The Open House t shirts

By Many Artists, and comments from Jim Harvey (31 March 2016)

Anyone that has come through MLML probably has one or two MLML t shirts. Most were designed for the annual MLML Open House, and have become collector's items for some. In this blog I thought I would just place them in chronological order. I am missing many, so if you have a photo of the shirt or you have an image of the artwork, send it to me and I will place it into the blog. I also need the year of the shirt and the artist for anything you send me or for any of the designs in the blog where I don't have the year or artist.



And the t shirt for the 50th Open House is below. Designed by Laurel Lam, check out the take off on the wave design with the ML stacks in the background (see the similarities by reading The Great Wave blog by Lloyd Kitazano).


The MLML quilt group is actually making a quilt using some of the Open House t shirts (I assume they are clean ones). There will be a raffle for the quilt  at the 50th Anniversary weekend to help raise money for student scholarships. Bid often and big.


The MLML Softball Teams

By Lloyd Kitazono (1975-1978)

1977 MLML Softball team. Top row from left: Steve Fitzwater, Lloyd Kitazono (Captain), Charlie Phillips, Jim Harvey, Steve Rushkin, Jim Oakden; Bottom row from left: Roger Helm, Frank Storti, Steve Locy, and Mike Gordon (Paul Reilly, not in picture).

Lloyd Kitazono: In the spring of 1977, MLML put together a men's softball team that played in Monterey's Slow-Pitch Softball league.  The team practiced, at least a couple of times, at Moss Landing Elementary School.  What the team may have lacked in softball experience and talent, it made up for it  with enthusiasm and energy.  The team won some and lost some and were quick to share a pizza and beer to toast their victory or drown the sorrows of a loss.  A good time and good memories were had by all.

Jim Harvey: One particular moment stands out for me, and is retold at family events. My brother-in-law, Jerry (who played professional baseball in the Expos organization and pitched and coached at Santa Clara University) was in the stands for one of our games with his wife (Patricia - Mary Yoklavich's sister) and some of Jerry's college players. No pressure on the marine scientists pretending to be ball players. I was playing left field and there was a single hit to left with a player on second. The guy on second rounded third as I came up throwing weakly into home. It was close but the umpire called the player safe at home. From left field I could hear my sister-in-law yell to the umpire, "YOU LIAR!. Gets a laugh out of the family every time we tell the story.


MLML Softball: The Gobie Sox years (2004 to 2016)

By Brent Hughes (Founding Member, Gobie Sox Softball Club)

For nearly a quarter century the bats went silent at MLML. That was until a ragtag group of MLML grad students founded the Gobie Sox Softball Club in 2004. Since then the Gobie Sox have become a fixture in the Co-Ed B/C Division of the Capitola Slowpitch Softball League. That first ragtag group eventually morphed into a championship softball team, much to the admiration of those who walked the hallowed ground of Jade Street Park.

Gobie Sox softball team (photo by Jasmine Ruvalcaba)

A group of MLML students organized the Gobie Sox as a way to build camaraderie, especially after realizing that “we are MLML students and might be here for a while so we better learn to like each other”. Led by the Godfather of the Gobie Sox, Jon Walsh and Allison Meyers Crimmins, we founded the MLML softball team v. 2.0. When deciding a team name, we wanted one that would reflect both the sport and our MLML connection. So we chose a genera of fish, specifically the clingfish, Gobiesox spp., which is found in both freshwater and marine habitats across the Americas. The naming of the team was clearly an Ichthyology Lab decision or else we would have been named the Macrocystises, Sea Otters, Polychaetes, Mercury, Coriolis Effect, or Santa Cruz Mudstones, for example. Luckily the name stuck.

The early years of the team were defined by quick runners and good fielding. We seldom hit home runs, and if we did they were in the park. The key to the team’s success was that we had a combination of really good men and women players. And through the years every lab has had a player on the team, even the Marine Pollution Studies Lab (the people who work at Norte). In our inaugural season we made it to the finals of the championship and in the second year we won! This was followed by a celebration at the 10th hole house (a very large house on the Seascape golf course inhabited by 5 MLMLers), but that is a story best not saved for a respectable public blog like the MLML 50th Anniversary blog.

