galápagos Islands.

Exploited and Recovering Fisheries

Overexploited fisheries include the Nassau Grouper, Common Thresher Shark, and Sea Cucumber. The Orange Roughy fishery in Australia is thought to be in recovery. Photo sources, clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4

However, not all is “doom and gloom” – success stories in fisheries management do exist.

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