MLML Student Life in the 1990s

By Erica J. Burton ( 8 July 2016)

Being a MLML student during the post-earthquake 90s meant learning, working, studying, and maybe living (caretakers) in the Salinas trailers (Fig. 1). Sitting in the middle of agriculture fields may have made a student question their recent arrival and admission to the lab. However, the Salinas office staff (including Gail Johnston and Sandy Yarbrough) made students feel welcome and connected to their home campuses. The Librarians, Sheila Baldridge and Sandy O’Neill, took great interest in the students and their projects; and could always retrieve the most obscure, needed references. And the faculty had an energetic quality that inspired, united, and promoted the student body.

As a first-year student, you may have attended a core class (or two) in the triple-wide trailer on the island in Moss Landing (neighbors to the bait & tackle shop, and the original Phil’s Fish Market (Fig. 2); land now occupied by the MLML aquaculture facility).   Also on the island was (is) the MLML Small Boat and Diving Operations building (Fig. 3); a student’s gateway to small boat usage in Elkhorn Slough or SCUBA diving field work (Fig. 4).

Although the temporary MLML campuses were separated by ~16 miles, the MLML community was tight-knit, and chock-full of camaraderie and can-do attitudes. There was nothing we couldn’t do (or at least try). Close-quarters in the trailer labs may have aided our tight-knit community, as shown in the Ichthyology Lab (Fig. 5).

Class projects and thesis work brought students together. Students were always willing to lend a hand; near or far. It could have been an ecology class project collecting rocky intertidal fishes, manipulative experiments in Stillwater Cove, class cruises aboard the R/V Point Sur and R/V Ricketts (Figs. 6, 7), or convincing excuses to conduct field work in Baja California, Mexico (Fig. 8).

Graduate school kept us busy days, nights, weekdays, and weekends. But those who worked hard also found time to let off steam at house parties, local watering holes, extracurricular sports, poker games, bus rides to a SF baseball/football game, ski trips, etc. The Blue House (Fig. 9) was a good place to start or end an evening; and typically involved a crooked stroll to, and from, Ray’s (aka The Moss Landing Inn). House parties may have had a live band, and there was almost always dancing involved. Monterey hot spots included Doc Ricketts, Players, Planet Gemini, Blue Fin Billiards, karaoke at the Marriott, Mucky Duck, and $2-Tuesdays at the Dream Theater (Fig. 10). The annual Bowling Tournament among faculty, staff, and students was always a big hit (Figs. 11, 12). And occasionally, faculty would host a their own lab party (Fig. 13).

During the 90s, there was a constant effort to rebuild the lab; especially for the faculty and staff. But the students were involved, too. It was part of our psyche. There were awareness campaigns; Open House events to let the public know we were still part of the community and that we’d return to Moss Landing; visits to the Salinas courthouse for hearings; and finally celebratory events on the hill (Fig. 14).  The new lab opened in January 2000. Many of the students during the trailer years would never occupy the new lab. But, I think many would agree, the 90s weren’t about the lack of a permanent lab structure; they were about the MLML spirit, quality of education, and long-lasting friendships that were made during our Salinas years.


Seriously Formative Years at Stillwater Cove

By Mark Carr, Todd Anderson, and Mickey Singer (30 June 2016)

Over the years, Stillwater Cove in Carmel Bay has become one of the most well-studied kelp forests on the West Coast, thanks to the foundation of research established there by Mike Foster and the good graces of the Pebble Beach - Beach and Tennis Club. Mike taught a course in subtidal ecology at MLML for many years, and this was a springboard for considerable research involving scientific diving at Stillwater and other locations along the coast of California. The late 70s and early 80s were a heyday for kelp forest research at Stillwater.   Among the many students doing thesis research at the time was a group of overly enthusiastic fish ecologists, bound and determined to unravel the importance of kelp forests as nursery habitat for rockfishes. At that time, when divers saw a juvenile rockfish, no one had a clue as to what species they were observing, let alone anything about their ecology. Mickey Singer, Guy Hoelzer, Todd Anderson, and Mark Carr became infatuated with the 10-14 species of juvenile rockfishes that occurred in the kelp forests of Stillwater Cove. These were formative years for learning the skills of scientific diving, boating, and subtidal field ecology.

Our treasured research vessel was a 16’ old Navy black inflatable, riddled with enough small holes that caused it to leak air continuously. Before, in between every dive, and before heading back to shore, the “black raft” was refilled with a dedicated SCUBA tank and a small hose. At one point, we were able to keep the inflatable moored in the water, which could be seen readily from members of the Beach and Tennis Club overlooking the cove, including MLML Director John Martin. Between dive days, the inflatable turned into a floating waterbed, much to the embarrassment of Dr. Martin, who reached the point of replacing the “black raft” with two new Zodiac inflatables for scientific diving at the lab.

We developed a healthy respect for the ocean environment the hard way. Launching inflatables at Stillwater was a challenge with south-facing swells. On one particular occasion, several of us were launching a Zodiac through high surf. We had loaded everyone’s gear into a Zodiac and Guy was in the inflatable trying to start the engine as the rest of us were in the water walking the boat through the surf. As an unexpected wave approached, Guy dove on top of the gear in the bow to keep the Zodiac stable. Instead, he was launched into the air along with much of our gear, including SCUBA tanks. We spent some time searching for gear with our hands and legs, eventually finding most of it. Diving was also a challenge for some of us. One day Mark Carr left his wetsuit hood and booties at the lab and he made three dives in 8-90C water during upwelling with no hood and a pair of gloves on his feet. He returned to the lab wandering around the facility before heading home to spend the rest of the day in bed suffering from hypothermia. These formative “wise” diving practices prepared Todd and Mark for their current roles as the Chairs of the Diving Safety Boards of San Diego State University and UC Santa Cruz.

Aptitude for the logistics of field experiments was also gleaned from our studies at Stillwater. A large (36 m2) artificial kelp forest was secured to the bottom with sand anchors and line off Arrowhead Point. When it was time to remove this kelp forest, the R/V Ricketts cruised to the site. Before loading a crew of divers who rendezvoused on the beach to help remove kelp and retrieve the anchors and line, the Ricketts powered to the site only to find that the entire experiment had vanished. The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh away. However, the ocean wasn’t the only thing that taketh away. A close colleague working on adult kelp rockfish, Gilbert Van Dykhuizen kept deploying surface buoys to mark his study site at Stillwater, only to find them stolen each time he returned for another dive day. Finally, he found the ugliest buoy he could find (pink and green) and wrote “YOU TOUCH, YOU DIE!!” on it… only to find it too was gone by the next visit. Gil’s struggles with logistics were further confounded by an amorous harbor seal who simply couldn’t leave him alone underwater, dubbed Gil’s girlfriend.

In the end, we all completed our master’s theses, working on various aspects of the biology and ecology of juvenile rockfishes, including identification, distribution, habitat associations, timing of settlement, and behavior. We remember Stillwater fondly, as much for our experiences and camaraderie as for the research we accomplished. With the help of the faculty and students at MLML, we taught ourselves how to design studies, develop skills in scientific diving, build sampling gear, troubleshoot outboard engine problems, and of course, have a healthy respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. For us, this was a special time, and MLML was (and is) a special place.

Mickey Singer: What I remember most about doing research in Stillwater, aside from all those lovely beach launchings, was that when diving was good it was often really good, and when it was bad, well, you get the picture. Part of Mark Carr's habitat and my feeding studies involved crepuscular observations. Night diving in Stillwater added an interesting layer to the whole operation. Sitting in the Ricketts for hours between dives in wet wetsuits was particularly comfortable. There were nights when visibility was great, and the bioluminescence was amazing! And there were nights when the vis was lousy, and those mid-depth-open water transects had the distinct addition of the music from “Jaws” in the background. But all in all it was a great place to do research.

Stillwater Cove: A Magical Diving and Research Spot

By Ross Clark, Dan Reed, Bob Enea, Dave Schiel, Matt EdwardsMickey Singer, and Jasmine Ruvalcaba (26 June 2016)

Google Earth image of Stillwater Cove.

Stillwater Cove of the 1970 and 1980s

Dan Reed: One of the things that I remember most about doing my thesis research at Stillwater Cove was the sense of feeling like a local at one of the most elite country clubs in the nation. After a while the guards at the gate knew who I was as did the manager at the Pebble Beach and Tennis Club.  I also became neighborly with some of the locals who hung out at the beach. The local who I interacted most with was an elderly Italian caddy at the golf course. He would show up early in the mornings to walk the beach looking for errant golf balls that he sold back to the pro shop and to hunt for mushrooms on the fairways which he would cook up for dinner.  We would discuss his day’s catch of balls and shrooms and talk a little sports and weather. He was a colorful guy who had a great outlook on life and was one of the people I always looked forward to seeing on my dive trips to SWC.