The 2005 championship was followed by another one in 2007 (we think). This sparked all sorts of enthusiasm in the public community including a sponsorship by the highly respected One Double Oh Seven Club where we often congregated after games, a requirement of our agreement. Given our beer intake after games, this was a good financial decision for the 007. When we all finally graduated 6 years later the team more or less disbanded. The torch was picked up by a younger group of students led by Cori Gibble and later Brynn Kauffman and her husband Zach Kauffman. This was also a period that represented a big shift in Gobie Sox softball philosophy from one that was driven by speed and good defense to one driven by power. Especially with the addition of the bash brothers: Will “the Thrill” Fennie, “Big” Steve Martenuk and “Long Gone” John Negrey. All of who are not too nimble on their feet (besides maybe Will), but can bash the ball over the fence.

The formation of the Gobie Sox Softball Club has been a big part of recent MLML culture and is now engrained in its heritage. A heritage, which promotes teambuilding, sportsmanship, and fun. It has been great to be a part of it.



MLML Director, Dr. Jim Harvey, comments in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on orcas hunting gray whales

Dr. Jim Harvey gives insight into orcas hunting gray whale calves in Monterey Bay. The article is featured in the Santa Cruz Sentinel at the link below.

Follow this link to learn more:

A family of orcas, including a calf, surfaces together after harassing a humpback whale in Monterey Bay. Photo by: Bethany Augliere

From Tuscan Mountains to MLML – Dr. Ivano Aiello spotlighted at SJSU Spring 2016 University Scholars Series

MLML's Dr. Ivano Aiello is invited to speak at San Jose State University for their 2016 University Scholar Series. Dr. Aiello will speak about microfossil-rich marine sediments and its relationship to past climate conditions at 12:00pm on March 23 in MLK room 225/229 on the SJSU campus. An article about Dr. Aiello is featured on the SJSU's Academic Spotlight web page here. The University Scholars Series is co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the University Library and the Spartan Bookstore.

Teeth, Mud, and Nets

By Dion Oxman (17 March 2016)

My MLML tenure started on probation and in transition. I initially came to the Lab to work with the Bernd Wursig on marine mammals. To be blunt, however, my undergraduate GPA sucked. My GRE scores were not much better. In University terms, that put me on immediate academic probation. Great start. Bernd was willing to give me a chance, but I had to prove my intellectual capability before he accepted me into the fold. I got lucky, did well, and Bernd rewarded me with a place in his lab. Then he promptly left for a position in Galveston, Texas. I stayed – Brooklyn boys do not belong in Texas. Jim Harvey arrived to take Bernd’s place. Jim, it turned out, would also make me prove myself before accepting me into his lab, but in a significantly different, more physical way.

When Jim arrived at / returned to MLML as a newly minted professor, he brought his passion for harbor seal research along for the ride. After all, he was about to get numerous indentured servants willing to carry out his every whim and desire. Risk free, as I would soon discover. Jim and I discussed project ideas and came up with one that involved studying the movements and food habits of harbor seals in Monterey Bay. It would involve catching, tagging, and radio tracking numerous seals around the Bay. National Geographic channel stuff – “count me in” I thought. Soon thereafter, I was in the quad discussing project plans with other students, when a newbie by the name of Steve Trumble insinuated himself into the discussion . . .

“Dude, You can’t do that – it’s my project” he said.

"Oh yeah? Let’s dance!” – Though in all honesty, those were not the words I used.

Harbor seals on Elkhorn Slough mud.

First rule of the Fight Club that is graduate school – don’t tell a student she/he can’t do something. Colorful metaphors were thrown, stare-downs and posturing ensued. We took our fight to Harvey, who admitted he screwed up and gave us both the same idea for a thesis project. It must have been early onset Alzheimer’s. His solution: “You guys go figure it out”. It was the beginning of a long-standing professional and personal friendship. Steve would focus on seals along the open coast and I would wrestle with those residing in Elkhorn Slough. Literally, wrestle.

