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Sanctuary Currents 2011
Ripple Effects: The Far-Reaching Impacts of Local Ocean Research

General Info & Program | Session Abstracts | Ricketts Lecture
Research Posters & Awards | 2011 Symposium Poster (344KB PDF*)

Research Poster Session: Awards, Abstracts, and PDFs


Research Poster Awards

The MBNMS presents awards for outstanding research posters presented at the MBNMS Sanctuary Currents Symposium. The judges determine the specific kinds of awards to present each year based on the posters presented at the Symposium.

Past Research Poster Award Winners

2011 Best Graduate Student Poster


California State University Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Linking habitat heterogeneity to genetic partitioning in the rocky subtidal using black surfperch (Embiotoca jacksoni)

2011 Honorable Mention: Graduate Student Poster


  1. Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA
  2. University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Using stable isotope analysis to study migration and trophic ecology of Eastern North Pacific white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias)

2011 Best Undergraduate Student Poster


Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Habitat associations of spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

2011 Honorable Mention: Undergraduate Student Poster


  1. Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  2. The Nature Conservancy, Monterey, CA

Fish associations with small-scale topography in unconsolidated sediments

2011 Best High School Student Poster

JUAREZ, J (1,2), J JIMENEZ (1,2), X HUANG (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Aquatic invertebrates and the health of the slough

2011 Honorable Mention: High School Student Poster

VEGA, V (1,2), A BARRIOS (1,2), A LUNA (1,2), M SOLANO (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

You acidify the water, they pay the price: the effect of ocean acidification on crabs

Research Poster Session Abstracts and PDFs


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, CA

Impact of sea level rise on tidepool zonation: a study at Davenport Landing

Our goal is to explore the biodiversity of the Davenport Landing tidepools along a pre-established vertical transect. Our investigative question is: What is causing the change in the biodiversity of organisms along the vertical transect? We predict that sea level rise is causing a migration of tidepool inhabitants into higher intertidal zones. We have been monitoring the vertical transect, established in the 1970's, twice a month (as conditions allow) during low tides since June 2010. We measure wind speed, tides and temperature. Then using permanent eyebolts, we secure a tape measure and center a quadrat over the transect every 3 meters out to 21 meters. Following LiMPET'S protocols (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students), we count and record the abundance of 30 species of invertebrates and algae in each quadrat and also note bare rock and sand. So far, our results indicate classic tidal zonation patterns. We will be comparing our data with previously collected data to determine if our hypothesis is correct. We would like to thank our mentor Dr. John Pearse, Professor Emeritus, UCSC.

ANAYA, Y (1,2), K PIMENTAL (1,2), S VARGAS (1,2), S PATINO (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Runoff we can change: California tule and California milkweed as natural filters (120 KB PDF)

Plants act as a natural filter in the wetlands to reduce the amount of nitrates, phosphates, metals, and other harmful materials from the water. Recently agricultural runoff has increased the amount of nitrates and phosphates in the water. An increase in nitrates and phosphates can cause algal blooms and plants will eventually drain out all of the water in the wetlands destroying habitats. This problem prompted us to investigate which native plant acts as a better filter to reduce the amount of nitrates and phosphates in the ground; California Tule or California Milkweed. We predict California Tule will act as a better natural filter to reduce the amount of nitrates and phosphates in the water than California Milkweed because its roots are always covered in water, therefore being exposed to more nitrates and phosphates. By planting California Tule and California Milkweed in individual pots and adding a controlled amount of nitrates and phosphates to each of them and comparing the amount that comes out, we will be able to figure out which plant is a better natural filter. We predict that by conducting this experiment, we will inform restoration groups which native plant can filter the agricultural runoff best. Reducing the amount of nitrates and phosphates in the slough will benefit the community as a whole creating cleaner water, more biodiversity in the wetlands and more tourism in Watsonville.


ENVS 433 undergraduate class project, California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Inter- and intra-annual change and ecological significance of rippled scour depressions on the continental shelf of Monterey Bay: Implications for California's marine protected area network (1.3 MB PDF)

Multibeam bathymetry and backscatter data from the California Seafloor Mapping Project (CSMP) have revealed sharply delineated depressions of coarse sediment bedforms know as Rippled Scour Depressions (RSDs) to be the most ubiquitous features of sedimentary habitats across the State's continental shelf. These sinuous to lunate features are often clustered, extending from shallow (<10m) nearshore waters out toward the shelf break (>100m). The vertical separation from the adjacent fine sediment surface is typically 0.3 - 0.8 m, occurring across a very steep, narrow transition (<1m). While the distribution of these features can be clearly seen in the CSMP data, and previous studies by CSUMB students have demonstrated very high RSD field rearrangement at the decadal scale, it is not known how frequently or under what circumstances RSDs form and change. Moreover, there are no published descriptions or tests of the ecological importance of these widespread habitats. Here we present spatial analyses of repeat RSD mapping at 10 y, 1 y and 1 mo temporal scales across a 10-30m depth gradient in Monterey Bay to assess the stability of these features over different time frames and to test the hypothesis that those in shallower nearshore waters are more mobile and ephemeral than in deeper waters. Additionally, we quantify the distribution and abundance of benthic species inside and outside of RSDs based on georeferenced remotely operated vehicle (ROV) video imagery to test the hypothesis that the coarse-sediment RSDs support more depauperate and less rich species assemblages than adjacent fine-grained habitats.


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

Real time control of CO2 enrichment experiments on the sea floor enabled by the MARS cabled observatory (400 KB PDF)

We report on the development of Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) techniques to accomplish realistic (not land-based aquaria) experiments on the response of deep-sea animals to ocean acidification. Similar experiments have long been carried out with ecosystems on land, but the outcome has differed significantly from CO2 enrichment experiments conducted in enclosed greenhouses.

The equivalent problem in the ocean is far more difficult because of (1) the different physical forcing; (2) the complex reaction rates between CO2 and seawater; (3) the lack of supporting infrastructure and adequate sensors; and (4) the need for sophisticated and robust control software and hardware. We have overcome almost all of these challenges, and related working systems have already been successfully deployed on the Great Barrier Reef coralline flats with Australian colleagues.

We have used the MARS (Monterey Accelerated Research System) cabled observatory to carry out deep-ocean (880m depth) experiments. The experimental unit is a 1m x 1m x 50cm high chamber with side arms of approximately 3m length to provide the required delay times for the reaction between admixed CO2 enriched sea water and emergence of the flow into the main chamber. Controllable thrusters maintain a steady flow of seawater through the experiment. We have developed extremely low noise pH sensors that show for the first time the scale and frequency of the tidally driven pH fluctuations in the deep ocean. The software controlling this complex system in real time is robust and a graphical user interface allows operator control over the web.


Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Center for Stock Assessment Research, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Assessing the robustness of the salmon stock assessment process via a life history simulator (4.9 MB PDF)

Stock assessments are widely applied throughout fisheries management and are vital for evaluating stock status and projecting the future catch of a stock. Regardless of the model utilized for the assessment, assumptions about the life history parameters, structure and population dynamics of the stock are necessary since many of the biological processes of a stock are not directly observable (such as natural mortality rates). Disparity between the assumptions made in the stock assessment tool and the true dynamics of the stock may give rise to inaccurate assessment results, which influence harvest policy and determine the future status of the stock. Through the use of a life history simulator for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.), we propose to test the robustness of stock assessment tools to these assumptions. Preliminary results using a cohort reconstruction for the assessment indicate that assumptions made about size dependence of the natural mortality rate influence the accuracy of the assessment results. Additionally, the quantity and type of data available for the assessment can greatly influence the results. The use of this simulator and the data it generates has a wide potential to applications beyond assessments. For instance, using this simulator in conjunction with other modeling techniques, such as optimization, allows us to investigate optimal life history trajectories and growth strategies for Pacific salmon under a variety of conditions and to predict how various strategies within a cohort will influence population dynamics.


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, CA

Would you swim in Moran Lake? Moran Lake Beach: Seasonal influences

Moran Lake in Santa Cruz is located across from a beach and drains into the ocean through a culvert under East Cliff Drive. The purpose of our project is to determine if the profile of the beach, which changes depending on the season, affects the water quality of the lake. We anticipate that during the winter, the water quality of the lake will generally become poorer because of saltwater inflow from the ocean at high tide and freshwater outflow from the lake during low tides. To measure the profile of the beach, we use a hand level, rod level, and stadia rod to collect beach height in centimeters every two meters. We monitor dissolved oxygen (DO), turbidity, biological oxygen demand, nitrates, pH, temperature, and salinity in the lake at two sites using Lab Pros and chemical test kits approximately every two weeks. One of our sites in closer to the seawater influence and our other site is closer to the freshwater inflow. We predict that the high tide in winter will cause an increase in the lake's DO, salinity, turbidity and nitrate; water temperature will decrease, while the pH remains unaffected. We have not yet collected enough data to validate our hypothesis. We would like to thank our mentor, Dave Schwartz, Geology instructor at Cabrillo College, for his assistance with this project.