Macrocystis. Photo by Scott Gabara

Many years after I had left Moss Landing I was talking to Dave Schiel about the good old days diving at SWC.   Dave had been a post doc of Mike Foster’s a year or two after I graduated from MLML and SWC was one of his study sites. Dave began telling me about a day at  SWC when he was wearing a MLML t-shirt that had a picture of the RV Ricketts and this guy who was at the beach collecting golf balls started talking to him about how he once went on a cruise with Doc Ricketts to the Sea of Cortez.  It turned out to be my old caddy friend Sparky Enea, who along with Tiny Colletto was a seaman on the Western Flyer during Steinbeck’s famous voyage with Doc Ricketts. Sparky and Tiny grew up together in Monterey and Steinbeck described them as “bad little boys who were very happy about it”. The two were involved in many of the adventures that Steinbeck wrote about in The Log from the Sea of Cortez and they also were featured in Cannery Row. Needless to say I was surprised to learn Sparky’s true identity from Dave.  I was (and continue to be) very jealous that Dave’s conversation with Sparky was about Sparky’s adventures with Ricketts and Steinbeck while my many conversations with him focused on golf balls and mushrooms.


Bob Enea: Yes that's right Sparky was my uncle, but there is a little more to the story of SWC.  My dad, Salvatore "Gan" Enea was Sparky's older brother, was the "harbormaster" at SWC for about 20 years after he retired from fishing. He was a good friend of Sam Morse, the founder of Pebble Beach.   He also collected golf balls and hunted for  mushrooms.

Rainbow Starfish. Photo by Scott Gabara.

I remember seeing two big cardboard boxes in the trunk of his car filled with golf balls.  He sold them back the pro shop at Cypress Point. I guess those two had the monopoly on golf balls there. The mushrooms went into the spaghetti sauce we had every Sunday when they were in season. ( here is a family secret, the best place to find mushrooms was just across the road from the Crocker mansion near Cypress Point) Delicious!!!  Sparky always had a pat phrase when someone would ask him about the Sea of Cortez trip, quote:  "I have a thousand wacky tales I could tell you".  And he did!  He was quite a character.

Dave Schiel: I do remember never having seen giant kelp in abundance and stepping off into some wrack on the shore, just below the old pier, and virtually disappearing into muck. I remember some regally dressed duffers, obviously clothed straight from the pro shop, slicing shot after shot at us while we were trying to launch a boat. I remember seeing Dan's Pretygophora still happily occupying the gullies around his experiment, which he had set up by slicing off those plants two years previously. El Nino eventually took care of them, as well as the old pier, and as well as the boat that Don Canestro and I staked to the fairway because the wind came up so strongly we couldn't carry it uphill. The boat, half the fairway and the green joined the pier, somewhere in the cove.

Sea cucumber. Photo by Scott Gabara

I remember, like Dan, meeting some very nice folks in the car park. Neil Andrew and I once saw an exquisite elderly lady emerge from her chauffeur-driven car. She was decked out in a mink coat and greeted us cordially. The memorable thing was that her teeth were pretty much gold. Now that is opulence!

I left a lot of chum in that Cove, thanks to the donuts that Don used to bring for breakfast. And, of course, there was the episode of students leaving a spear in the Avon and deflating most of the hull while we were diving. And the young keen students from out east somewhere, who panicked diving on a no-viz day and dropped a hammer, quadrats and various heavy objects on my head.

But mostly I remember having a grand time diving with everyone. Mike Foster was in his heyday, and we all got out there as much as possible. I think I did over 200 dives there in the couple of years I spent.

Stillwater Cove research in the 1990s.

Ross Clark and Matt Edwards: When it came to kelp forest research the Mike Foster Phycology lab of the 1990s was a force to be reckoned with. The Dive Program at Moss Landing Marine Labs provided tanks, dive trucks, Zodiacs and 15 horsepower motors; the students provided the strong backs, the core body heat, and the sure will needed to get the research done. The subtidal ecology class introduced most of us to the art of field ecology and the science of diving and often to our beloved species of study for years to come. As we told our advisors many times, underwater ecology took longer than two years to complete.

Gopher Rockfish and rocky reef. Photo by Scott Gabara.

Stillwater diving during summer months was a five-day-a-week activity, with multiple Zodiacs full of students, their equipment such as transect tapes, rebar, PVC, Zspar and, and for those lucky ones with Meyers grants, stainless bolts for attaching, counting, moving, removing and strapping our creatures of interest into new and hopefully scientifically interesting densities, depths and distributions. It was a time of clear-it, cage-it, count-it ecology. Once our research was in place, the temporal changes became the commitment we sometimes found to regret. The summer comradery of divers dwindled as winter waves approached and the holidays loomed. While Stillwater was an aptly named place for research during the summer months, those of us who chose to take on seasonal studies found Stillwater in the winter to often be a misnomer. Diving on December 24th was a reality for the few of us that needed our end of the year data before we traveled home for the holidays. Spring diving came with chilling upwelled waters that drained our bodies of the heat we had so lovingly added through Phil’s terrible coffee. More than once, Matt and I needed to push each other into the water to complete that last chilling dive of the day when involuntary self-preservation made it difficult otherwise. The George Leonard 24hr bat star roundups and Lawrence Honma midnight to 6 am limpet movement observations gave us daytime researchers a rare glimpse into Stillwater Cove after dark.

Other times, the Cove was a magical place where we found ourselves with extra tanks of air and the time to explore undersea caves, gaze up at schools of anchovies circling within our kelp clearings or be surprised by gray whales popping up through the kelp beside our Zodiac. With site names ranging from Neptune’s Doorstep to Satan’s Hallow, the Cove offered us a variety of habitats in which to do our work. Our dive days ended with the usual carrying of gear up the stairs from the beach to the dive truck and a quick round of the age-old children’s game “Not-It” to see who had to drive home and who got to nap. No matter who that was, navigating the route was never an issue. The truck - like a rented trail pony – seemed to know the way, which almost always involved a stop at the Marina Taco Bell where burritos were purchased as payment for dive assistance or for those who found the lost quadrat or dive knife. As the teacher assistant for the subtidal ecology class, I hosted an underwater midterm lab exam where divers searched in-situ for the species listed on their clipboards; the length of the exam determined by the air in their tank. While we may have left a bit more than bubbles in Stillwater Cove, the researchers that finished their Stillwater research have drafted numerous publications that have contributed greatly to the advancement of kelp forest ecology and made Stillwater one of the most studied kelp forests.

Diving off the RHIB in Stillwater Cove (Scott Hamilton, Arley Muth, and Jasmine Ruvalcaba).

Research diving continues into the 2000s

Jasmine Ruvalcaba: My first experience with Stillwater Cove started with interning for Selena McMillan, a graduate student in the Phycology lab at MLML in 2006. I had recently completed the summer research diving course through MLML. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed about research diving. Selena’s project was working with giant kelp and snail grazers. Goals were to build copper frames and create an inclusion setting with different amounts of snails per plant. Little did I know this would be the start of years of research diving at Stillwater Cove for me while it’s been home to research for decades.

Paul Thompkins and Jasmine Ruvalcaba sampling kelp in Stillwater Cove. The harbor seal in the upper right checks out the sampling technique.

From hauling a zodiac, motor, and gear with the dive truck in the winter to suiting up in our wetsuits and swimming to the whaler that would be moored in Stillwater Cove during the summer months, we would regularly go out until the job was done. From 2009-2012 I teamed up with Mike Fox and Arley Muth to carry out a National Science Foundation grant for Dr. Michael Graham.  I fondly remember the days where Stillwater Cove lived up to its name, arriving in the morning to glassy waters. Other times we had to call the dive due to bad conditions and go to the Moss Landing Café for the best breakfast sandwich in town.

Anthopleura and kelp. Photo by Scott Gabara.

Every month for 3 years we were diving at Stillwater Cove and it became our second home. From the stands of stalked kelp plants that we would regularly monitor to the rocky outcrops and sand channels that were ingrained in our minds to use as navigational aids, we picked up a sixth sense for finding our study areas in the worst of visibility. A permanent mooring would serve as our home base during dives with the boat tied. Other sites we would visit were Foster’s site where previous research had been conducted years before. In addition to grant work, we would all have ongoing theses projects here. This gave us an incredible amount of time underwater with over 200 dives. Work with each other became so second nature that each of us would know the next step before being gestured by a buddy. There is an incredible relationship between dive buddies, essentially you trust each other with each other lives.

The post dive eatery has changed over the years where Marina’s Papa Chevo’s was the place to have a burrito after we dove. Then we would struggle to not fall into a burrito coma while rinsing gear back at small boats. The post dive appetite is quite impressive. Stillwater Cove’s legacy will continue to be a source of knowledge for research to come in future generations. MLML diving and small boats program is an incredible resource at the lab and provides invaluable experience in the field.

James Nybakken: The first faculty member of MLML

By Gary McDonald, Mark Silberstein, and Jim Harvey (16 June 2016)

Dr. James Nybakken was born in Minnesota, received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and was hired by California State College at Hayward (now California State University East Bay) in 1965. In 1966, with the formation of the MLML consortium, Jim Nybakken became the first faculty member at MLML. Jim taught at MLML for 32 years, and was Interim Director twice before retiring in 1998.