Before radio tracking a seal, you must first catch a seal. This involves deploying a large glorified beach seine in waters adjacent to a haul-out site using two fast and agile Boston Whalers. The Lead Boat deploys the net in an arc in front of the resting seals while the second “capture” boat retrieves the leading end of the net and brings it ashore. These activities would disturb the resting seals (don’t worry law enforcement types – we had a permit for that) who would enter the water to escape and – if all went well – find themselves ensnared in our nets.

[An aside: "Vlad" in the picture above is Dr. Valdimir Burkanov, who is Russian and now works at the NMFS Marine Mammal Lab in Seattle]

Our training and initiation took place in South San Francisco Bay. If memory serves, most of those who would

From left to right: Sal Cerhio, Doreen Moser, the capture net, Jim Harvey, and a visiting secret agent from Russia (“Vlad”).

become the usual suspects in seal tagging operations were there: Steve Trumble, Mike Torok, Meg Lamont, John Mason, Matt Byrd, Tom Norris, Sal Cerchio and myself. Other mainstays like Tomo Eguchi, Rob and Kim Suryan, Tony Orr, Doreen Moser, and Michelle Lander would join up later to great effect. Jim issued orders like a drill sergeant sending troops to their demise. He would drive the Lead Boat himself. Steve, being an excellent boat driver, would drive the Capture Boat. I drew the short straw – if members of the second boat could not reach the leading end of the net, it was my responsibility to recover it. Sounded simple enough. It was not. The immediate stampede of seals that occurred as we approached the haul-out site forced us to increase our speed in order to deploy the net in time. As I crouched on the bow, it became immediately clear to Steve and I that the net would come nowhere near the students in the Capture Boat and we were at risk of fouling the propeller on the netting. By way of solution, Steve made an abrupt, sharp, high-speed turn. My body dutifully obeyed the laws of physics – I was catapulted out of the boat, into the water, and onto the net. I was told it was very graceful if not intentional. I grabbed and swam, or at least I tried to against the tide, towing a net that I was sure held over 1,000 seals. Lots of yelling to hurry ensued from those who were still safe and dry aboard the boats as escaping seals whizzed past me and between my legs (thankfully with their mouths closed). My less-than-professional responses encouraged some of my compatriots to join me in my water-bound tug-of-war, while others like Jim and Steve sat warm and dry suppressing their laughter and expressing their derision. In the hundreds of subsequent expeditions, our roles remained unchanged and the leading end of the net never made it into the retrieval boat.

Once ashore, our haul was far less than I had anticipated. Two individuals out of at least 250 seals. I will let you do the math. Jim pointed at me and then at the 250 lb male at my feet. “Dion – get on him. Hold him still”. Wha? There were plenty of others to pick on. I mean from. John Mason was a head taller than I and twice as broad. Steve was as strong as semi-truck on ‘roids and as stubborn as Donald Trump. So, sure. There are sharp teeth involved, but sure. It was like sitting on a greased up squirming sausage of fat and muscle. I got on the animal too slow and the seal immediately rolled onto its back while between my legs. At that point, the seal decided it would be prudent to bite me in the face. He lunged. I dodged – backwards and ass-first into the mud to the amusement of all. Seal included – I recall it looking quite self-satisfied. “Don’t let him do that” was Jim’s simple and sage advice. “Get back on but be quick about it this time”. That is when I started to consider switching to invertebrates. Less teeth and less attitude. And Professor Nybakken wasn’t this sadistic.