  1. Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA
  2. University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Using stable isotope analysis to study migration and trophic ecology of Eastern North Pacific white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) (328 KB PDF)

The white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a wide-ranging apex predator that uses coastal and pelagic habitats in the eastern North Pacific (ENP). Electronic tagging has demonstrated that white sharks exhibit a regular migratory pattern, generally occurring at coastal sites during the autumn and winter and moving offshore to oceanic habitats during the remainder of the year. We used stable isotope analysis (SIA) to provide insight into the trophic ecology and migratory behaviors of white sharks in the ENP. Between 2006 and 2009, a total of 53 white sharks were biopsied in central California to obtain dermal and muscle tissues, which were analyzed for stable isotope ratios of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N). Mixing model results show considerable dietary inputs from offshore regions, providing strong evidence of significant offshore foraging in ENP white sharks. The estimated time of white shark return to coastal habitats from offshore habitats, based on isotopic clocks, showed a high degree of concordance with electronic tag data. There was a significant negative relationship between shark length and 13C and 15N muscle values, possibly indicating ontogenetic changes in habitat use. The isotopic composition of dermis suggests it has a more rapid turnover rate than muscle, representing more recent foraging while muscle represents a longer integration of foraging and movement. Our results demonstrate how SIA can provide insight into the trophic ecology, movements, and phenology of migratory behavior of white sharks, especially when coupled with electronic tagging data. These techniques could be used to monitor large-scale migratory and trophic patterns in ENP white sharks.


  1. Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  2. The Nature Conservancy, Monterey, CA

Fish associations with small-scale topography in unconsolidated sediments (1.3 MB PDF)

Soft sand and muddy marine habitats are host to a wide array of fish species, some of which are extracted commercially. Many of these species reside on the surface of the unconsolidated sediment, using the small variations in topography as protection from currents and predators. Much of the dynamic surficial structure of unconsolidated sediment is created by bioturbation, the movement of sediment by epifaunal and infaunal organisms that results in topographical changes on a scale which individual organisms use. Along the outer continental shelf of southern Estero Bay (Central California) multiple species and size classes of flatfish, agonids, zoarcids, and stichaeids were observed during the conduct of ROV surveys along the seafloor. All individuals from each taxonomic group were counted and measured in still photos taken during ROV transects. The percent "bioturbated" was also calculated for each photo in which one or more fish was observed. Not surprisingly, the percent bioturbation significantly varied across the study area. Similarly, results to-date indicate that some of the fish species observed in the study area were more closely associated with bioturbated sediment than others. Ultimately, these data will inform the Central Coast Trawl Impact Study, and provide insight into species habitat associations in low relief topographic environment of the continental shelf.


  1. California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  2. University of California, Davis, Davis, CA

Estimating protozoal fate and transport in a wetland system using a model-based approach (680 KB PDF)

The transport of oocysts from the protozoal pathogens Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia, and Toxoplasma gondii in aquatic ecosystems poses a health risk to human and animal populations. Preliminary empirical evidence suggests that wetlands are effective at improving water quality and reducing the concentrations of these pathogens under certain conditions. To evaluate the efficacy of using wetland systems to address protozoal pathogen pollution in the Monterey Bay region of California, a simulation model was developed to predict the fate and transport of protozoal oocysts in wetland settings. The modeling used a standard approach for surface waters: a one dimensional advection-dispersion model. The model predicts the change in oocyst concentration and water discharge between the inlet and outlet of a long, narrow channel—taking into account advection, dispersion, and oocyst decay along the channel. A Bayesian approach was used to combine previous knowledge with new data and calibrate the parameters of the model, allowing for an assessment of the uncertainty associated with model predictions. In the field, wetland design variables (such as hydraulic residence time and channel depth) and climate change variables (such as water temperature and salinity) are being evaluated in coastal California study sites to better understand the transport of fecal protozoa in wetland settings and the effect these factors have on removal efficiency.


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, CA

Amphibian adventures: Fall Creek State Park biodiversity

What factors control the diversity and abundance of amphibians that inhabit the High School trail at Fall Creek State Park? We suspect that soil moisture, air temperature and climatic season affect the populations of amphibians in our sites at the park. We have developed a transect along the High School trail with several sites where we turn over woody debris to ascertain amphibian diversity within a 30 second time period. (Note: all amphibians are replaced in exact location where found). We use a Vernier Lab Pro and sensors to collect air temperature, relative humidity and soil moisture data at these sites. We then plot the collected data to determine if there is a correlation between amphibian diversity and abiotic factors measured. So far in our study, we have observed numerous specimens of Ensatina and Slender salamanders and have noticed greater abundance during or after wet weather. We would like to thank our mentor, Dr. Kerry Kriger, founder of "Save the Frogs."


  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA
  2. California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  3. National Marine Fisheries Service, Santa Cruz, CA

Integrating sonar data, video, and observations to map seafloor geology and habitats along California's Central Coast

In 2007, the California Ocean Protection Council initiated the California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP) which is designed to create a comprehensive coastal and marine seafloor geologic and habitat base map series for all of California's State waters. The program addresses a large number of coastal zone and ocean management issues including the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which requires information about the distribution of ecosystems as part of the design and proposal process for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas. The CSMP, a cooperative partnership between state and federal agencies, academia, and the private sector, is creating highly detailed seafloor maps through the collection, integration, interpretation, and visualization of bathymetry and acoustic backscatter data, seafloor video and photography, high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, and sampling data. As part of this effort, the USGS and CSUMB recently collected bathymetry and backscatter data and the USGS and NMFS collected seafloor video, photography, and made real-time observations within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Rock outcrops observed in the near shore and occasionally on the mid-shelf support diverse communities of fish, gorgonians, and encrusting corals and sponges while the sediment-rich mid- and outer-shelf environments typically support communities of flatfish, octopus, and various benthic macro-invertebrates. Information derived from the program will be used to generate a series of interpretive maps (including seafloor character, habitat, and geology) as well as predictive probability maps of species occurrence that will support research and management decisions both within and outside of the MBNMS.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Quantifying the distribution and abundance of rippled scour Depressions (RSDs) found on the California continental shelf using geospatial classification tools developed in Monterey Bay (1.2 MB PDF)

Rippled scour depressions (RSDs) are prominent sediment features found on continental shelves worldwide. They are characterized by coarse grain sediment in comparison to the surrounding sand plateau and long period sand waves inside of the depressions (0.4m-1m depth). Here we apply an ArcGIS landscape analysis tool set, first developed for use in Monterey Bay, to classify and quantify the distribution and abundance of RSDs throughout California state waters using multibeam sonar bathymetry and backscatter data from the California Seafloor Mapping Project (CSMP). This tool set enables rapid classification of large areas of the seafloor based on differences in topographic relief and seafloor textures diagnostic of RSD, rocky reef and soft-sediment habitats. Previous studies of RSDs have been site specific, but this study is the first example of a regional scale analysis. While full analysis of the entire CSMP data set will have been completed in time for the Sanctuary Currents Symposium, preliminary results to date show that RSDs are a common feature on the California continental shelf within state waters accounting for nearly as much of the seafloor habitat (5%) as does rocky substrate (7%). Preliminary ROV investigations in a companion study in the Monterey Bay suggest RSDs can be important nursery grounds for juvenile rockfish, lingcod and other ground fish species of concern targeted by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), making this study's findings important for the design, performance, and assessment of marine protected areas (MPAs) including the newly established MLPA MPAs in California.


