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Sanctuary Currents 2009
Back to the Future: Preserving the Sanctuary by Exploring Its Past

General Info & Program | Session Abstracts | Ricketts Lecture | MBNMS Awards | Exhibitors
Research Posters & Awards | 2009 Symposium Poster (PDF)

Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture


Bruce Robison

Senior Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute


Heroes of Future Past: Deep Pelagic Research in Monterey Bay

Henry Bryant Bigelow, Tage Skogsberg, Rolf Bolin and Eric Barham are names we seldom hear these days but each man played an important role in the development of our understanding of the animals that live in the deep waters of Monterey Bay. In 1928 Bigelow conducted a reconnaissance survey of the waters and plankton of Monterey Bay. Skogsberg initiated the first long-term hydrobiological survey of Monterey Bay that ran from 1929 to 1937. Bolin surveyed deep waters over the Monterey Submarine Canyon in the 1950s; and Barham brought new methods to bear on questions of animal distribution patterns over the Canyon. The legacy of these four scientists is a historical record of oceanographic conditions and biological patterns in the water column of Monterey Bay that reaches back eighty years.

In 1995 MBARI began a new time-series of pelagic measurements using technologies that could only have been dreamed of in 1928. This time series is the only data set of its kind and because of it, Monterey Bay is becoming the world's reference community for deep pelagic ecology. When we compare data from the historic surveys with the current one we find both similarities and differences in the species composition, relative abundance, and vertical distribution of animals in the deep water column—patterns that tell us how the midwater community has changed over the long term. The modern data set has also revealed significant short-term variations that may reflect an accelerated rate of change due to human influence. Ed Ricketts contributed directly to the surveys of Bigelow and Skogsberg; he was a friend to Bolin; and an inspiration to Barham and all who follow.

About Bruce Robison

Dr. Bruce Robison received his PhD from Stanford University in 1973. He spent two years conducting postdoctoral research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, before returning home to California, and to UC Santa Barbara. In 1987 he joined the newly formed Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Robison's research is focused on the biology and ecology of deep sea animals, particularly those that inhabit the oceanic water column. He pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and he led the first team of scientists trained as research submersible pilots. As pilot or observer, Robison has spent a good portion of his career in deep water, aboard more than a dozen different submersibles. At MBARI, his research team has focused on the development of remotely operated vehicles as research platforms for deep-sea research.

Bruce Robison is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. In 2002 he received the Marine Technology Society's Lockheed-Martin Award for Ocean Science and Engineering. In 2007 he was a Resident Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center. His research in deep-sea ecology has carried him throughout the Pacific, to the Atlantic, and to the oceanic waters around Antarctica. He is the author of two books and more than ninety scientific publications on a wide range of organisms from fishes, squids and jellies to krill, dolphins and algae.

History of Ricketts Memorial Award and Past Recipients

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