After securing the animal, the others dove in to do various and sundry things to our captive. Blood was drawn. Tissues sampled. Flipper tags secured. While all this was going on, I had to restrain the head with both hands and constrain the body between my legs. Now, as you well know, there are important appendages down there to be concerned about (Steve can attest to that in a later blog) and that is a fabulous incentive when you are stuck in such a position for 45 minutes. That is how long it took the epoxy Jim was using to secure a radio transmitter on the seal’s head to set. Slough mud may look soft and slimy. After lengthy exposure, it is not. Anyone who has wrestled seals under such conditions can tell you it is a great exfoliator. It rubs off callouses and fingerprints (I could have become a career criminal), not to mention the damage it does in unmentionable areas after hours of chaffing. And one last tid-bit regarding this first foray into seal tagging: once the epoxy had dried, I discovered that our esteemed mentor had glued my hands to the seal. They had to cut me off. I had hairy palms for days. Insert your own tawdry comments here . . .

The indignity suffered at the hands of graduate students.

The seals were ultimately released and so began several years of such activity. The result of these shared experiences of enjoyment and misery has created bonds between us all that remain to this day. As we packed up to head home, Jim suggested we stop for pizza. He, however, could not join us as he was meeting his wife in San Francisco. Being poor grad students, Jim offered up some cash by way of support. A 20-spot to be precise, but I grabbed the Benjamin that was sticking out of his wallet instead. Compensation for emotional duress. We kept the change. I figure we still owe Jim about $50, but considering the experiences and opportunities he provided us, we most likely owe him a whole lot more.




What’s the Worst Thing that Could Happen? : Reflections on a Shark and Ray Fishery Project in the Gulf of California

By Joe Bizzarro and Wade Smith (10 March 2016)

Baja California peninsula from space.

Yipi rumbled down the narrow, craggy road at a speed that seemed unsustainable. “One More Cup of Coffee” by Dylan played loudly on the Jeep’s stereo. Sunset was looming and setting up camp before nightfall was important…but maybe not this important. MLML ichthyology lab students, Joe Bizzarro and Wade Smith, were rattling in their seats. This was the type of ride where the vehicle occupants seemed more like bobblehead dolls than passengers – a ride that causes the fillings in your teeth to vibrate…because the road was carved out of the side of a dormant volcano, with jagged rocks protruding through a thin layer of sediment. The road conditions demanded a crawling pace that Joe felt they couldn’t afford. And even though Joe and Wade were driving “fast,” it would still take about an hour to cover the twenty miles to camp. Wade seemed a bit tense in the passenger seat, so Joe – seeking to defuse the situation and typically delusional - postulated “What’s the worst thing that could happen, we blow a tire?” Um, no…not hardly. There are much worse things that could happen. After all, this is Baja.

Artisanal elasmobranch fisheries in the Gulf targeted large, pelagic sharks, like these silky sharks, when they entered the region to pup. Not a good recipe for a sustainable fishery.

An international collaborative shark and ray fishery project. Ah. Say it out loud - it seems rather majestic, no? Well, it did to Joe, Wade, and Erin Jones when Greg Cailliet proposed it as a two-year study from which they would (supposedly) generate thesis projects. Outgoing M.S. student and lab Mom, Julie Neer, would serve the role of Charlie to the grad student Angels, managing the project from the home base while the kids collected data in the field. The project was funded primarily by the Packard Foundation. Its objectives were ambitious - to locate all the artisanal fisheries camps in the Gulf of California, determine which camps targeted elasmobranchs, and document fisheries and biological information from landings at those camps. The Gulf had supported an intensive, but poorly documented shark fishery for years; however, anecdotal evidence suggested the serial depletion of many large, predatory sharks and a shift to smaller, coastal sharks and rays. Greg was partnering with highly respected elasmobranch researchers at Mote Marine Labs, the University Autonoma de Baja California Sur, and the Instituto Nacional de la Pesca, Mexico’s version of NMFS. What an opportunity! (By the way, Yipi was Greg Cailliet’s pet name for his Jeep Cherokee, which, when we left off with this story, was in the process of being destroyed).

Erin Jones identifies the species composition of the landings of a panga while Joe Bizzarro records the information.