Gary McDonald: I was (and still am) fascinated by nudibranchs and wanted to do some kind of research on nudibranchs, and Dr. Nybakken was one of the few professors on the west coast who was interested in nudibranchs. In 1970, at the urging of my undergraduate invert zoology instructor (Dave Montgomery) at Cal Poly, I drove up to MLML to meet Dr. Nybakken to discuss the possibility of him being my major professor if I came to MLML as a grad student. I was delighted when he agreed, he even offered me financial support in the form of a position with the first Sea Grant which MLML had just received. One of Dr. Nybakken's projects was studying the nudibranch population in the intertidal at Asilomar State Beach, and once a month, rain or shine, during a minus tide he and a few of his students would go out to count the number of nudibranchs within a prescribed area. At the beginning of the study Rich Ajeska, Genny Anderson, Shane Anderson, & I each had a specific area to survey; after Rich, Shane & Genny graduated, Dave Shonman joined the nudibranch counters. During the early 1970s Dr. Nybakken supervised a number of students interested in nudibranchs and who completed masters theses:

Rich Ajeska, 1971, "Contributions to the biology of Melibe leonina (Gould)"

Genny Anderson, 1971, "A contribution to the biology of Doridella steinbergae and Corambe pacifica"

Jim Eastman, 1975, "Food preferences of Triopha maculata and Triopha carpenteri on the Monterey Peninsula, California"

Gary McDonald, 1977, "A review of the nudibranchs of the California"

Teresa Turner, 1978, "Adaptive significance of foot forms and types of locomotion in opisthobranchs"

John Cooper, 1979, "Ecological aspects of Tubularia crocea (Agassiz, 1862) and its nudibranch predators in Elkhorn Slough, California"

On stern of R/V Cayuse, December, 1980, with beam trawl which Gary McDonald built, L. to R.: Gary McDonald, Dr. Nybakken, Mike Kellogg, & John Cooper. At this point Gary had graduated from MLML a few years previously & was working at Long Marine Lab as a marine technician, but was invited back for the trawling trip.

Part of the Sea Grant which MLML obtained in 1970 involved surveying the benthic inverts in northern Monterey Bay. We made sampling cruises on the R/V Amigo & R/V Falcon, both vessels owned by Frank Monich. At this time MLML did not have its own large research vessel, only the "barely seaworthy" R/V Orca, which was far too small for the benthic sampling required for the Sea Grant project. We used a Smith-McIntyre bottom grab to collect the benthic samples.

Among the species found were several specimens of a small aeolid nudibranch which had not been described, so Dr. Nybakken & I named it in honor of MLML (Cerberilla mosslandica).

One of the courses Dr. Nybakken taught was Marine Invertebrates. I was fortunate to be the teaching assistant for 2 or 3 of his invert classes. At least one class field trip each year was a dredging/trawling trip in Monterey Bay to find deeper water inverts. Dr. Nybakken also made many other dredging trips in Monterey Bay to collect benthic inverts.

Each year, at the end of the class, Dr. Nybakken invited the students from the invert class to an invert dinner at his home in Carmel Valley, where students celebrated finishing the class by eating clam chowder, mussels, crabs and other kinds of inverts they had studied during the semester.

In June 1975, Dave Lewis was living at La Selva State Beach. One morning he saw several people down on the beach below his house. They were collecting Pismo Clams, lots of Pismo Clams of all sizes. Dave called California Fish & Game. When DF&G arrived the people were cited and the clams were brought to MLML where Dr. Nybakken organized several students so that all of the clams could be measured, all 2,856 of them.

Cerberilla mosslandica McDonald & Nybakken, 1975. Photo by Gary McDonald

In January, 1975, Jim Lance of Scripps Institution of Oceanography invited Dr. Nybakken & me to accompany him on his annual trip to Nayarit, Mexico, to look for nudibranchs. We stayed in a small private home in Rincón de Guayabitos, and collected in a number of areas between Matanchén & La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Not only did we find many species of nudibranchs we had not seen before, but many other inverts as well. This trip also allowed Dr. Nybakken, an active orchid grower, to collect a few orchids to add to his orchid collection.

In 2007, John Pearse (UCSC), Jeff Goddard (UCSB), & Terry Gosliner (Cal. Acad. Science) received a Sea Grant to replicate the nudibranch counts which Dr. Nybakken had done at Asilomar in the 1970s, as well as surveys done previously by others at Scott Creek & at Pillar Point. We met with Dr. Nybakken at Asilomar so that he could show us exactly where his counts had been done.

Mark Silberstein: Dr. Jim Nybakken was a fairly new professor when I met him at MLML in the late 1960s, but he had the presence of an old style academic. All of the professors were referred to as ‘Doctor’ then. (Not until the arrival of Greg Cailliet and Mike Foster, the Santa Barbarans, were students and professors on a first name basis). As an enthusiastic student of invertebrate zoology, Nybakken was the fellow I wanted to learn from. He tended to be a bit formal, and a little intimidating to me, but when a student brought in an unusual specimen from the field, his enthusiasm would bubble out. His deep interest in molluscs was infectious, and Gary McDonald’s account of their joint studies on opisthobranchs captures a great era in ML history. Nybakken organized deep dredging cruises in the bay and on one of the trips, on the Navy research ship DeSteiger, we dredged up some aplacophorans – an odd class of molluscs that are rarely found in shallow water. I remember his excitement, marveling at these strange worm-like creatures and puzzling over their morphology and habits and we shared a laugh at their strangeness.

When I spoke to students from other institutions and schools, Nybakken was well known, because the textbooks he wrote were widely used in introductory marine science classes.

Jim Nybakken on one of the Te Vega cruises

Jim pioneered the quantitative study of the invertebrates of Elkhorn Slough in the early 1970s and along with Greg Cailliet and Bill Broenkow and their students, published the benchmark work on slough biota and hydrology. Nybakken was involved with The Nature Conservancy in their early work in the slough that led to the first conservation transactions and land protection there.

One of the enduring images is a photo of Jim, as a student, on the legendary ship Te Vega – Hopkins Marine Station’s research vessel in the 1960’s. He is on deck in the tropical sun, beaming up at the camera. The Te Vega made 19 cruises to tropical seas from 1963 – 1968 and many of our venerated elder statesmen, and legends of Marine Biology, participated: Jim Nybakken, John Pearse, Vicki Pearse, Michael Ghieslen, Richard Mariscal, Margaret Bradbury, Richard Barber, Don Abbot, Rolf Bolin, Mary Silver, Vida Kenk, Gene Haderlie, Bob Lea, Richard Parrish, Jim Childress, Bruce Robison, Alan Baldridge, Joel Hedgpeth and a host of other luminaries. Nybakken returned as the Chief Scientist on Te Vega’s cruise to the Sea of Cortez and the mainland of Mexico in 1967.

Reading through his notes give a sense of his enthusiasm and excitement and his bent toward natural history as he explored what must surely have been a tremendously exotic environment for a farm boy from Minnesota. He made many scientific collections during these cruises and brought back valuable specimens.

The MLML museum collection was a deep interest and a tribute to the breadth of his zoological interests. This remains an extraordinary and valuable research asset. Jim’s legacy lives on in the students he mentored at Moss Landing and in the uncountable numbers of students inspired by his books. His is an indelible part of MLML history.

Jim Harvey: In 2009, Dr. James Nybakken died from leukemia and is survived by his wife Bette and sons Kent and Scott. Jim published 16 papers, mostly on molluscs, and particularly the genus Conus. He also produced a popular marine biology text: Nybakken, J.W. and M.D. Bertness. 2004.  Marine Biology: an Ecological Perspective, 6th Edition. Pearson, Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.

Jim's ashes were scattered at sea from the research vessel John Martin over Jim's favorite sampling site:  "the 60 meter station".  A bottle of Chardonnay was opened and poured over the side to christen the spot, and a Norwegian flag flew from the ship's mast.

Dr. Nybakken served as the thesis advisor for 61 MLML students, his first student to graduate was Marilyn Vassallo in 1968 (CSUH) and his last student graduated in 2000, Kristen Kaplan (CSUMB).

Bette Nybakken has set up a Nybakken student scholarship, so we encourage you to help support future students by contributing to this scholarship fund.

R/V Point Sur goes to Antartica

By Tara Pastuszek (9 June 2016)

R/V Point Sur in Antarctica. Photo by Reny Tyson

During the Austral Summer of 2013, the R/V Point Sur sailed to Antarctica and spent two months supporting operations while based at Palmer Research Station. Participating in this historic voyage was a privilege and I feel I can speak for the entire crew in expressing the pride of getting to see her, the Sur, in one of the most majestic places on earth.

R/V Point Sur was built in 1980, is 135 feet in length, beam of 32 feet, has a draft of 9 feet, displacement tonnage of 539 tons, was owned by the NSF and operated by MLML as part of the UNOLS academic fleet until 2015.

R/V Point Sur tied up next to the Laurence M. Gould. Photo by Scott Hansen.

To make the trip a large amount of equipment was added (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, Marine Sanitation Device, Oily Water Separator, Thermal Imaging Camera, water purification system, ice gear), then much planning (risk management plan, surveys of the vessel, insurance, weather/ice forecasting, and foreign port and Palmer provisioning).

The transit from Moss Landing, California to Punta Arenas, Chile.

The transit south to Punta Arenas, Chile:

  • Depart MLML on 28 November 2012
  • 8,600 nautical miles
  • 38 days
  • 31,000 gallons of fuel used
  • Two refueling stops
  • 1 Christmas tree

Now you have to cross the infamous Drake Passage, considered one of the most dangerous patches of water in the world to get to Palmer Station, Antarctica.