  1. Pacific Shark Research Center, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, CA
  2. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, CA
  3. University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Basking sharks: A research strategy for filling severe data gaps (156 KB PDF)

The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest shark species in the world, reaching a total length of up to 10 m. The species has been reported globally from high latitude seas, including arctic waters, to the lower latitudes including the tropics. The eastern North Pacific basking shark population has now been designated a "Species of Concern" by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). It fits this criteria for three main reasons: 1) the population observed off Canada and California appears to have declined dramatically. Where thousands of individuals were once observed early in the 1900's now only a few individuals, if any, are seen in a given year; 2) although there have been no targeted fisheries for basking sharks in the eastern North Pacific for more than 50 years, there does not appear to be any increase in population size and in fact it may have declined significantly. This dramatic decline and lack of recovery is common across the globe where basking sharks have been targeted. This lack of recovery may be linked to persistent, undocumented mortality, their low intrinsic population growth rates, and/or potential changes in contemporary distribution patterns; 3) a severe lack of data makes it difficult to develop a recovery plan. Therefore, given the lack of knowledge on its abundance, population status, and occurrence along the Pacific coast, a collaborative project has been initiated between the NMFS and the Pacific Shark Research Center to investigate the abundance, distribution, and population status basking sharks.


  1. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey, CA
  2. Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, CA
  3. Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Marine Wildlife Veterinarian Care and Research Center, Santa Cruz, CA

Citizen science programs provide valuable data towards the conservation and management of natural resources and in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (240 KB PDF)

The Monterey Bay attracts world-class scientists and citizen scientists eager to participate in the collection of baseline data. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's (MBNMS) five citizen science programs provide valuable services toward management and conservation of resources: public outreach and resource protection via kayaker naturalists (Team OCEAN); outreach to coastal visitors (Bay Net); collection of baseline data to assist in the detection of mortality events (BeachCOMBERS); collection of standardized water quality data at outfalls (First Flush); collection of water quality data in creek and rivers (Snapshot Day); and detection of pollutants in urban areas (Urban Watch). These programs are managed in part by MBNMS and partners including Coastal Watershed Council, MLML and CDFG-OSPR. In 2010, Beach COMBERS volunteers walked a cumulative 2,014 km during 288 monthly surveys from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo Counties and helped identify two unusual mortality events (one involving California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) and another of Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)); First Flush volunteers collected storm water samples from 58 outfall sites from San Mateo County to Monterey County; Urban Watch volunteers assisted coastal cities in detection of urban pollutants including a chlorine spill in the city of Monterey; Team OCEAN volunteers helped to quantify the number and severity of 120 observed marine mammal disturbances. In 2010, these programs cumulatively provided the MBNMS with 4,470 hours of time at a value of $104,106.


  1. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, CA
  2. NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz, CA
  3. University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Take a hike: using stream surveys to assess avian predation of juvenile salmonids in Monterey Bay area watersheds (128 KB PDF)

Mortality of juvenile salmonids during the freshwater rearing period has a disproportionate effect on numbers of returning adult fish, compared with mortality during other life stages. Recent studies in Scott Creek, a small Santa Cruz County watershed, indicate that predation of steelhead and coho by several species of piscivorous birds may be limiting recovery of these federally listed species. We conducted surveys of Scott Creek between 2008 and 2010 (N = 58) to determine species identity, abundance, and annual trends in distribution of piscivorous birds in Scott Creek. Surveys were conducted 7-14 days apart in 10 stream reaches randomly selected using a General Randomized Tessellation Stratified (GRTS) sampling program. Surveyed reaches were representative of all habitat types within Scott Creek and encompassed 40% of habitat available to anadromous salmonids. Diversity and density of piscivorous birds was greatest in the estuarine portion of Scott Creek. Only three species (Belted Kingfishers, Common Mergansers, and Great Blue Herons) were regularly observed in non-estuarine habitat. Presence of birds in the estuary was greatest during spring (March-May) and late summer/early fall (August-November). These time periods coincide with outmigration of juveniles from freshwater to marine habitat during spring, and with the estuarine-rearing period for steelhead (August-November). Increases in bird density and diversity in the estuary during these periods may represent response by predators to increased prey availability. Abundance estimates generated by this study will be combined with published values of avian metabolic rates to assess predation pressure on juvenile salmonids in Scott Creek.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Underwater camera deployment in Elkhorn Slough for fish observations by local school children (100 KB PDF)

The Lindbergh Candid Camera Critters Project was a program that worked with local schools to familiarize children to wildlife through the use of technology. At the time, the technology used was designed and intended for the surveillance of terrestrial wildlife only. Currently, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is continuing the program in collaboration with Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and plans on expanding the program to include aquatic animal observations. To do so, a submersible network camera was developed to capture video footage of fauna that can't be observed from the surface. The objective of this study is to identify ideal locations for the camera to be placed for months at a time. A stationary camera was placed at selected locations within three habitat types (mud flats, sea lettuce field, and sandy/gravel) and two different depths (shallow and deep) in Whistlestop, a small isolated tidal wetland lagoon at Elkhorn Slough. Video was recorded at 15-minute intervals and later a visual census of species seen and their occurrence were counted. A one-way ANOVA was done on the species count and occurrence to determine which of the three habitats was most appropriate for observing the most fish and variety. Since there were no shallow sandy habitats available, a t-test was done to compare the two different depths. Based on preliminary findings, we expect a higher species count and occurrence in deeper areas and sandy habitats.


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey, CA

Retrieving lost fishing gear from deepwater habitat

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and partners have developed and tested novel deepwater retrieval procedures using specialized tools on a HD2 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The ROV is designed to remove lost fishing gear such as nets and traps--which cause hazards to marine organisms, fishermen and researchers--from the seafloor in depths up to 300m. In 2009, efforts were focused within Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area and resulted in the removal of more than 500 pounds of fishing gear, including a crab pot, a boat anchor, two 100-foot rockfish gillnets and a 40-foot rockfish gillnet fragment. During September 2010, the search for fishing gear focused on the edges of Monterey and Soquel Canyons, and within the Portuguese Ledge and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Areas. The team retrieved 450 feet of rockfish gill net, two crab pots, a spot prawn trap and 600 pounds of lead weights. During HD video surveys, additional gear found included a large, intact trawl net and a 50-foot sunken sailboat. The trawl net is located in a state marine conservation area and has been identified as a priority target for removal operations in 2011. This project is a model of successful collaboration resulting in: HD outreach video and images; characterization of biological communities and descriptions of specimens not found before in Monterey Bay; a positive relationship between fishermen, scientists and marine managers; and a safer environment for fishermen, deepwater submersible researchers, and the organisms that inhabit those environments.


  1. Watsonville High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Pickleweed and sea lettuce: a comparison of macro-invertebrate species richness in Elkhorn Slough (100 KB PDF)

Pickleweed and sea lettuce are two main habitats at the Elkhorn Slough. Pickleweed is a terrestrial plant, which is considered as a salt-tolerant plant that acts like a sponge. Sea Lettuce is a habitat that is aquatic and grows in both freshwater and saltwater at the slough. Both habitats are homes to interesting invertebrates and microorganisms. Our project question is: What is the difference between a pickleweed habitat and a sea lettuce habitat in species richness of macro-invertebrates? Our hypothesis was that the sea lettuce habitat is higher in species richness than the pickleweed habitat. We gathered samples from each habitat and gathered data related to the species richness. Thus far, our data tells us that sea lettuce has more species than the pickleweed habitat does. It is important to learn about this because human contact with these plants can harm many organisms that call it home. So far, we have found many species from batillaria, pipefish and small amphipods that live in these habitats as well. The reason for our research is that we find these habitats important so in the future people know what lives and grows here in the pickleweed habitat and sea the lettuce habitat and that way we can stop development or various human impacts.


  1. Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Moss Landing, CA
  2. Hartnell College, Salinas, CA
  3. University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Hypoxia depth correlation (812 KB PDF)

Eutrophication is excessive algal growth due to excess nutrients. It is one of the top three threats to the health of the nation's estuaries as it may lead to decreased dissolved oxygen, the loss of submerged aquatic vegetation, and the contamination or die off of organisms living in eutrophic waters. In addition, low depth may lead to the accumulation of pollutants and the depletion of oxygen reserves. Also, low tidal flushing prevents the removal of oxygen depleted water and the introduction of new water. Management of eutrophication is difficult due to variability between estuarine systems but we found one significant correlation that may greatly benefit managers. We have found a correlation between dissolved oxygen, depth, and tidal flushing at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (Elkhorn Slough NERR). The purpose of this study is to determine whether this correlation exists on a wider scale. This correlation was observed based on analysis of System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) data from Elkhorn Slough. To test for this correlation through a national synthesis of SWAMP data, we wrote a MATLAB script to categorize and analyze three-year data sets from selected NERR sites. Results are pending. If there is a consistent correlation across estuaries nationally, then the results of this study may have an impact on the management of estuaries with the use of water control structures. In managing tidally muted areas, consideration for optimal tidal flushing should be addressed in order to decrease the effects of eutrophication.