Suddenly, things went dark for Joe and Wade. Literally. Dust was quickly filling the interior of the vehicle although the windows remained closed. How odd. Then the problem became readily apparent. All the shaking and banging from the road caused the lock mechanism to tear off the hatch back of the car. The lock remained fixed, but the hatch back, with a gaping hole where the lock used to be, pointed skyward. Even worse, the car was empty. All the supplies were gone. They could be seen dotting the road behind the car like a trail of breadcrumbs stretching into the distance. At the end of this trail was a small, white bus…stopping at each lost item to claim a road prize. Joe and Wade watched and waited…and when the bus pulled up, requested their stuff back. After a brief negotiation and some minor extortion, the supplies were reloaded into the vehicle and the back lashed down with rope. Getting to camp before dark wasn’t going to happen, and a more cautious approach seemed advisable…but when Joe turned the ignition, the oil light came on - and indicated that the car had none. A decision was made to pull the crippled vehicle into a roadside arroyo, set up a makeshift camp, and regroup in the morning.

The last remnants of our supplies, jettisoned from the Jeep after the lock mechanism "failed." Note - sundown (you better take care...).

The project was truly spectacular in many ways. The Gulf of California is a remarkable study site for an elasmobranch biologist. Because of the oceanography of the region and its physical location at a transition between biogeographic provinces, it is home to a great diversity of sharks and rays. In addition, the survey years, 1998 and 1999, reflected El Niño and La Niña conditions, further accentuating the regional diversity. The Gulf serves as a nursery area for many migratory sharks and rays, and species composition, therefore, is highly dynamic. Fieldwork was for about 2-4 weeks/each season to capture this dynamism. Most of the elasmobranch species in the Gulf of California were not common to California waters,  therefore, a book-borne knowledge of the local fauna, and a working understanding of Spanish, were project requisites. After sharpening up on these skills, Joe, Wade, and Erin were deployed to Baja California (Norte). One group (each) was responsible for surveying the other states that border on the Gulf (Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa). Erin did not participate in the trip being described, but was an integral part of the team. Not only as a field biologist, but because she is a fluent Spanish-speaker and charming and attractive gringa. She referred to herself as “Margarita” and ran wonderful interference with love-struck fishermen to facilitate our sampling efforts.



A small artisanal fishing camp located at Bahia Animas, south of Bahia de los Angeles. The type of terrain depicted is similar to that of the road we traveled while destroying Greg's Jeep.

While sleeping off the events of the day in Campo Arroyo, Joe and Wade were awakened by the high beams and rumble of an approaching vehicle. It was, inexplicably, a red Fiat, a car that

Wade Smith looks particularly dashing while measuring a California angel shark.

should never be able to navigate the volcanic road at any speed. The driver was a mustachioed Mexican man, and Modelo cans were strewn about the dashboard and interior of the vehicle. He was very drunk – probably blacked out. He staggered out of the vehicle and announced his intention, “Tienen aqua?” he asked? “Si…tiene aceite?,” Joe replied.” “Si.” Well, I’ll be – rather than a scorpion in your shoe, a true gift in the night seemed to present itself. A large bottle of water was produced and given to the borracho. He popped his hood to reveal a steaming radiator with no cap, and, while staggering about, managed to pour about half of the bottle into it. Then he got back in the car, fired it up, and started to back out of the arroyo. “Whoa…whoa? …what about the oil?!” The man replied….”I have oil. I only needed water.” Ack! Great googly moogly, you gotta be kidding me?! Buckled by a sour mixture of chagrin and frustration Wade sank to the dusty ground. Still no oil and we would likely need that water when the blazing sun rose. “Don’t worry, Wade.” Joe said. “He’s going to die on that road tonight. We’ll see that Fiat at the bottom of a canyon tomorrow morning when we walk back to town (Puertocitos) to look for help.” Wade was relieved - but once again…that’s not how it would play out.

This is a Fiat. It is generally an extremely poor choice for Baja driving because it has almost no clearance, consists of foreign parts, and handles poorly on uneven terrain.