Drakes Passage


Typical Drake Passage crossing:

Typical Drakes Passage crossing


The R/V Point Sur crossing (4 days):

Point Sur corssing Drakes Passage


The R/V Point Sur supported NSF-sponsored research regarding:

  • Geology
  • Marine mammals
  • Krill and zooplankton
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Penguins
  • Sub-tidal mooring recovery (Chile)
  • Water sampling (Mexico)


Here are some Antarctica flashbacks from a cook’s perspective:

Antarctic krill. Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Though I cannot explain much about the krill density study that was conducted on the vessel, I can say that the soon-to-be-famous Creole krill cake was mighty tasty!

Creole krill cake. Photo by Tara Pastuszek (notice the small black dots that are krill eyes)

We throw the term ice water around so easily on land. When you spend day after day looking at ice and water combined with ever-changing light, the sheer beauty of it all eludes the camera.

Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Penguins are adorable.

Gentoo Penguin feeding chick. Photo by Scott Hansen

Penguins really stink.

Chinstrap Penguin colony. Photo by Tara Pastuszek

Taking a break in the middle of your work day to hang out near a penguin colony is so much fun it makes it easy to tolerate the smell.

Penguins on beach with R/V Point Sur in background. Photo by Tara Pastuszek
Point Sur crew at a penguin colony.

I will probably always say that a minke whale is the most gorgeous and graceful creature I have ever witnessed in motion.

Minke whale. Photo by Scott Hansen
Minke whale. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

I will never forget what a whale’s breathe smells like. Thank you to Ari Friedlaender and the whole team for my boat ride and a whale-watching trip like no other! It was my first, and hopefully not my last, Cetacean Vacation!

Breaching humpback whale. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

The crew of the Point Sur made sure to leave a mark and a bit of Moss Landing at Palmer Station.

R/V Point Sur arrow with names of crew.
Moss Landing arrow sign at Palmer Station.

There are so many people who were involved with the planning, preparation and execution of this journey. The support of the MLML community was felt and appreciated by the whole crew and never let it be said that MLML does not throw a great welcome home party!

MLML celebrates the return of the R/V Point Sur from Antarctica.

The logistics were daunting at times. Those of you who know Stewart Lamerdin know that he really needed this Chilean beer as he prepared to send the Sur to cross the Drake. Thank you, Stewart, for your tireless effort which made this whole journey a reality.

Stewart Lamerdin, MLML Marine Superintendent, obtaining Chilean liquid courage before sending the R/V Point Sur across the Drake Passage.

Thank you to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories for giving me the opportunity to play in your world. I was able to pursue my own passion and learn so much from the people around me, each and every day. This made my almost six years with you a truly rewarding and rich experience. Happy Anniversary.

Thank you to the crew (and relief crew!) I was privileged to sail with and for our safe return.

Closing with one more picture and the names that belong to those beaming faces.

Pt Sur crew in front of vessel in Palmer

Crew of the R/V Point Sur at Palmer Station:

Back row:

A/B, Scott Hansen

2nd Mate, Leah Harman

Chief Engineer, Barrett Carpenter

Marine Technician, Stian Alesandrini

A/B, Alex Wick

Assistant Engineer, Jack Lavariega


Lower row:

Chief Mate/Ice Advisor, Capt. Diego Mello

Chief Steward/Chef, Tara Pastuszek

A/B, Amy Biddle

Captain Rick Verlini


Fun Facts:

  • 19,906 total nautical miles sailed
  • 81,212 gallons of diesel consumed
  • 2,274 pounds of meat cooked and eaten
  • 59,346 gallons of freshwater used
  • 6 foreign ports visited
  • 2,120 eggs consumed
  • 11 pilots sailed aboard the R/V Point Sur to assist with navigation
  • 146 pounds of coffee brewed
  • 45 scientists worked aboard the vessel
  • Public outreach: Daisy Ingraham Elementary School (Westbrook CT), Leesburg Elementary School (Leesburg, FL), Toro Park Elementary School (Salinas, CA)
  • 14,000 hits on the Point Sur blog site during the trip














Sea Grant – Sharing a 50th Anniversary with MLML

50 years of the Sea Grant vision: science serving the coast

By Rick Starr (2 June 2016)

What is Sea Grant and what do you do at MLML?  That is the question I am most often asked when I tell people I am with California Sea Grant and MLML. If I am busy I usually utter something cryptic like “Sea Grant helps coastal communities” and then hurry away because it often takes me several rounds of my favorite beverage to fully explain Sea Grant. Looking back in time, I was in the job for a few years before I began to understand the entire scope of California Sea Grant.

Big Sur coastline. Photo by Rick Starr

The long answer “What is Sea Grant?” goes back 50 years to the same year that MLML was born. Our country was in a period of time when there was an emphasis on science and asserting U.S. control over the natural resources of the Exclusive Economic Zone (the coastal ocean out to 200 miles off the coast); Congress wanted to make university research available to help communities utilize our nation’s coastal resources and started sending money to research institutions – see Director Harvey’s last blog: The OTHERS THAT TURNED 50 to learn about other marine labs that started in the 1960s.

In 1966, Congress and President Johnson established the National Sea Grant Program. Conceived as a Federal-State partnership, the National Sea Grant College program now has 33 partnership programs - one in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Each of the 33 Sea Grant programs receives an annual grant from NOAA to fund applied research, extension, and communication programs – the 3 legs of the national plan to “put science to work for America’s coastal communities”. California Sea Grant is headquartered in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

As an aside for all you PIs who’ve had funding from Sea Grant over the years, the original 1966 legislation requires the onerous 50% match for federal dollars!

Purse seiner. Photo by Rick Starr

Sea Grant and MLML have had a close relationship since they were created 50 years ago, primarily because both groups have the goal of conducting high quality applied research to help solve environmental problems. In the early years of Sea Grant, the emphasis was on improving ways to extract, process, and distribute resources (fishes, invertebrates, oil, gas, etc.) from the coastal zone, but by the 1990s it became apparent that people and businesses were really good at extracting resources and that Sea Grant research was needed to help prevent or minimize problems associated with overfishing, water pollution, invasive species, tsunamis, coastal erosion, coastal armoring, and wetland loss, among other things. Sea Grant research changes as societal needs change, so now the national focus is on providing information to maintain healthy coastal ecosystems, resilient communities and economies, ensure sustainable fisheries, increase aquaculture products, help communities adapt to climate change, and help improve environmental literacy and workforce development.

Sea Grant Funds Research and Students

Larval market squid. Photo by Rick Starr

As early as 1973 the collaboration between California Sea Grant and MLML was evident as James Jensen and Sara Tanner wrote a MLML – Sea Grant sponsored technical report that contained an annotated checklist of the marine algae of the Moss Landing Jetty. Soon afterwards, MLML researchers received Sea Grant funds to lead a large multi-disciplinary, multi-year research effort to understand the biology of market squid. MLML Director Jim Harvey (then a shaggy-haired grad student) and Professor Gregor Cailliet (then a hard working volleyball player disguised as a professor) played big roles in that project. In 1978, after three years of research, the group summarized and published the biological, oceanographic and acoustic aspects of the market squid in Cal Fish and Game Fish Bulletin 169. That work was an important contribution to the knowledge of one of the state’s biggest fisheries. Other work conducted in the 1970s by Drs. Cailliet and Nybakken included ecological investigations of the Sablefish trap fishery and studies of Elkhorn Slough ecology to improve wetland management.

For several years in the 1980s Sea Grant provided funds to Mike Foster to help support MLML Open Houses. Sea Grant also provided some support for new equipment when the old lab was remodeled in the 1980s (pre- earthquake).  Examples of a few grants that came to Greg Cailliet and MLML in the 80s include:

  • Application of aging techniques to emerging elasmobranch fisheries: Some of the species the Ichthyology Lab studied back then included: Blue, Thresher, Mako, White, Leopard, and Angel Sharks
  • Tag return analysis of California Sturgeon and Elasmobranchs
  • Age determination of bank rockfish (with Loo Botsford of UC Davis)
  • Description of the larval development of CA rockfish (with Val Loeb)
Greg Cailliet in one of his classic Halloween costumes.


Also, in the mid-80s California Sea Grant published “Blue Water Diving Guidelines", edited by MLML Diving Officer John Heine, a book that set the standard for research diving. Kenneth Coale contributed a chapter to that book.

Schematic of blue water diving operations designed by John Heine to surgically implant sonic transmitters in fishes.

John Heine in the Delta submersible, photo by Rick Starr

The Sea Grant – MLML connection goes beyond funding research. The California Sea Grant Extension Program has been active in the Monterey Bay region since the early 1970s. University academics with Extension positions in California are tasked with “extending” university research by helping coastal communities solve practical problems. The way California Sea Grant Extension does this is by using collaborative research as a tool. Extension people listen to user groups, identify issues that can be better addressed with more information, and engage other academics and communities in research projects.

Tommy Thompson was the original Sea Grant Extension Agent - had an office at the labs in the early 1970s and was the lab’s dive officer. He started the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project, which at the time was focused on rearing salmon smolts in marine waters to enhance the fishery. Later in the 70s Jim Waldvogel continued to help the Salmon and Trout Project before he moved to Crescent City.

In the early-1980s MLML welcomed California Sea Grant Extension Agent Ed Melvin to MLML. Ed worked on a variety of fishery issues, such as on-board handling of salmon and albacore, working with the new Vietnamese immigrant fishermen in the area, and was a mainstay of the Advisory Committee that guided the development of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. As the 1990s arrived, Ed Melvin and Greg Cailliet began to work on everyone’s favorite slime producer – the Pacific Hagfish.   Ed moved to Seattle in 1990 to work for Washington Sea Grant. For years now Ed has been a leader in the development of techniques to prevent seabird mortalities in longline fisheries. Also, MLML graduate Susan McBride (now Susan Schlosser) served as an Extension Specialist in Eureka from 1992 until she retired in 2012.