  1. Watsonville High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Do aquatic and terrestrial birds make a difference in our community? (92 KB PDF)

This project took place at Elkhorn Slough. Our project is focused on studying about the differences in behavior between aquatic and terrestrial birds. For example, behaviors that we observed are bathing, resting and some birds were foraging. We think having a big place for both terrestrial and aquatic birds is scarce that is one of the reasons to also take care of the bird's home because there is almost no other places like Elkhorn Slough in the area. Our group is very interested to know about birds' behaviors and their habitats. Also we are trying to prove to our community the value of the slough and that we can take more care of what we have now before it's gone. One simple way to take care about aquatic and terrestrial birds is to start by taking more care of their habitat, for example by not littering and dumping chemicals into the water drains because they end up in the sloughs or oceans. People think that birds are not important they just know that they fly and eat like any other animal. There are people that do care about them who come from all over the world to just come and see the birds at Elkhorn Slough since Elkhorn Slough is a rich land were many birds can be found. Our community then has an economic advantage since it makes some money from the people that come from all over the world to visit the Elkhorn Slough and enjoy watching the different types of birds.


Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Center for Stock Assessment Research, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Addressing uncertainty in rockfish assessments (2 MB PDF)

Stock assessments must often be performed on species where the fisheries are characterized by sparse data. This leads to uncertainty in the results generated by stock assessments, as well as the biological assumptions made within the assessment. The error associated with the uncertainty in these estimates can lead to suboptimal or even destructive fishing policy decisions. This problem is exacerbated in Pacific rockfish (Sebastes spp.) due to their vulnerability to overfishing. In order to address this we have constructed a model that can quantify the error in stock assessments under different data scenarios. Results show that the amount and types of data play a significant role in the accuracy of the stock assessment output, indicating that additional data is not necessarily beneficial if it is not appropriate for the assumptions inherent to the model and system. Additionally, the assumptions made during the stock assessment influence the accuracy of the results. In practice, this implies that utilizing simplified assumptions to account for deficient data can lead to poor estimates. For example, assuming length-independence on a rockfish species for characteristics such as natural mortality has significant impacts on model accuracy. This research will help provide feedback for where assessment models encounter problems or fail, leading towards improvements to future iterations of the assessment models. Furthermore, this simulator is a tool that can be used to examine the assumptions made during the modeling process, by simulating life history scenarios with different population dynamics, in order to measure the effect on the population.


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton CA

Killer algae: Phytoplankton abundance and diversity in Santa Cruz Harbor

What's small, green, and produces a neurotoxin capable of killing humans and animals in minute doses? Phytoplankton. Well, some phytoplankton. Certain environmental conditions can trigger algal blooms, some of which release toxins that build up in filter feeders. These toxins can cause a variety of illnesses in humans who are exposed through eating contaminated shellfish. Using the data collected in our monitoring project, we hope to predict harmful algal blooms (HABs) based on turbidity, salinity and/or water temperature. We hypothesize that the phytoplankton populations will be most affected by seasonal conditions such as temperature and amount of sunlight causing phytoplankton populations to change seasonally. We sample at Santa Cruz Harbor fuel docks once every two weeks collecting plankton and gathering data about ocean conditions. We make several vertical tows with a 20-micron phytoplankton net and send half our sample to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for professional testing. We measure turbidity using a Secchi disk, salinity with a refractometer and temperature. In the classroom, we use microscopes to determine abundance and diversity of species, which has changed dramatically with each sample observed. There appears to be a cyclic nature to the abundance of diatoms and dinoflagellates; however, we have not yet found a correlation between the abiotic factors measured and this cyclic distribution. Thanks go to our mentors Gregg Langlois (CDPH) and Susan Coale (UCSC).


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

Growth and longevity in deep-sea squid

Deep-sea fish, bivalves and corals grow slower and live longer than their shallow water relatives. The aim of our research is to determine whether these trends hold for squid; semelparous, nektonic marine mollusks that are abundant in marine ecosystems. Age in squid may be derived from the number of increments that are laid down in their statoliths; aragonite concretions in their organs of balance. Although most squid, in both number of species and biomass, inhabit depths below 200 meters, information on lifespan and growth rates of meso-and bathypelagic squid remains scarce and invalidated. Recently the periodicity of increment formation was validated to be daily for three species of mesopelagic squid from the Monterey canyon: Octopoteuthis deletron, Galiteuthis phyllura and Chiroteuthis calyx. Squid were caught by MBARI's Remotely Operated Vehicles Doc Ricketts and Ventana and brought to the surface alive aboard the R/Vs Western Flyer and Point Lobos. Here, we present growth rates, longevities and size at maturity for these deep-sea squid and compare these parameters with literature-based information on epipelagic and neritic squid. Our tentative data indicate that deep-sea squid grow slower and live longer than their shallow water counterparts.

JACOBO, D (1,2), J RAMIREZ (1,2), E REYES (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Insect diversity and sand dune restoration; ecological communities at a Moss Landing restoration site (104 KB PDF)

Sand Dunes in the Central Coast have been a diverse ecosystem that included native plant and wild life, natural healthy wetlands and the great blue ocean. Since human development came into the picture, most of these beautiful environments have been destroyed. Our research will analyze and compare the biodiversity and abundance of insects at a non-restored, 1 year old, and a 13-year-old restoration site, all located at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Insects occupy many important niches, are vital parts of the dune food web and are essential to the dune ecosystem. They synchronize everything and succession, the process of creating positive change in an ecological community is impossible without them. Our purpose for this research is to find out if restoration and biodiversity help create a better ecological insect community. At our field site we will collect data from three different dunes and compare each site to see which has the best results. Our prediction is that the thirteen year old dune with the most diverse plants will have the best diversity and abundance of insects.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Assessing the invasiveness of the non-native kelp Undaria pinnatifida in Monterey Harbor (240 KB PDF)

The annual alga Undaria pinnatifida has been federally declared an invasive species by the National Invasive Species Council. The ability of this alga to complete its life cycle determines its success in a particular location, and abiotic factors such as temperature and nitrate availability have been found to be important in determining sexual fertilization success in kelps. Laboratory zoospore culture experiments were conducted monthly to test the effects of temperature on microscopic sporophyte production in U. pinnatifida throughout a year. Cultures were grown under two temperatures (12, 18 C) and each month sporophytes were produced in both temperature treatments. Differences in sporophyte production between temperatures varied temporally from non-significant to significantly higher in the 18C treatment. To test the effects of nitrate, cultures were grown using three nitrate concentrations (1,5,10 ��m) within each temperature treatment three times during the year. Sporophytes were produced under all treatments, and showed no clear effect of nitrate concentrations on sporophyte production. Additionally, estimates of zoospore output per mm2 of reproductive tissue were quantified monthly. Zoospore output varied between months of the year, but showed no distinct relationship with sporophyte production. Similar experiments have been conducted on other central California kelp species, a majority of which were unable to produce sporophytes in the 18C. This suggests that U. pinnatifida is a condition-flexible alga whose reproductive physiology allows it to enter and thrive in new areas. Understanding the physiology of this species is important to inform U. pinnatifida control and removal programs.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Comparing the abundance and diversity of toxic freshwater cyanobacteria in two Central California coastal lakes (220 KB PDF)

Freshwater cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms (CHABs) threaten humans and other organisms with an array of potent toxins (Codd et al. 1999; WHO 1999). The hepatotoxic microcystins are some of the most pervasive cyanotoxins (Sivonen et al. 1992, Iberlings et al. 2005) and have been identified in freshwater and estuarine systems of the Monterey Bay Area (Miller et. al 2010). The spatial and temporal extent of toxic cyanobacteria and the factors controlling bloom formation, gene expression and toxin production need further study. In this project, we use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) combined with microscopy to study the abundance, diversity and potential toxicity of cyanobacteria in Pinto Lake (Watsonville, CA) and Loch Lomond Reservoir (Santa Cruz, CA). This research will provide baseline data to assist the cities of Watsonville and Santa Cruz evaluate the extent and potential health risks posed by the CHABs in these two lakes that are frequented by the public. These baseline data will also support further study of the environmental causal factors controlling the proliferation of toxic CHABs.