When the sun came up, Wade and Joe left the crippled Jeep that Greg had loaned them and in an unadvisable act of desperation, began the 15 mile walk back to Puertocitos. Not much was said, but the roadside and chasms were eagerly scanned for a crashed Fiat. Nothing was discovered. Then, about 2 or 3 miles into the walk, a car approached from the south. And, as Wade and Joe stared incredulously, they were coated in dust by a passing mustachioed Mexican man in the red Fiat. And he was driving too fast, besides…and somehow making it all work. No justice (this is a common theme in Baja). Just then, however, two fishermen who were driving north in a truck with a panga strapped to the top stopped to urinate on the side of the road - and got to talking with us. They agreed to tow Yipi back to Puertocitos. The drive took about 4 hours and was rife with equal doses of danger and ridicularum, as was the rest of the two year survey, but that’s a story for another day.



Two fishermen agreed to tow Yipi to Puertocitos after they fortuitously stopped to urinate on the side of the road and got chatty (they had been drinking).
Sampling: After sawing off a dragging muffler (from a different trip), Joe makes light of the situation. Sorry, Greg.


It was quickly determined that the descriptive fishery information that we were collecting as research assistants on this project would not be sufficient for MLML theses. We expanded our work (and misadventures) onto the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur to develop directed studies on the biology and ecology of rays from well-established fisheries in the Magdalena Bay Lagoon Complex. Though the international collaborative project that initially brought us to Baja was underfunded and marked by an overly optimistic timeline, a final report to Packard was eventually completed, translated to Spanish, and disseminated to interested scientists and fishery managers in Mexico and the U.S. Four manuscripts were published that, for the first time, documented the characteristics and status of the artisanal shark fishery in the Gulf of California. Basic information such as species-specific catch data were largely unavailable prior to the release of these survey results. In all, 147 fishing camps were located, of which 86% targeted elasmobranchs during at least one season. Large sharks were rare in landings compared with small, coastal sharks and rays, and populations of several species appear badly overfished, including tiger, bull, and dusky sharks. The results of this study served as the basis for establishing the first national shark management plan in Mexico, and as foundational material for several subsequent publications on elasmobranchs and their fisheries in the Gulf of California. Sure, Greg’s Jeep was destroyed but we pulled it off in the end – as is typical of all the Baja projects that have been conducted through Greg’s ichthyology lab. Much like he is fond of saying “I don’t do salmon,” Greg often says “I don’t work in Baja” (right up until he does). It’s easy to understand his aversion to Baja as a study site. It was made for the Mike Foster types. Gregor is too Type A to deal with the lassitude, inefficiency, and unpredictability of desert life. You never know, for instance, when a guy in a Fiat is going to trade you nothing in exchange for your water.

Elkhorn Slough is the Cosmic Center of the Universe (so says MLML Alumnus Mark Silberstein… and we concur)

By Mary Yoklavich and Greg Cailliet (3 March 2016)

Aerial photo of Elkhorn Slough winding eastward from Moss Landing Harbor. [1973]

MLML’s students and faculty have been up to their hip boots in the mud of Elkhorn Slough for over 40 years. In 1974, just a few years after the Lab’s establishment, professors Bill Broenkow, Jim Nybakken, and Greg Cailliet coordinated the first comprehensive cataloging and collection of the Slough’s flora and fauna. This effort resulted in the milestone MLML report on the hydrography and ecology of Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing Harbor, and nearshore coastal waters, which now serves as an invaluable baseline from which to evaluate ongoing change occurring in the Slough and surrounding environs.


Professor Cailliet and ichthyology students gill-netting sharks in the Slough.

Winding seven miles inland from Moss Landing Harbor, the Elkhorn Slough provides refuge for more than 100 fish, 550 marine invertebrate, and 340 bird species. The Slough is a critical wintering and stopover site for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway and has been recognized as a “Globally Important Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. Resident sea lions, harbor seals, and the greatest concentration of the endangered Southern sea otter on the West Coast also are all found in the Slough’s waters and on its shores. Spawning, feeding, nesting, and nurturing by a menagerie of organisms all take place within the Slough’s channels, mudflats, eelgrass beds, and salt marshes.