Fisheries and Conservation Lab


After a 2-year gap, I arrived in 1992 to continue the California Sea Grant – MLML connection. That was quite a transition for me. I came from a beautiful research facility in Oregon to a leaky shack (i.e. trailer) in the parking lot of the shore lab. When the wind blew hard in the summer time I had to cover my computer and leave the trailer because wind blew sand sideways across the “office”. That was better than the winter, however, because when it rained I had to cover my desk with a tarp and put buckets out to collect water as it gushed through the leaky roof. Ahh, but those were the Good Old Days, I was just a few steps away from the beach and the volleyball court.

The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program here at MLML is an example of an Extension project. In the last 10 years, more than 30 MLML grad students have worked at sea with >800 volunteer anglers to catch, tag, and release fish inside and outside marine reserves. While we have been tagging fish, we’ve talked with fishermen and educated people about the life history and management of fishes, conservation needs and resource policy approaches (e.g., the values of reserves). Dean Wendt of Cal Poly SLO and I created CCFRP because we believe that management of resources is best accomplished if user groups are involved in data collection. This project typifies the premise of Sea Grant Extension work – that resource management solutions are more lasting if interested public parties are involved.

Tagging fish, photo by Rick Starr

At that time I started in my leaky shack Gregor, Val Loeb, and Mary Yoklavich received Sea Grant funds to investigate the distribution, abundance, and recruitment of larval rockfish while in the trailers in Salinas. Also Kenneth Coale and Greg Cailliet, Allen Andrews, and Erica Burton worked with Sea Grant funding to develop techniques for using radioactive isotopes to validate ages of long-lived rockfishes. That work continued with Allen Andrews, who used bomb carbon signatures to age fishes. Next came Sea Grant funds to help survey shark and ray fisheries in the Gulf of California. In addition to providing excellent information about elasmobranchs in Baja, that project provided bundles of fun. Read Joe Bizzarro’s blog (Baja Adventures) for a sample of their (mis)adventures.

Sea Grant Funds Students

One of the best areas of intersection between MLML and Sea Grant is each institution’s commitment to training new scientists. MLML’s philosophy of having grad students play major roles in field research projects not only results in lost or ruined equipment (call that gaining experience!), but also provides amazing training. Sea Grant has been glad to help support this philosophy by providing funding for “Traineeships” on research grants. Approximately two MLML students receive education and full research funding from California Sea Grant each year, and many others have received partial funding and work opportunities. As an example, Dave Ebert recounts that one Sea Grant project he had (studies of demersal Chondrichthyans) supported Lewis Barnett and Chris Rinewalt as Trainees, and another 8 students for a total of 10 students! By the way, that one project resulted in ~20 peer-reviewed publications so far, with a few more still to come.  Similarly, funding I’ve received has partially or fully supported about 3-5 students per year in the last 20 years.

In addition to funding grad students, California Sea Grant offers post-graduate fellowships for students to get on-the-job training with State and Federal agencies.  Each year, California Sea Grant places 15-20 recent graduates in a year-long policy fellowship, so good students can get an inside look at how agencies develop resource policies. MLML recent graduate Sara Worden currently has a Sea Grant Fellowship with the California Ocean Protection Council.

As you can tell from the last few paragraphs, funding in the first 30 years of MLML and Sea Grant was directed towards basic information about the biology of fishes. Sea Grant funding to MLML has diversified in the last 15 years. In the early 2000s Gary Greene and Rikk Kvitek received Sea Grant funds to develop and publish a habitat characterization of the California Continental Margin. Similarly, Lisa Kerr, Jason Cope and I received Sea Grant funds to publish a book on the Trends in Fisheries and Fishery Resources of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Just after that time, Mike Graham successfully competed for Sea Grant funds to study the population dynamics of the invasive kelp Undaria in Santa Barbara harbor. Mike followed that work up with a Sea Grant to culture red seaweeds to add to red abalone diets. Mike also was successful in getting a grant to develop methods for kelp preservation for feeding abalone.

Venturing further from studies of species of commercial use, from 2008–2011 Sea Grant funded Jim Harvey, Josh Adams, and Erika McPhee-Shaw to track Sooty Shearwaters to identify pathways of connectivity of Shearwaters in the California Current Upwelling System. Also, Larry Breaker was funded about that time to investigate why water temperatures in central California were decreasing as global atmospheric temperatures were increasing. Diana Stellar was awarded a grant in 2010 to study Rhodoliths with students Paul Tompkins, Scott Gabara, and Kristin Meagher.  Diana reminds us that Rhodolith means ‘red stone’ and they are unattached coralline algal nodules that roll around on the seafloor with the help of waves and currents.  Collectively they form a unique habitat over soft sedimentary bottoms and occur worldwide from the poles to the tropics!

Sea Grant Funding for Future Ocean Changes

Sea Grant funding to MLML in recent years has been focused on future ocean changes. A sample of projects MLML PIs have received recently includes:

  • Response of Calcified and Fleshy Macroalgae to Warming and Ocean Acidification: from Single Species to Community Interactions (Scott Hamilton, Michael Graham)
  • Effects of Ocean Acidification on Olfactory Senses, Swimming Physiology, and Gene Expression in Juvenile Rockfish (Scott Hamilton)
  • Baseline Characterization of Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems (Ivano Aiello)
  • CSU Center for Aquaculture workshop (Graham, Hamilton)
  • Ocean acidification and hypoxia effects on reproduction in rockfish (Scott Hamilton)

Crashing wave, photo by Rick Starr

California sea lions aboard the stern of a seiner. Photo by Rick Starr

California coastline rocks, photo by Rick Starr.

The next 50 years

Sea Grant and MLML have enjoyed a great partnership for many years. Sea Grant has provided funding for research, graduate traineeships, and helped publish and distribute information generated from the research. MLML has helped Sea Grant by conducting great research, training grad students to be interested in solving societal issues, and housing Sea Grant Extension Specialists. We expect the partnership will continue to grow and thrive. Next fall we plan to advertise for a joint Sea Grant/MLML position in aquaculture. Both Sea Grant and MLML believe that an aquaculture program here at MLML has tremendous potential to help serve Californians. We look forward to another 50 years of collaboration.

The new aquaculture building.


The Museum

by Greg Cailliet with help from others (26 May 2016)

Greg Cailliet behind specimens in MLML museum. Photo by Jason Bradley

This is a compilation of input from many MLML faculty, staff and graduate students, all of whom were involved in one way or the other with the operation of the museum at MLML. This is organized in chronological order. Much of the information was taken from some NSF proposals in past years to fund expansion and improvement of the MLML Museum (now called the Marine Biology Collection or MBC). Unfortunately, none of these proposals were funded and the MLML Museum is as successful as it is, mainly due to the hard work and dedication of past and present faculty and graduate students.

Milos and others in old museum.

The MLML Museum is home to a herbarium collection of marine macrophyte (algae and plant) pressings, and many specimens of invertebrates, fishes, turtles, birds, and mammals. Much of this is in preservatives in jars, but there is also a fairly vast collection of dried specimens, bones, skins, and stuffed organism. This is a unique collection focusing on the biota of the Monterey Bay, collected during the last 50 years. It represents a thorough sampling of the flora and fauna of Monterey Bay and the larger sub-tropical and temperate Northeast Pacific region (Baja California, California, Oregon and Washington). It has proven to be a valuable research and teaching tool. Given the almost haphazard way in which the MBC was assembled, the procedures for accessioning, storage, care, observation, analysis, and loaning of MBC specimens have also been developed in an opportunistic fashion, and this will be part of the focus of this blog.

In 2009, many of the museum specimens in jars were used by local marine photographer, Jason Bradley, to produce some incredible images of deep-sea fishes and invertebrates (some images are interspersed in this blog). Jason has loaned MLML several large prints of these photographs and they hang in the hall near the Friends of MLML office (the Fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta), in the library (Krill, Euphausia pacifica, and the Longfin Dragonfish Tactostoma macropus), and one – a photograph of yours truly behind some jars of fishes in the museum – hangs above my desk in my home office. Jason Bradley Photographic is at P.O. Box 51621, Pacific Grove, CA 93950; phone: 818.415.2767.

The MLML museum collection has a long history, going back to the first days in 1965 when MLML evolved as a California State College (now University) marine station in the Beaudette Foundation building. The idea of keeping representative specimens of local and west coast organisms for use in teaching and research was initiated by early MLML instructors, including James W. Nybakken and G. Victor Morejohn. Both of these instructors had considerable experience with museum specimens for their research and teaching. Indeed, the organization of the early card catalogue system was initiated by these two faculty members, along with others who were guest instructors (e.g. Jim Jensen - U.C. Berkeley, Peter Moyle -U.C. Davis, and Edgar Yarberry - Hartnell College).

Galaraura rugosa collected in Hawaii. Collected by Judy Hansen.