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

Whales: what's eating them? Life after death in the Sanctuary

The discovery of a grey whale carcass in 3000 meters depth in the Monterey Canyon began a decade of remarkable findings including a new genus and 18 new species of the bone-eating worms, Osedax, a new genus and two new species of bone-eating snails, Rubyspira, and multitudes of other new species. These new species were segregated by depth on additional carcasses sunk at intervals from 400 to 1800 meters. The bone-eating worms are not limited to whalebones, and are found on all kinds of bones including cow, elephant seal, and even fishbones. These are findings are relevant to marine ecologists because as adults these animals are completely reliant on bones. If the larvae cannot locate and settle on a whale, they perish. This "habitat flexibility" may enable them to exploit an alternative carcass when a whalefall is not available.

Although the bone-eaters were the most abundant species found at the whalefalls, surprisingly, the majority of species were "background" taxa common to the surrounding Monterey Bay. Even dead whales and other vertebrate carcasses provide significant resources that support dense communities of decomposer species in the Monterey Bay and elsewhere in the world's oceans.

JUAREZ, J (1,2), J JIMENEZ (1,2), X HUANG (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Aquatic invertebrates and the health of the slough (136 KB PDF)

Aquatic invertebrates are indicators of water quality. If the local water is polluted, that affects the entire wetland ecosystem. Not only do aquatic invertebrates play a role in indicating water quality, but they also are important for biodiversity; without them, the food chain would collapse. The richness and evenness of aquatic invertebrates reflects the health of the wetland ecosystem. The diversity of the aquatic invertebrate community is important for the food web and therefore essential to the stability of the ecosystem. Our research will be conducted at West Struve Slough and our testable question is, "Which part of Struve Slough—beginning (mostly spring fed), middle (receives runoff from school), or end (urban and farm impact) has healthier water quality indicated by aquatic invertebrates richness and evenness?" We will be testing water quality for phosphates, nitrates, dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and turbidity and monitoring aquatic invertebrates. Our research supports our mission statement because it proves the importance of aquatic invertebrates in an ecosystem.


University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Effects of spatial and temporal variability of the kelp canopy on community structure (168 KB PDF)

Environmental gradients are common ecological phenomena that have been shown to profoundly influence the structure of ecological communities across space and time. In the marine realm, oceanic swell is a common source of physical stress along gradients of exposure. I examine the relative strengths of two exposure gradients as sources of variation in the canopy of Macrocystis forests. Both the physical structure of the canopy habitat and the invertebrate assemblage were examined in each gradient: among forests along a gradient of exposure to ocean swell, and within forests along a gradient of exposure from the outer section to the more protected inshore sections. The physical structure and invertebrate communities did not vary within kelp forest, in comparison to among kelp forests. The kelp forests that are most exposed supported the greatest total abundance, species richness, and markedly different invertebrate communities in comparison to more protected kelp forests. The greatest contribution of variance in the regulation of invertebrate communities was associated with the exposure gradient was at the smallest scale (i.e. the unexplained residual variance). The magnitude of effect for this scale varied (assemblage structure 31–34%, total abundance 22- 50%, and species abundance 20–62%) in their contribution to variance of community structure. The interaction between space and time (season) contributed to variability in the communities (10–32%) followed closely by season (12–19%) and exposure (6–17%). Environmental gradients in the marine environment are important spatio-temporal drivers of variability in the structure and functioning of communities.


Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Habitat associations of spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (1.7 MB PDF)

The spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei), is a deep water species of the Chimeridae family commonly found along the west coast of the United States. Characterization of the habitat associations of spotted ratfish in this area, however, has not been well developed. The primary objective of this study is to display the spatial distribution (both latitudinally and with water depth) of spotted ratfish within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Videographic imagery collected during towed camera sled and ROV transects between 2006 and 2010 provide an opportunity to quantify the relationship between spotted ratfish and the habitat attributes (e.g., substrate type and relief) over which they occur. Preliminary results indicate spotted ratfish in Point Lobos, CA occur at a mean depth of 155 m over mud or boulder field habitats whereas spotted ratfish in Point Sur, CA occur at a mean depth of 104 m and occur primarily over bedrock. Clearly determining the habitat types with which species are associated is essential for the successful management of marine ecosystems, particularly the deep waters of the outer continental shelf where little is currently known.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Effects of landscape covariates on the distribution of mammalian carnivores on Fort Ord

Mammalian carnivores play important roles in their ecosystems, but are vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances. Parts of former Fort Ord are managed for many uses including recreation, and portions of its open habitat are slated for development. However, no baseline studies have been done on mammalian carnivores on Fort Ord. The effect of recreation on those species' distribution is unknown, and future effects of development on those species were not studied. To better understand how mammalian carnivores currently use the landscape, how they are affected by recreation, and how future development might alter their distribution, I will determine the probability of use for mammalian carnivores as a function of habitat type and diversity, road/trail density, distance to urban edge, and distance to perennial water. I will use logistic regression models and Akaike's Information Criterion to compare different hypothesis about which covariates are good predictors of the distribution of the species I will consider. I will incorporate probability of detection in my models to take into account a possibility of an animal using the site but not being detected (false negatives). All species data will be collected with noninvasive methods using scent stations. I will estimate current and predicted distribution maps for the considered species, based on projected scenarios of land use change (e.g. changes in trail density). I determined the optimal sampling scheme using power analysis. Results of the study will aid managers in future decisions regarding opening and closing trails, road construction and maintenance, and habitat management on Fort Ord.


  1. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
  2. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Moss Landing, CA
  3. National Marine Fisheries Services, Santa Cruz, CA

Investigating avian predation on juvenile salmonids using dietary analysis (124 KB PDF)

Salmon populations are diminishing worldwide due to anthropogenic causes that include dams, pollution, habitat loss, salmon farms, water diversion, introduced species and predation. Many populations along California's central coast, including steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and coho salmon (O. kisutch), are federally listed by the Endangered Species Act. Piscivorous birds play an important role in fish populations by impeding recovery or directly reducing populations. We examined diet of two species of piscivorous birds in found in Scotts Creek, California: Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) and Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon), and their interactions with steelhead and coho populations to assess predation of salmonids. We examined gut contents of mergansers (N = 7) and analyzed fish scales found on a kingfisher roost site. Juvenile salmonid parts found in merganser samples included bones, otoliths, PIT tags, and scales. Additional prey included other fish species and invertebrate insects and crustaceans. Regression relationships between fish length and scale radius were used to estimate size of juvenile salmon preyed upon. Fish in merganser samples were estimated to be 91.7-113.0 mm, whereas kingfisher samples included fish from 72.7- 164.05 mm. These data correspond with results from other published studies. We can better understand the impact the birds have on the salmon population by knowing overall consumption and which life stages are eaten. These data can also be integrated into life cycle salmon models and used to assess if birds are impeding salmon recovery.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

A predictive habitat model for endangered black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii), Monterey Bay, CA (332 KB PDF)

Assessing the strength of species-habitat relationships is critical to the understanding of marine ecological systems for efficient and effective management decisions, reserve implementation, and design. In this study, terrestrial landscape modeling techniques were adapted for analysis of local biodiversity and habitat complexity, as primary factors indicative of endangered black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) presence within intertidal landscapes in Monterey Bay, CA. The combination of (1) over-harvesting from black abalone fisheries in the mid 1900's; (2) the bacterial disease "Withering Food Syndrome (WS)"; (3) environmental stressors; and (4) their fickle reproductive requirements have been suggested as contributing factors to massive population declines that resulted in the placement of black abalone on the federal endangered species list in 2008. High-resolution digital photographs were taken from rocky crevices where black abalone are observed within Monterey Bay at 3 sites; (1) Garrapata State Beach, (2) Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and (3) Hopkins Marine Station. Subsequent images were analyzed for biodiversity. Black abalone movement within the confines of my study sites were monitored for a full year and assigned coordinate information using ArcGIS 9.0 software. Generalized linear models (GLMs) were used to quantitatively estimate the relationship between black abalone presence and landscape derived habitat and biodiversity variables. The results of my analysis will suggest the accuracy between landscape derived habitat and biodiversity variables and black abalone presence.