Mudflat sampling in the Slough.
MLML graduate student Brooke Antrim with 1.2 meter-long California halibut from the Slough [late 1970s].

Ecological studies conducted by MLML students and professors on the feeding habits, growth, and movements of fishes, birds, and mammals played a significant part in the Slough’s designation as a National Estuarine Research Reserve in 1979, affording it recognition as a field laboratory for scientific research and education. The Research Reserve’s establishment led to the formation of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in 1982, which serves as a land trust and is actively involved in restoration of some of the Slough’s key habitats. The Foundation, directed by MLML alumnus Mark Silberstein for more than 30 years, has been widely recognized for its ecosystem-based watershed stewardship focused on land acquisition, education, science, and restoration.

Young Mark Silbermud in his natural habitat.

During the ‘80s, programs were established to monitor water quality and track non-point source pollution in the Slough. MLML supported the California State Mussel Watch Program, which measured the uptake of pesticides by these bivalves at several stations throughout the Slough. This program evolved into what is now the successful Marine Pollution Studies Laboratory at MLML, which was initiated by graduates of MLML and is now directed by MLML alums Rusty Fairey and Wes Heim.

MLML graduate student Jim Barry documented the use of shallow marsh habitats by juvenile fishes in Elkhorn Slough, 1983.

Also in the 1980s, students and former students of MLML started research on restoration of salt marsh communities in the Slough. These efforts also considered changes in Slough hydrology that had taken place after 1946 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged a channel across the sand spit to create the present-day entrance to Moss Landing Harbor. A collection of aerial photos was used to evaluate changes in habitat and land use in the Slough’s watershed since 1931, including the effects of erosion, human trampling, cattle grazing, and marsh loss on habitats and associated floral and faunal communities. The Central Coast Wetlands Group at MLML, headed by alumnus Ross Clark, continues efforts to improve the condition of local wetlands such as the Slough.

Restoration efforts increased critical marsh and tidal creek habitats suitable for colonization by salt marsh species.

The pace of MLML student research in Elkhorn Slough continued into the new millennium. Professor Jim Harvey (a graduate student of Vic Morejohn’s in the 1970s and current Director of MLML) and his long list of students have studied many aspects of harbor seal ecology in the Slough. In addition, sea otters, leopard sharks, algae, seagrasses, and many other organisms have been the topics of graduate work at MLML. The health of the ecosystem remains an area of focus, and students have examined the effects of domoic acid, nutrient pollution, heavy metals, diseases, invasions, and erosion on the system.

Scott Hanson and MLML students handling a muddy harbor seal.
Dr. Ivano Aiello and students remove a piston core from Elkhorn Slough. The core was built by students in the fabrication class taught by Dr. Kenneth Coale.

In all, more than 55 graduate student theses have been completed on Elkhorn Slough, accounting for nearly one-tenth of all student research at MLML. In addition, data sets spanning more than 30 years have resulted from surveys of Slough communities conducted by students in MLML’s Ichthyology and Marine Ecology classes. These long-term data products are of high value to researchers interested in change occurring in California’s coastal ecosystems. As a recent example, alumnus Brent Hughes used MLML records in his doctoral work at UC Santa Cruz, connecting the increase in numbers of Southern Sea Otters to clams, crabs, and the overall health of eelgrass beds in Elkhorn Slough; Brett’s work was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

MLML students, Linda Martin and Dave Kusher, dissect a bat ray during an annual Elkhorn Slough Shark Derby. These Derbies provided valuable biological information and long-term trends in shark populations of the Slough, dating from 1951 to 1996.

The history of MLML’s research in Elkhorn Slough and its watershed was chronicled in the 2002 book Changes in a California Estuary, A Profile of Elkhorn Slough. Our understanding of the physical properties and associated biota of this very special corner of Monterey Bay, and how it will be affected by local, regional, and global impacts, is founded on the studies conducted by the students and professors of MLML.

Changes in a California Estuary. Edited by Jane Caffrey, Martha Brown, W. Breck Tyler, and Mark Silberstein (2002).