Early Years

Phycology was first taught by Charles W. Bell (S.J.S.U.) in 1966 and later by Jim Jensen (U.C. Berkeley; Deceased), who is believed to have started the herbarium of pressed algae and some marine plants. Judy (Hansen) Johnson had a major role in the early herbarium collection at MLML. Judy was Jim Jensen’s TA. Jim was a traditional phycologist trained by J.F. Papenfuss from UCB, therefore, herbarium collections were of paramount importance in his classes. All students made class collections of 50 or more pressed/mounted local species from Monterey Bay. John Bell built a plant press dryer (the shape/size of a coffin) to continually dry the presses in the back of the classroom. The room smelled chronically like seaweed drying on the beach.

Judy curated the early herbarium collections. She used the labeling technique of the UCB herbarium and later that of Isabella A. Abbott (Hopkins Marine Station). Permanent herbarium specimens were mounted on 100% rag paper, therefore, should last for a 100 years. When Judy graduated in 1972, Sara Tanner and Lynn McMasters continued on with curating the herbarium.

John Hansen (FSU), Barry Turner, and Gary Davidson were the first graduate students of MLML in 1966 – working with John Harville. John worked on the boring shell symbionts/parasites of abalone with Jim Nybakken, and Judy believes that the large collection of abalone shells went into the invert collection. John and Barry worked closely with Vic Morejohn and Jim Nybakken in the early collection and accessioning of specimens of invertebrates, fishes, birds, and mammals.

Gary McDonald, who was a graduate student at MLML from 1970 to 1976 was put him in charge of the invertebrate collection by Nybakken after his first year, and he believes he was the first “official” curator of that collection. Shane Anderson collected a number of invertebrates for the museum during this time, including some during the R. V. Makrele cruise.

Deep-Sea skate. Photo by Jason Bradley

Octopus rufescens. Photo by Jason Bradley

Fishes and Vertebrates:

Victor Morejohn apparently started the MLML museum, mainly for vertebrate specimens to be used for teaching. Gary Kukowski contributed some of the fish specimens to the collection during this time, while both Dan Varoujean and Larry Talent also contributed specimens from their field sampling.

Birds skins (Anatidae) in a museum drawer. MLML has a fairly good collection of bird skins from collections throughout the years.

Dan Varoujean, having collected birds for the Biology Department museum at California State University at Fresno prior to coming to MLML, applied his experience under the tutelage of Victor Morejohn and collected seabirds from 1969 to 1972, with many of these specimens being put-up as study skins for the museum by students under the supervision of Dan and Victor.  Dan also collected Dall’s porpoise and retrieved marine mammal specimens that were cetaceans and pinnipeds found dead on the beaches of Monterey Bay. In 1971 Dan was awarded the salaried position of boat captain of the R.V. Orca and curator of the vertebrate museum. As curator, he continued to collect and prepare seabird and marine mammal specimens and prepared fish brought in by others for inclusion into the museum reference collection.

Dave Lewis said that his “recollections of his time as curator of the vertebrate museum at MLML are quite similar to Dan’s. He collected mostly seabirds and beach-cast marine mammals to add to the collection, maintained “The Boneyard” and provided skins and bones for Vic Morejohn’s marine mammals course. Dave said his “most difficult single assignment was to attempt to retrieve a rotting leatherback turtle carcass from the kelp bed off the DFG Granite Canyon lab (“I figured I could simply swim out, strap it to a dive mat and haul it in - I was lucky to just get the head!- Presumably it’s still in the collection.).”

In addition to the mostly humdrum duties at the museum, Dave performed necropsies for the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) on sea otter carcasses they provided, working with Morejohn and Jack Ames.  They quickly established that several of the otters had apparently been hit by boats, based on the obvious blunt trauma and consecutive propeller slash marks.  Their CDFG technical report was already in press when Jack, performing one last necropsy of a boat-battered otter, noticed a tiny serrated tooth fragment deep in one of the “propeller” slashes.  The fragment proved to be from a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), and they had to scramble to amend their report accordingly.



This was the decade during which new faculty were added at MLML and they had an influence on the MLML museum.

Photo by Jason Bradley

Tommy W. Thompson, from the University of Wisconsin, was added to the MLML to serve as the diving safety officer, the marine botany faculty member, and the MLML Sea Grant coordinator. Bette Nybakken recalls that he went on sick leave for the 1974 academic year she was hired to teach phycology for the spring and fall semesters. Bette had students make collections both semesters and accessioned some of those specimens for the Herbarium. And, she says “the herbarium was just one large cabinet in the classroom that year.” Sara Tanner was her TA both semesters, and, Jim Harvey was one of her students.

When Mike Foster came to MLML from CSU Hayward in 1976, Lynn McMasters was his T.A. for 2-3 years and added to the herbarium. Mike notes that Jim Norris added Gulf of California specimens, and Mike added pressed specimens of species from southern California and Puget Sound.

Gary McDonald continued to curate the museum until he left to work at U.C. Santa Cruz in 1976. Curation of the invertebrate collection was passed on briefly to Kathy Mawn, and then John Cooper (unfortunately now deceased) took over and had that job for some time.

Gary provided a photo he took of the museum in April 1973, with a hand-held camera without a flash. So, it is not very sharp, but it is all we can find. In it, the formalin room is at the left rear, the fish collection in cabinets is in the aisle at right rear, the invertebrate collection in cabinets is at right & out of frame. The gray/brown cabinet at center rear might be the algae collection, but he was not sure.

The old museum. Photo by Gary McDonald.

James W. Nybakken always had an active interest in this collection. Between Jim’s and Greg Cailliet’s interests, there were many contributions, especially deep-sea midwater and benthic organisms, mainly from class cruises aboard the various research vessels available at MLML. The museum has a fabulous collection of deep-sea invertebrates and fishes (see also M. Eric Anderson’s comments later), some of which are fairly rare, and these have been used often by both MLML and outside researchers.

Gregor M. Cailliet started at MLML in the fall of 1972, and had experience with teaching and research collections of invertebrates and fishes at UCSB during graduate school. So, it was easy and interesting for him to take on the MLML museum fish collection. One of his first graduate students, M. Eric Anderson, took over as curator of the fish collection in 1973 and continued in that role until he graduated in 1977. Eric recounts that “At the start, the research collection consisted of less than 200 lots, the teaching collection was about 40 lots, and we had no dry skeletal, otolith, or larval material. The research catalogue was a card file started by Victor Morejohn and was a unique ecological system in which a specimen’s habitat or community was identified followed by a numerical indication.”

Eric’s research centered on midwater trawling in Monterey Submarine Canyon to attempt to keep mesopelagic critters alive in aquaria for study. He built a small midwater trawl with a special cod end to buffer the effects of hauling and was rather successful with some animals (midwater eelpouts, snailfish, one octopod, and shrimp). In addition, a lot of fish and invertebrate species from the Canyon were added to the museum from this effort, all trawled from MLML’s little tugboat, the R. V. Artemia (sometimes also known as the ST-908, its original name at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), and the Good Ship Lolipop, for its multiple colors).

Codium fragile collected at Catalina Island by Kathy Casson, determined by Sara Tanner

Botryoglossum ruprechtiana collected by Mike Foster.

With Greg Cailliet and John McCosker’s support and enthusiasm, Eric was mentored also by the curators at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS), Bill Eschmeyer and Tomio Iwamoto. Because of this, his objective as student curator was to build the research collection in terms of species and localities. This was possible through our own collecting and engaging in specimen exchanges with other museums, notably the British Columbia Provincial Museum. Specimens also were donated by collaborative scientists like Edgar Yarberry, John McCosker, and Bob Lea.

Eric also added that “A huge amount of enthusiasm and help in supporting my desire to build the fish collection goes to fellow students Brooke Antrim, Dave Ambrose, Rich Kliever, Gary McDonald, Ed Osada, my late wife Karen Anderson, and needless to say Greg Cailliet for his vision and financial support from some of his grants to expand the museum holdings. Thanks everyone, some great memories!”

Jaeger prepared by Lynn McMaster

Brooke Antrim remembrances: From the moment I arrived at ML in the fall of ’73, I knew I wanted to be involved with the Museum in whatever capacity I possibly could. At that time Gary McDonald was the Invertebrate Curator and M. Eric Anderson was the Fish Curator. The Museum was truly a cramped room of probably less than 400 sq. ft. housing 2 working desks, 2 prep sinks, 1 exhaust hood (story to follow), probably 2 cabinets of accessioning supplies and the rest of the space held all of the liquid preserved invertebrate and fish specimens. After three years of helping Eric with his duties when I could, in ’77 I became the Fish Curator when Eric left to pursue his doctorate.

Brooke continues: These were truly thrilling, exciting and vibrant years. The Collection was in its infancy, we were establishing protocols for preservation and accessioning, specimens were being donated by professional colleagues and other research institutions and almost every research cruise that put to sea provided some specimen that would end up being a new addition to the Collection.   There was a sense of exploration that I can only imagine 19th century explorers must have held as they sought to sample ecosystems never touched by man. In fact during these years, the mid-water and deep-sea collection cruises were so diverse that several invertebrate and fish specimens resulted in new species descriptions. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that there was an adrenaline rush every time the net broke the surface of the water as to what secrets it would reveal.

Victor Morejohn continued to have a role in adding specimens of marine reptiles, birds and mammals to the museum. Lynn McMasters recalls taking Ichthyology and Birds and Mammals from Morejohn during one of the summer semesters in the early 1970s. She recalls preparing a bird study skin (probably still in the teaching collection) and a fish skeleton prep. The students got to take the skeleton preps home, but Lynn’s was eaten by her cat. Some students over the years used the “cat-ate-my-bone-prep” excuse for not turning theirs in for credit. Lynn was lucky that she got credit before her cat destroyed hers.