  1. Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  2. The Nature Conservancy, Monterey, CA

The effects of trawling at "low" intensity in unconsolidated sediment: Year 1 of the Central Coast Trawl Impact and Recovery Project (1.1 MB PDF)

The successful management of bottom trawling along the continental shelf of California, particularly in the context of new marine spatial planning efforts, is dependent on data that quantify the relative impacts of different levels of trawling intensity on the seafloor. More refined data will better enable policy-makers in their on-going struggle to reconcile the extraction of fish via trawling with the minimization of environmental degradation. Here we report on the results to-date from Year 1 of a unique academic-NGO-government-stakeholder partnership that is assessing the impacts of bottom trawling in soft bottom habitat off the coast of Morro Bay. In September 2009, we trawled the entirety of four study plots a total of two times to simulate areas of historically low trawling effort. We used an ROV to collect imagery of the seafloor and associated communities immediately before trawling and at two weeks, six months, and one year post-trawling. Results to-date indicate a clear difference between control and trawled plots with respect to micro-topographic complexity on the seafloor that was present immediately following trawling and persisted throughout the year. Differences in the relative abundance of fishes, mobile invertebrates and sessile invertebrates between control and trawled plots were less clear and highlight the importance of background environmental variation in any assessment of the impacts from trawling. In Year 2 of the project, now underway, we increased the intensity of trawling to five passes in each study plot, setting the stage for an evaluation of the relative impacts of "high" and "low" trawling effort on the continental shelf.


  1. Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA
  2. Marine Applied Research and Exploration, Richmond, CA
  3. The Nature Conservancy, Monterey, CA

ROV surveys of soft and rocky deep-water habitats along California's North Central Coast; MPA baseline data collection (1.7 MB PDF)

A timely assessment of the performance of California's marine protected areas (MPAs) is required to provide decision-makers and interested stakeholders with the information required to inform management decisions and improve ocean stewardship. Importantly, MPA performance cannot be evaluated without a baseline against which future conditions and any effects of MPA implementation can be measured. Here we report on Year 1 of the baseline characterization and monitoring of both deep benthic rock and soft-bottom communities (20 m -120 m) being conducted inside and out of eight newly established MPAs in the MLPA's North Central Coast Study Region, ranging from Pillar Pt. in the south to Pt. Arena in the north. We are using an ROV to collect still and videographic imagery to quantify landscape attributes (both physical and biogenic) on the seafloor, as well as the abundance, density and species composition of fishes and invertebrates associated with those attributes. With timeliness in mind, the results to-date from the baseline characterization cruise in July 2010 are reported in taxonomic distribution and abundance plots (TDAPs) which plot the geo-referenced occurrence of key species groups and landscape attributes at one-minute intervals over the area surveyed by the ROV. These plots provide managers with a timely snapshot of community structure inside and out of the new MPAs while the more intensive frame-by-frame analysis of project imagery is conducted. This study leverages the expertise and resources of multiple institutions, including public and private, academic and non-governmental, coupling data processing and analysis with education and training of the next generation of scientists in California.


  1. University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
  2. Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, Santa Cruz, CA

Kelp forest monitoring in marine protected areas of the North Central California Coast

As part of a large scale, long term monitoring program, PISCO has been conducting surveys of the fish, invertebrate and algal communities at kelp forest sites in the Central Coast and Channel Islands for the past 12 years. This past year as part of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process baseline monitoring effort, PISCO established 32 new monitoring sites inside and outside of newly established MPAs in the North Central Coast Study Region (between Point Arena and Pigeon Point). Surveys were conducted using PISCO's long established monitoring protocols, which were adapted for the North Central coast by the addition of size-frequency surveys to record size structure of the abundant abalone populations in the region. Monitoring is supported by the University of California Sea Grant, the California Ocean Protection Council and with the cooperation of ReefCheck California.


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

The Monterey Bay Accelerated Research System (MARS): Your research connection in the Monterey Bay

MARS is a cabled observatory that provides unprecedented capabilities for research activities in the Monterey Bay. The MARS system is 900 meters deep and provides 100 Mbit/second ethernet connectivity to the Internet and kilowatts of power for up to 8 simultaneous research projects. In addition, the MARS system has been designed to support research activities from initial concept through development, test, deployment and data management with the goal of 100% probability of success at experiment power up. Research projects we have supported include an Acoustic Fish Census system, an Ocean Bottom Seismometer that is part of the Northern California Seismic Network, the Environmental Sample Processor for detecting the presence of harmful algal blooms, a Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment Experiment and several others with more in the planning stages. MARS is a community asset that is available to qualified research activities and we look forward to discussing the deployment of your applications on MARS.


U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary sediment yields a diverse micro- and macrofauna (2.2 MB PDF)

Cordell Bank, located west of San Francisco (3759.01"N, 12325.631"W), was initially investigated by divers of the nonprofit research organization Cordell Expeditions in 1978-1986, then again in 2006 when Robert Schmieder of Cordell Expeditions took Jean-Michel Cousteau to the Bank to obtain video footage. On October 7-9, 2010, Cordell Bank was revisited, this time by NOAA divers fielded by the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. On October 8, they collected a single sample at a depth of ~50 m on the Bank that consisted of coarse-grained sediment with a significant biogenic component. This sample contains a diverse microfaunal assemblage of 45 species of benthic foraminifera and 6 species of planktic foraminifera that appears remarkably similar to the fauna collected from Point Lopez and Slate Rock at the Point Sur Pinnacles approximately 70 km to the south. The benthic foraminiferal fauna is dominated by Cibicides fletcheri, Cassidulina tortuosa, and Globocassidulina subglobosa. Planktic foraminiferal species recovered include the upwelling-indicator species Globigerina bulloides and the warm water-indicating (right-coiling) form of Neogloboquadrina pachyderma. The diverse macroinvertebrate portion of the assemblage includes taxa from six phyla, including Cnidaria (4 species: 2 hard corals, 2 soft corals), Bryozoa (2 species), Brachiopoda (1 or 2 species), Mollusca (about 20 species), Annelida (1 species), Arthropoda (2 species), and Echinodermata (1 species). Living representatives of these taxa are present at shelfal water depths, generally on hard substrate at the latitude of Cordell Bank. Preservation varies from very good to very poor; the majority of the macroinvertebrates tend toward the latter.


  1. University of Nebraska Kearney, Kearney, NE
  2. San Joaquin County Office of Education, Teachers College of San Joaquin, Stockton, CA

Using authentic oceanographic, climatic and polar data with students: improving student understanding of environmental phenomena (1 MB PDF)

Information on climatic change, ocean acidification, and the melting of polar ice sheets fill today's headlines. Students typically do not have experience in collecting and interpreting real oceanographic or climatic data, and may not have an appreciation of the scope or impacts of these environmental changes. Instead of requiring students to find and use actual data, they are usually provided with datasets that are not current or representative of actual environmental conditions. We compare and contrast student understanding of oceanographic, climatic, and polar phenomena when taught using authentic data and data analysis with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing techniques with non-inquiry based instruction. The focus of this study included climate change, ocean core data, phytoplankton/zooplankton studies, and satellite studies of the Monterey Bay area. Results suggest students gain a greater understanding of environmental phenomena when using authentic datasets, and they also perform better in designing experiemts and interpreting results.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Different habitat use may skew abundance measurements of native and invader blue mussels in the California hybrid zone (852 KB PDF)

Over the past 100 years the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis has replaced the native Blue mussel M. trossulus throughout Southern California and much of Central California. This invasion went unnoticed until the 1990's because the two mussels are almost indistinguishable at the morphological level. Based on DNA analysis, mussels north of Cape Mendocino appear to still be the native M. trossulus and along the central coast of California there is a mixed zone containing both species along with hybrids. Current sampling protocol of adult mussels in this zone is primarily from floating docks although mussels are found on multiple substrates within harbors that vary in aerial exposure. This raises the questions of whether this protocol is unintentionally biased in favoring of sampling one species, and if is there a difference in the distribution patterns of these mussel species between the intertidal rock and subtidal dock habitats. In order to distinguish between the two species, DNA from mussels collected at multiple subtidal floating dock and rocky intertidal habitats at Moss Landing, California was extracted and agarose gel electrophoresis of the PCR-amplified Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) region between the 18S and 28S ribosomal genes was used to discriminate between species. Species identification of a subset of mussels did not show a significant association between habitat type and the distribution of the bay mussel species. These results suggest that the there is not a significant difference in the distribution of the two species across different habitats within the same geographic location.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Relationship between intertidal habitat complexity and Ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) abundance (1.2 MB PDF)

The Ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) is a well-studied invertebrate of the rocky intertidal due to its direct influence on the zonation of benthic invertebrates in this community. Predation by Pisaster regulates the distributional boundaries of the competitively dominant mussel, Mytilus californianus, which can in turn help provide space, a critical resource in the intertidal, for other organisms. In this study we examined whether regional variation in the complexity of intertidal habitat and availability of M. californianus around the Monterey Peninsula could be used to explain variation in the abundance and distribution of Pisaster. A Topcon total station laser surveyor was used to record the position of Pisaster within the intertidal, the lower boundary of the mussel beds, and the habitat complexity, a measurement incorporating the complexity of geological and biological habitat, at each site. Percent cover of the mussel beds was also measured in the corresponding photo surveys taken at three shore levels: 0.61, 1.22, and 1.83 m above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW). The local variation in intertidal complexity and abundance of Pisaster at each site suggests that there are environmental factors contributing to the difference in distribution of mussel beds and sea stars. In addition to the large scale marine factors influencing Pisaster abundance, local variation in the complexity and mussel bed cover could influence Pisaster foraging in the rocky intertidal, resulting in change in its current structure and function.


