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Sanctuary Currents 2010
Voices of Hope: Science and Innovation for the Ocean

General Info & Program | Session Abstracts | Ricketts Lecture | Exhibitors
Research Posters & Awards | 2010 Symposium Poster (86KB PDF*)

Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture


Rikk Kvitek

Division of Science and Environmental Policy

Seafloor Mapping Lab

California State University Monterey Bay


From "You've Got to Be Kidding!" To "Ah-Ha!"
Hope For Our Oceans Through Insight and Innovation

Need, frustration, breakthrough and surprise is a trajectory common to many enterprises, especially science, where answers are often sought beyond the "You've Got to Be Kidding!" edge of what seems possible. Indeed, it is often frustration-induced lateral thinking that brings us to those Ah-Ha! moments of insight, innovation and breakthrough. Choosing or being forced to see things differently can make all the difference. Now, with our coastal oceans and communities facing the unprecedented threats of global warming, climate change, sea level rise, acidification, pollution, storm intensification, fishery declines, coastal erosion, harmful algal blooms, and more, we are in need of Ah-Ha! insights and solutions more than ever before. Not the least of which being ways to enhance public environmental literacy. Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) has been championed for over a decade as the pursuit and use of deeper ecosystem understanding to drive effective adaptive management solutions for the sustainable use of environmental goods and services. But it is difficult to understand, let alone agree upon and manage what you cannot see. Recent advances in our ability to collect and utilize spatially explicit data for the visualization of California's marine ecosystems have sprung from and lead to surprising insights that are making EBM both possible and personal. Here I use the ambitious, multi-institutional California Seafloor Mapping Project as a case in point for how transformational technology and data are changing for the better the way the public, agencies and scientists see, manage and interact with the marine environment. Stunning imagery, basic and applied scientific collaborations and breakthroughs, enhanced public environmental literacy, critical work force development, innovative resource utilization, and effective policy and management decisions are all now flowing from this type of strategic investment in state-of-the-art marine environmental data.

About Rikk Kvitek

Rikk Kvitek is an outstanding marine scientist, educator, and public servant who has focused most of his work over the last 20+ years on applied projects in Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough. He received his M.S. in invertebrate zoology at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and then his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. Upon graduation, he spent many years as a benthic ecologist working in polar and coastal systems. He finally accepted a faculty position as a professor at CSUMB, where he has created and now oversees that university's very successful geospatial curriculum (GIS, GPS, Remote Sensing) and also created and directs CSUMB's Seafloor Mapping Lab (SFML), which is within the Spatial Information, Visualization and Analysis (SIVA) Center. He served as interim dean of Science, Media Arts, and Technology, but is now back to teaching and research full time.

Dr. Kvitek and his students have provided detailed, timely, and accurate information about seafloor terrain, habitats, and ecology to a variety of government agencies around the Monterey Bay including the MBNMS, the California Coastal Commission, and the California Department of Fish and Game. He is an accomplished teacher and uses the Seafloor Mapping Lab with its two research vessels, side scan sonar, multibeam bathymetry unit, and ROV as a real-world, hands-on "classroom" for dozens of undergraduate students each semester. Thus, he provides unprecedented opportunities for these students to gain first hand experience with state-of-the-art marine technologies for seafloor mapping and habitat characterization, as well as the processes of analyzing data and preparing it for publication.

The majority of the dozens of projects that Dr. Kvitek has completed with his students directly benefit the Sanctuary and other stakeholders around the bay (as well as elsewhere in California, the Pacific Northwest, and even Antarctica). For example, his students have done multibeam mapping of SIMoN priority habitat areas within the MBNMS. They have characterized the benthic and planktonic communities of Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve and mapped underwater erosion rates and locations in the Slough. They have conducted extensive seafloor mapping and habitat characterization projects for MBNMS, as well as other Sanctuaries including Channel Islands, Cordell Banks, and Olympic Coast. The experiences students have gained through these projects have enabled them to move right into excellent jobs with local agencies (e.g., California Department of Fish and Game) and to get into some of the most competitive graduate school programs in the country. In summary, Rikk Kvitek has contributed in substantial ways to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, many local agencies, and hundreds of students, many of whom are now, as graduates, assuming leadership roles related to the management of ocean resources in our communities.

History of Ricketts Memorial Award and Past Recipients