Roger Helm reports: “I was the Marine Bird and Mammal Curator/Lab Tech from 1977-78.  I shared space in that dark, dank, and stinky museum in the original building with John Cooper (a really nice human being, may he rest in peace) who was the Invert Curator.  The job was 1/4 time with the other 1/4 serving as the TA for Vic Morejohn's Marine Vertebrate and Marine Birds and Mammals classes.  The essence of the vertebrate museum tech job was to head out at all hours of the day and night to retrieve dead birds and mammals, or parts thereof. When I arrived at the lab, my mentor for this job was a big-hearted gal who was so focused on delighting Morejohn with carcasses and specimens that she didn't have time for much else.  I rapidly decided that if I was going to do this work I was going to stay upwind, dedicate a set of clothes and rain gear to the effort, and not miss a shower.”

Roger continues to say “It’s fair to say that Mike Rowe, star of the TV show Dirty Jobs, had nothing on MLML’s vertebrate museum techs.  I wonder what he would have made of the opportunity to dissect a dolphin whose innards had been baking inside their thick blubber layer for days. While those dissections were not so sweet, they were a fresh ocean breeze compared to acquiring samples from a disintegrating 30-ton gray whale rolling around in the surf. Fooling with formaldehyde, mucking around in the bone yard, and attending to less than fresh flesh and oozing body fluids was not for the squeamish. For me it was great fun running around the bay and addressing fresh carcasses and when they weren’t fresh I attacked them with the battle cry Remain Upwind!”


Chauliodus macouni. Photo by Jason Bradley

Anoplogaster cornuta. Photo by Jason Bradley.

Post-Earthquake Trailers and Warehouse in Salinas (1989-2000)

In 1989, MLML and the space that housed the Museum were destroyed during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Miraculously, almost the entire MBC and associated card catalog databases were salvaged. The specimens that survived the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake were removed by a group of students lead by Aaron King, who used a tractor to move boxes of specimens from the museum site on pallets. These were moved first to a building at the former Spreckles (Sugar) Plant, and then to a site in a warehouse leased by MLML and SJSU on Vertin Avenue, in Salinas, that was near the SJSU satellite campus that became the temporary home of MLML.

Squid, photo by Jason Bradley.

Erik Cordes recalls: “My first job at Moss Landing was during an undergraduate internship in 1993. I spent many an hour hidden away in Vertin organizing the collection from the U. S. Navy-funded dredge waste disposal study. It was where I first discovered the vast array of undescribed invertebrate species in the deep sea, a finding that changed my path and sent me into the deep sea (sometimes literally) for the rest of my career.”

In the mid-1990s, the collection was moved from Salinas to MLML’s Norte site and in some temporary buildings near a surf shop. Several former MLML graduate students had recollections. Ned Laman adds that the move to Norte was a big group effort, with many days of driving back and forth through the lettuce fields of Salinas with lumber, cutting up plywood, then anchoring the shelving system. Both Ned and Erik recall some good lunches at the Central Texan in Castroville on the way between Salinas and Moss Landing. Then the specimen jars had to be prepared for transport to the shore. Ned recalls that “moving day from Vertin Avenue was one where we called on “all hands” of the core grad student body at that time and had a dozen or more people over there putting jars in 55 gallon barrels with vermiculite.” Bill Leopold and Julie Neer also remember helping them, and others, pack the jars in 55-gallon drums with vermiculite, and then move the museum collection from the Vertin Avenue warehouse to the trailer at MLML Norte.

Wade Smith reports that he was also one of the students who helped with the next transition, moving samples from the trailer down at Norte to the new lab, and topping off fluids regularly before and after the move. He said “I recall doing quite a bit of packing and organizing in the trailer there on the beach with Jeff Field, perhaps with Joe Bizzarro, and they were involved also packing up inverts as well as fishes.

Before the move to the hill, Wade recalls that some of the Ichthyology Lab members spent a lot of time working in the little bit of space that was available in the museum trailer at Norte. He reports that “the fumes were horrible in that room. Jeff, Joe, and I had a class project on shiner perch and pipefish diet and we did all of our dissections and work up in that room.” He thinks that was part of their project in Steven Morgan's Larval Ecology class. So, even that full, stinky (mammal, formalin, alcohol odor) room saw a fair bit of use. Wade transitioned to working at the present site on the hill during the move in 2000.


New Moss Landing Hill Site Building (2000-present)

Sea otter skeleton prepared by Jim Curland, in the new museum.

When we moved into the new, and present, MLML building up on the hill, the MBC was subsequently transferred to a dedicated 4-room museum on the new MLML campus. The specimens were organized into specific locations, helped a great deal by new compact shelves that had been installed in the southern end of the museum space.

Wade Smith stated: “I always enjoyed the teaching collection. A lot of samples were in poor condition after years in Salinas. It was exciting to see the nice racks go into the museum space (as it was open/empty space for quite awhile after we moved in).”  He, and others, shelved the jars in the new museum on the hill (both invertebrates and fishes). Wade and Joe included some new specimens from Baja California. And, when the Pacific Shark Research Center was established, Dave Ebert's presence ramped up collection efforts and accessioning new specimens.

Since that time, growth of the MBC has accelerated due to use by researchers and students from MLML and beyond. It is used annually in 14 organism-based marine science courses at MLML. Data on fishes and invertebrates from numerous deep-sea and benthic trawling class cruises since the mid-1980s are stored on and available from the SIMoN (Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network, of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) – see here for the Sanctuary SIMoN species database and associated data bases.

 Specific voucher collections are also housed in the MLML museum. The include the following: – ACOE Collection, Cephalopod Beak Collection, ESI Reference Collection, Farallones Collection, Herbarium Collection, Hodgson Collection, Invertebrate Collection, Kaiser Refractories Collection, PG&E Collection, SWOOP Reference Collection, and the Slattery Collection. These can be found at the MLML Digital Commons.

Shark specimens, sea otter pup, and jars of specimens in new museum.

Since our rebuilding, however, MLML researchers have also created four unique MBC research collections of worldwide importance: 1) the Global Kelp Archive; 2) the Pacific Shark Research Center's Chondrichthyan Taxonomy Collection; 3) a larval fish collection stressing local species; and 4) a collection of fish otoliths, cephalopod beaks, and other things useful for identifying prey of predators like larger fishes, birds, and mammals. These collections are the basis for long-term research programs that facilitate the research objectives of MLML faculty and students alike. As such, the MBC currently has two purposes: (1) maintenance and improvement of specialized research collections vital to studies of marine biodiversity, evolution, ecology, and conservation; and (2) maintenance and improvement of broad teaching collections essential to the organismal-training of marine science students.

Chris Rinewalt started putting the collection into a software program (Excel) that made it accessible, as Wade recollected wanting to do earlier. First, he and Aaron Carlisle went through all the class cruise (and other sample) data sheets for the SIMoN project. He said that sorting through the small binders of the old sampling sheets in the museum area was difficult. It involved trying to decipher the handwriting of students from 20+ years previous, along with their vague descriptions of sampling locations (or converting LORAN-C to Lat/Long), and scanning every available document (CTD casts, maps, drawings, etc.) into the database for eternal preservation. Unfortunately, the MBNMS folks at SIMoN did not use those metadata when they published it as an Access database on their website. And, now the important data are there, in both formats (Excel and Access) and available to all.

View of a portion of the new museum.

Also, when Chris Rinewalt worked in the museum while TA'ing for Ichthyology, he recalls many hours in the museum with the radio on, cataloging specimens and accessioning new entries. There apparently had been quite a back up from the trailer days and a lot of catch-up work had to be done. He reports seeing things he'd never seen before or since. He was very curious about the parts of whales and other mammals that were saved in 5-gallon jars. Chris’ main role was to update the museum collection in a state-of-the-art Excel spreadsheet. And, now those collection data are posted online, which comprises quite an upgrade. When Greg Cailliet retired in 2009, Scott Hamilton became the Ichthyologist, and has been active in getting the fish collection maintained and improved.

And, also in 2009, many of the museum specimens in jars were used by local marine photographer, Jason Bradley, to produce some incredible images of deep-sea fishes and invertebrates. Jason has loaned MLML several large prints of these photographs and they hang in the hall near the Friends of MLML office (the Fangtooth, Anoplogaster cornuta), in the library (Krill, Euphausia pacifica, and the Longfin Dragonfish Tactostoma macropus), and one – a photograph of yours truly behind some jars of fishes in the museum – hangs above my desk in my home office. Jason Bradley Photographic is at P.O. Box 51621, Pacific Grove, CA 93950; phone: 818.415.2767.


Jim Harvey re-activated interest in improving and adding to the bird, mammal, and reptile holdings of the Museum during this period. In the past several years, Catarina Pien has been doing a stellar job of improving the entire collection through maintaining fluids in the jars, photographing specimens, and making sure that the accessioning process and final resulting database are efficient.

Present Activities in the MLML Museum and How It Functions

Portion of the compact shelving in the new museum that hold the specimens in fluid.