  1. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
  2. The Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station, CA
  3. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Monterey, CA

Marine mammal and seabird abundance at the Davidson Seamount, July 2010 (1.9 MB PDF)

The Davidson Seamount, located 129 km southwest of Monterey, California, was incorporated into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in November 2008 and is the first seamount within the National Marine Sanctuary system. The Sanctuary conducted a ship-based survey of the waters above and around the Davidson Seamount during July 2010. The three-day survey onboard the R/V McArthur II was the first dedicated at-sea survey of the Seamount to record marine mammal and seabird observations. Overall, 8 transect lines were surveyed for a total of 605 km of "on-effort" observations. Seventeen species of seabirds and 6 marine mammal species were observed. Cook's Petrel (Pterodroma cookii) was the most abundant seabird observed (8.4 birds km-2), followed by Leach's Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa; 5.6 birds km-2). The seabird assemblage to the NW was distinctly different than that to the SE with the NW region characterized by more pelagic species such as Cook's Petrels and Leach's Storm-petrel while the SE region was characterized by more coastal species such as shearwaters, phalaropes, gulls, and alcids. Of a total of 200 marine mammal sightings, fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were the most commonly encountered marine mammals (51% of sightings), comprising 94% of whales sighted. This survey in combination with aerial surveys along the same transect lines will serve as a baseline for future studies of the Davidson Seamount.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

Assessing anadromous fish passage through culverts at the Coast Dairies, CA (588 KB PDF)

The Central California Coast is a unique landscape that supports a variety of ecosystems with critical habitat for many threatened and endangered species. Manmade landscape modifications such as culverts can limit the accessibility of spawning habitat for anadromous salmonids due to a variety of unsuitable channel conditions, including velocity and depth. This study assesses federally threatened steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and endangered coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) passage through long bedrock bore culverts under Highway 1 in three small streams: Ferrari, Molino, and Yellowbank. This study was conducted in the Coast Dairies Property, near Davenport, CA. We used cross sectional surveys and longitudinal profiles to analyze each culvert in a one-dimensional hydraulic modeling program. We also assessed culverts on Laguna Creek and San Vicente Creek as references since successful upstream migration for steelhead and/or coho has been demonstrated at each. Initial modeling results indicate none of the streams meet steelhead and coho channel velocity and channel depth requirements for culvert passage according to CDFG standards. Model calibration error or ocean wave action in the tunnels may explain sustained fish populations in San Vicente and Laguna. Ferrari and Yellowbank have hydraulic drops at the downstream culvert outlets that exceeded or could seasonally exceed maximum jumping heights of steelhead and coho (1.03m and 1.47m, respectively). Baffle installation may be appropriate to improve culvert velocity and depth conditions. We recommend installing step pools at the Ferrari and Yellowbank Highway 1 culvert outlets. These modifications could increase accessibility to available spawning habitat for steelhead and coho.

OAKDEN, R (1,2), I CANO (1,2), B LOPEZ (1,2), A QUINTERO (1,2)

  1. Watsonville High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Substrate: its effects on crab population at Elkhorn Slough (64 KB PDF)

Elkhorn Slough is essential to a variety of species including crabs, which are important to the food chain. Crabs are important in the food chain because they are eaten by larger predators, including birds and fish. In our project we are studying the crabs and substrate at Whistle Stop Lagoon (WL) at Elkhorn Slough. At WL there are four types of substrate and five species of crabs. The substrate from WL ranges from compact and full of clay to soft and filled with rocks. The crabs are also either non-native or native. We hypothesize that because of the varying substrates and the different species of crabs, they prefer different areas of Elkhorn Slough. Our methods to do this were setting traps and recording the different species of crabs in the different areas. Then we studied the substrate of each area where the traps were collected. Crabs ultimately do have a large impact on the ecosystem of the Slough. Also since crabs consume the detritus in the substrate, their numbers may directly indicate a problem in the Slough. What would happen to the community if the crabs disappear? Who knows? Something may be terribly wrong with the Slough and we would know because the crabs would act as an indicator species. Also, if the substrate isn't an ideal habitat for the crabs, they would emigrate to another place and their predators (ex: birds and bigger crabs) would have to eat something else.


University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA (132 KB PDF)

How rocky intertidal monitoring in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary informs natural resource damage assessments: a case study of the Cosco Busan oil spill

A persistent problem in assessing impacts to biological communities resulting from oil spills is the general scarcity of baseline information that can be used to address natural temporal (and spatial) variation in measured parameters. The Cosco Busan oil spill (that occurred in the San Francisco Bay, California, in 2007) provides a case study for this issue. Here we describe the approaches taken to estimate impacts to rocky shore biological communities resulting from the oil spill and subsequent cleanup. We conclude that such estimates and predictions must rely on use of existing data sets (here, primarily baseline data collected under the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network or MARINe program) and flexible approaches to analyses. Without flexibility in approach, assessments will often not have sufficient power to account for natural variability, which will lead to the inability to make strong conclusions concerning impact or potential for recovery.

ORTEGA, G (1,2), N VARGAS (1,2), L ORTIZ (1,2), B MEDINA (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Runoff awareness (156 KB PDF)

Pajaro Valley High School is an environmental education center that was constructed in 2005. Detention basins were installed on opposite ends of the campus to reduce the amount of chemicals that end up in the adjacent sloughs. We predict that the runoff from the softball field (West Detention Basin) will have higher concentrations of nitrates, phosphates and lower pH levels. We predict that the East Detention Basin will have a lower concentration of factors that influence water quality. We believe this basin will have a lower concentration because of its proximity to the source of the chemicals. We will compare our results with the Wetland Educational Research Center (WERC) data. The data that we have collected may encourage our peers to understand the effects of man-made products that impact our school.


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

Decade-scale change and connectivity through phytoplankton: Monterey Bay looks into the Pacific (2.4 MB PDF)

Monterey Bay has changed since the 1990s. Prior to the strong 1997-1998 El Niño, Monterey Bay was warmer, its nutrients were deeper, and phytoplankton production was dominated by spring and early summer blooms of centric diatoms. During the 2000s, Monterey Bay has been cooler and its nutrients shallower. Centric diatoms still bloom early, but pennate diatom and dinoflagellate blooms are much stronger in late summer and fall. In some years pennates dominate, and in others dinoflagellates dominate. Total primary production has been much higher during the 2000s than in the 1990s. These changes in (i) production, (ii) seasonality and (iii) dominant phytoplankton taxa must have strong affects on zooplankton, fish and mammals, all of which are ultimately dependent on phytoplankton for food.

A portion of the increased phytoplankton growth sinks and decays, increasing CO2 and acidity. In the central Pacific, similar changes have been attributed to the ocean's absorption of man-made CO2. In Monterey Bay it is not clear what portion of the CO2 and acidity increase is due to natural versus man-induced variability.

These changes are part of basin-wide climactic fluctuation. During the 2000s, the Eastern and Equatorial Pacific have been cool and productive—just as we observe in Monterey Bay—opposite the central subtropical gyres and Western Pacific, which have been warm and less productive. While these changes are widespread and important, their causes remain mostly unknown. Tiny Monterey Bay, looking out into the Pacific, lets us observe change in this vast system.


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, CA

Birds of the Santa Cruz Sandhills (332 KB PDF)

The Santa Cruz Sandhills is a rare and unique habitat found only in central Santa Cruz County, California. There are two distinct communities that make up the habitat: Sand Chaparral and Sand Parkland. Many studies have been conducted on the endemic species found within the 4,000 acres of Sandhills habitat; however, no research has been conducted on birds and avian ecology within this community. One researcher has noted that bird presence in the Sandhills is influenced by the adjacent habitats (mixed evergreen and Coastal Redwood forest) but no study has been preformed to confirm or deny this. This led us to ask "What are the birds of the Santa Cruz Sandhills", and do they form an independent community within this habitat? In September 2010, we began monitoring three times a week the three Sandhills sites (one each of Sand Parkland, Sand Chaparral, and a site of mixed communities) to determine if the distribution of birds seen within the Sandhills was influenced by their adjacent habitats. By using area counts to monitor birds of the Sandhills, we were able to determine the distribution of birds in the Sandhills community. When this data is compared to the adjacent habitat's birds, we can see the similarities and differences in distribution of bird species that define these habitats. Thus far, the data indicates that there is a distinct community of birds found within the Sandhills habitat. We would like to thank our mentor Jeff Smith, Ph.D.


NOAA National Marine Protected Areas Center, Monterey, CA

MPA Inventory expansion

The national picture of marine protection is constantly evolving, for example multiple Marine management techniques have expanded to include various types of marine protected areas (MPAs) and other sorts of place-based management. To reflect the best available information on MPA boundaries, resources and management; NOAA's MPA Center initiated an effort, with federal, state and territorial MPA programs and partners, to create a database to characterize MPAs in U.S. oceans and the Great Lakes.

The database, named "MPA Inventory" is an informational product currently hosted online, designed to provide a cohesive and geographically based analysis of the protection status of U.S. marine waters. Although spatially comprehensive, recent developments, such as the Administration's Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning initiative and the Gulf oil spill, have highlighted the need for more detailed information on marine resources to better inform management decisions. To address this need, the MPA Inventory is being expanded to incorporate resource and management information at the site level.

The MPA inventory expansion will incorporate data on the presence of living marine resources and habitats, cultural resources, management and legal authorities, monitoring activities and specific restrictions to the MPAs. These data will be hosted online and enable users to conduct spatial resource assessments relating to specific marine resources on the fly and, identify gaps in resource management. This poster aims to describe the inventory expansion process, discuss the benefits of such databases with examples of analyses now possible with the updated information and provide insight into challenges encountered.


California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside CA

Linking habitat heterogeneity to genetic partitioning in the rocky subtidal using black surfperch (Embiotoca jacksoni) (1.7 MB PDF)

Habitat composition and complexity can play an important role in structuring populations of marine organisms. However, the interactions between the physical and biological landscape on marine population dynamics are not well understood. In this study we explored the role of habitat complexity (three dimensional habitat structure) and habitat composition (abundance and distribution of habitat types) in structuring genetic variation in populations of black surfperch Embiotoca jacksoni, within Monterey Bay, California. Black surfperch have no pelagic larval stage, limited adult dispersal, and associate strongly with benthic habitat making them an excellent model system for this study. Structural complexity of subtidal habitat was calculated using digital elevation models of the sea floor. Habitat composition was estimated from photoquadrats of the subtidal benthos and collections of benthic algal samples, which were sampled for the surfperch's major prey sources in order to calculate prey biomass and distribution. Surfperch were collected for tissue samples and their stomach contents were analyzed for prey categorization (species and size distribution). We used microsatellite DNA data to generate allele frequencies. GIS and spatial statistics were used to visualize and analyze the relationship between subtidal landscape variables and genetic diversity in black surfperch populations. This approach can provide rigorous quantitative estimates on the relationship between subtidal landscape complexity and genetic diversity in nearshore marine organisms. The methodologies developed in this study can also provide marine managers methods to estimate the impact of proposed management actions that may fragment critical subtidal habitats and affect the maintenance of genetic diversity in nearshore populations of marine organisms.

TORRES, A (1,2), P MAJOR (1,2), J SWINDLE (1,2)

  1. Watsonville High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Does nitrogen affect plankton in the slough? (96 KB PDF)

We are testing multiple sites at Elkhorn Slough for high concentration of nitrogen and phytoplankton. We believe the main cause of nitrogen in the slough is fertilizers from the surrounding farmlands. We are measuring the amount of chlorophyll in the water with the Sond. This allows us to get an accurate count of phytoplankton in the water. Our hypothesis is that high levels of nitrogen in the water lead to an increase of phytoplankton in the slough. This may result in eutrophication, which could lead to decrease levels of oxygen in the slough. This can be a huge problem for native animals in the slough, this is so because the food source could be diminished or a habitat may not be suitable for organisms.

VEGA, V (1,2), A BARRIOS (1,2), A LUNA (1,2), M SOLANO (1,2)

  1. Pajaro Valley High School, Watsonville, CA
  2. Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) Program, Monterey Bay Aquarium

You acidify the water, they pay the price: the effect of ocean acidification on crabs (188 KB PDF)

Our research is focused on the effects of ocean acidification on native and invasive crab species on the Monterey Bay. Ocean Acidification is the decrease in ocean pH due to higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, and is a phenomenon currently endangering the Earth's water system. Burning fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide levels in the ocean. Ocean acidification affects marine wildlife such as calcifiers because of their inability to regulate their internal chemistry. We predict that changes in water chemistry will affect the behavior of marine crustaceans. We will conduct experiments to test their feeding and righting behavior. We chose crabs because they are key players in the marine food web. For example, keystone species such as the Pacific Sea Otters in the bay eat crustaceans and shellfish. They are also an important source to the biodiversity of the ocean, this is important because it provides a boost to ecosystem productivity. Research suggests that acidity will affect a carapace, yet these studies do not indicate how this will affect crustaceans in the long term. The purpose of this research project is to determine if reducing environmental pH will affect crab behavior and ultimately their ability to survive.


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA

A characterization of marine debris in the Northeast Pacific deep ocean (436 KB PDF)

Marine debris is an ever-increasing global issue that has negative impacts upon both benthic and pelagic habitats in coastal and open-ocean areas. Little is known about marine debris in the deep-sea and few studies have looked specifically at marine debris in the deep ocean. Using MBARI's Video Annotation and Reference System (VARS), a video analysis and observation database, we review the types and sources of marine debris in the Northeast Pacific from the US-Canadian border to the Gulf of California, with emphasis on Monterey Bay. Over 1600 observations of marine debris in the VARS database provide insight into the types, sources, and potential impacts of debris in the deep sea. Our dataset reveals conduits for debris entering the deep and changes in type of debris over 25 years of observations in this region.


San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, CA

Sudden Oak Death Part II: A comparative climatic study

The objective of the second year of our environmental monitoring project is to determine if soil moisture and/or humidity at different locations affect the concentration of Phytophthora ramorum and the progression of Sudden Oak Death (SOD). We want to know if the variation in these abiotic factors at two different microclimates affects the spread or concentration of Phytophthora ramorum. We hypothesize that at Fall Creek (the wetter location), there will be higher soil moisture and humidity, and therefore a greater chance of Sudden Oak Death infection. Whereas, at Quail Hollow Ranch (the drier location), there will be lower soil moisture and humidity and therefore a lower incidence of SOD. Our project requires a Vernier Lab Quest with the following probes: soil moisture, relative humidity, GPS and a Rolling Measuring Wheel. We collect data every 10 meters from a predetermined transect at the two locations. We developed a scale ranking tree health and infection rate and record the progression of SOD in randomly selected trees along both transects. Using this data, we will try to ascertain any correlation between climatic differences at the two locations and the progression of Sudden Oak Death. We have not yet collected enough data to conclude anything significant about the relationship between climatic variation and occurrence of Sudden Oak Death. We would like to thank our mentor Dr. Michael Loik, University of California Santa Cruz.


  1. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
  2. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, Santa Cruz, CA

Determining the relationship of fecundity and age/size of the blackgill rockfish, Sebastes melanostomus

In order to properly manage rockfish fisheries it is crucial to understand the reproductive life history of each species. Although the reproductive strategy is similar for many species of rockfish, there can be vast differences in age of maturity, gestation period, and fecundity between each. In an ongoing effort to complete the species profiling and to better inform stock assessment modeling, I will investigate the relationship between female age and size, and fecundity in the Blackgill rockfish, Sebastes melanostomus. I will use observational methods to examine the size and age (determined using otoliths) of females, and how many eggs or larvae are in their ovaries. We can then determine if the size of a female correlates to the relative number of larvae, and by what magnitude for each size class (Is the relationship exponential, linear, or random?). If we understand how the age and size of female S. melanostomus relates to their fecundity, we can better regulate how much of the population can be sustainably harvested, and therefore prevent the species from being overexploited.

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