Natural history collections (i.e. the collection and preservation of organisms whole or in part) are invaluable resources for biological research and teaching. They are snapshots of nature in space and time, and researchers from a variety of biological fields, from taxonomy to biogeography and paleontology, rely heavily on these collections to guide investigations into the evolutionary history of organisms and species.

Moreover, most ecological studies require that researchers not only have a good understanding of species identification, but that they know how to distinguish individuals of one species from another. It is natural history collections that facilitate proper species identification as well as an understanding of the spatiotemporal variability in organism form and condition. And, this natural history and taxonomic capability is something that is central to the education of both undergraduate and graduate students at MLML.

Improvements are occurring in the museum, including: 1) reorganization of specimens, primarily using compact storage units that more efficiently house specimens; 2) improving the care of specimens, including renewing preservation fluids, 3) updating of computer files on the holdings; 4) taking digital images of MBC specimens; and 5) maintaining a freezer storage unit of tissues for DNA sequences. This is presently being done by staff (Jocelyn Douglas) and student curatorial support, presently Catarina Pien and Heather Fulton-Bennett.

The MLML Museum contains at least 11,000 accessioned biological specimens, with ~75% housed in research collections and ~25% in teaching collections. The following is brief a taxonomic breakdown of accessioned specimens within the five taxonomic groupings representative of our faculty research and educational specialties.


Odonthalia floccosa collected by Mike Foster.

Sea otter skull photographed by Catarina Pien.  Example of the photographs of each specimen in the museum that will eventually be on our museum website.


In addition, there are otoliths from ~ 165 species of fishes, used for prey identification purposes, numerous lots of fish larvae, and a newly initiated frozen tissue collection.

This blog was a edited version, so if you want to read a full accounting of the history of the MLML museum by Greg Cailliet, please use this link.

The Others That Turned 50

By Jim Harvey (20 May 2016)

So as I have been preparing these blogs, I have been noting other marine labs and entities that also were celebrating 50 years of existence. It became obvious that many other marine labs originated at about the same time that Moss Landing Marine Laboratories began. So I went to the NAML site. MLML is a member of the National Association of  Marine Labs, and I went to as many of the listed websites as I could to determine the time they began. I did not include the state or federal labs (e.g. NOAA, EPA, CDFW, etc.) in this discussion. Here is a graph of the results (see list at end of blog):

Number of new marine labs timeline


What you see is that the first marine lab in the United States (at least for the ones that are members of NAML) was the Marine Biology Laboratory, started in 1888. MBL is located in Woods Hole Massachusetts.

Marine Biology Laboratory located in Woods Hole, MA along with many other marine institutions, including WHOI.

Some other notable marine labs that were established at the onset were: Hopkins Marine Station (1892), Friday Harbor Laboratories (1903), Scripps Institute of Oceanography (1905), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1930). MLML is the second oldest marine lab on Monterey Bay.

Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories (University of Washington)

You also will  notice from the graph that about the time MLML started there was an explosion in the number of marine labs. In fact, of the 51 marine labs I investigated 17 (33%) were started in the decade of 1960 to 1969.  The other marine lab that began in 1966 when MLML was formed was Shoals Marine Laboratory that serves Cornell and the University of New Hampshire. You might also notice from the table at the end of the blog that we are the median lab (25 labs started before us, 25 after us), so we are not your "average" lab.

Many other things began around 1966, 50 years ago, and I have compiled a few of interest:

1. National Sea Grant


2. Charlie Brown Christmas


3. Grateful Dead (apparently first played as Grateful Dead in San Jose, CA)


4. Superbowl




6. Penthouse magazine

(I don't think I should have a picture here)


7. Star Trek


So MLML began when many other marine labs began, and when a number of other iconic institutions showed up.

Let me know what I missed.



List of the 51 marine labs I used to determine a timeline.

1 Marine Biology Laboratory 1888
2 Hopkins Marine Station 1892 Stanford University
3 Marine Science Institute 1900 University of Texas
4 Friday Harbor Laboratories 1903 University of Washington
5 Scripps Institute of Oceanography 1905 University of California, San Diego
6 Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology 1912 University of Hawaii
7 Chesapeake Biological Laboratory 1925 University of Maryland
8 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 1930
9 Oregon Institute of Marine Biology 1931 University of Oregon
10 Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences 1932
11 Duke University Marine Lab 1938 Duke University
12 Virginia Institute of Marine Science 1940 William and Mary
13 Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science 1943 University of Miami
14 Gulf Coast Research Lab 1947 University of Southern Mississippi
15 Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory 1949 Florida State University
16 Grice Marine Laboratory 1955 College of Charleston
17 Mote Marine Lab 1955
18 Bodega Marine Laboratory 1960 University of California, Davis
19 Dauphin Island Sea Lab 1963 Alabama's Marine Science Institution
20 Hubbs SeaWorld 1963
21 Darling Marine Center 1965 University of Maine
22 Telonicker Marine Lab 1965 Humboldt State University
23 Hatfield Marine Science Center 1965 Oregon State University
24 Wrigely Marine Science Center 1965 University of Southern California
25 Shoals Marine Laboratory 1966 Cornell and University of New Hampshire
26 Moss Landing Marine Laboratories 1966 California State Universities
27 Skidway Institution of Oceanography 1967 University of Georgia
28 Chincoteague Bay Field Station 1968
29 Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce 1969
30 Baruch Marine Field Lab 1969 University of South Carolina
31 Center for Marine Science 1970 University of North Carolina Wilmington
32 Marine Laboratory 1970 University of Guam
33 Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution 1971 Florida Atlantic University
34 Kewalo Marine Laboratory 1972 University of Hawaii at Manoa
35 Coastal Studies Lab 1973 University of Texas Rio Grand Valley
36 Bigelow Laboratory of Ocean Sciences 1974
37 Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience 1974 University of Florida
38 Long Marine Lab 1976 University of California, Santa Cruz
39 Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies 1978 San Francisco State University
40 Louisiana University Marine Consortium 1979
41 Coastal Studies Center 1981 Bowden College
42 Keys Marine Lab 1983
43 Blakely Island Field Station 1984 Seattle Pacific University
44 Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station 1985 University of California, Berkeley
45 Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute 1987
46 Marine Laboratory 1997 Roger Williams University
47 Alaska Sealife Center 1998
48 Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences 2001 California Polytechnic State University
49 Nantucket Field Station 2004 University of Massachusetts
50 Vester Field Station 2007 Florida Gulf Coast University
51 Sitka Sound Science Center 2007











MLML Computing

By Bill Broenkow (13 May 2016)

Dr. Bill Broenkow with charts and maps. Notice the slide rule, which dates the picture.

This account tells the story of my involvement in introducing computers to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. There's not much logic or plan in how this came about. In those days (the early 1970s) things just happened as teaching and research evolved. Furthermore I had no formal education in computers or electronics, but in the beginning no one did.

My first experience with computers occurred as a graduate student when I modeled the pH of seawater using an iterated method that could be accomplished only by computer. At the University of Washington this would be on an IBM 7070 locked away somewhere in the only computer room on the upper campus. I wrote the program in FORTRAN on 141 punch cards, each being a single statement or numerical constant, placed them in a cubby hole and returned the next day either to find print outs or error messages. (Interestingly, today with atmospheric CO2 levels rising, processes controlling pH are a major concern.) It took many walks up the hill to get it right. That's how it was done in 1963. That was my total computer background before coming to MLML.

After arriving at MLML in the fall of 1969, I found myself to be the computer expert. My courses in chemical and physical oceanography used lots of calculations, done at UW by tables, such as Knudsen Tables to determine seawater density from salinity and temperature, then further tables to calculate pressure effects and finally the geopotential height from Nansen bottle stations and on to geostrophic currents. These required two way interpolations trig and log tables. Tedious. In the late 1960s this began to change with the use of the UW IBM, because computer compatible algebraic equations were then being developed at various marine institutions to eliminate the table work. However during my first years at MLML I taught with appendix tables in 'The Oceans' the standard marine science text of the day. And what's even more archaic, I taught the use of the slide rule.

HP-35 Photo credit: The Museum of HP Calculators (

In 1972 the scientific world was revolutionized by the HP-35 calculator. This was big. And its cost of $395 did not stop more than 100,000 being sold during its first year. The first calculator in space. I still own mine. No more trig tables, no more slide rule, but still at MLML we used those density tables. Two years later the $795 HP-65 programmable calculator arrived. Now oceanographers without access to mainframes could write our own programs. I spent many wonderful hours programming salinity, density, thermometer corrections, celestial navigational calculations, a never-ending list of computer applications. I have the little magnetic cards holding these ancient programs and the calculator still runs.

At nearly the same time a bigger revolution occurred: the first real, desktop computer, the Wang 720C Calculator the size of a suitcase. It was a calculator in name only so that the hierarchy of managers in computer science departments would not need to authorize their purchase. But it was a true computer. I cannot recall how I managed to get Director Hurley to pay the $7000, but we soon had one at Moss Landing. We established a computer lab, really only a small room with a 24/7 sign-up sheet. It had a real computer language to use and teach. Now this wasn't FORTRAN, more like machine language. The Wang 720C used an assembly programing language; some codes from the keyboard some by switches. The 2048-byte ferrite core memory held the computer 'steps' (up to 1984 of them) loaded top-down in the core memory data were loaded bottom-up and too much of one overrides the other. Today it's hard to imagine that this small system was useful.

The Wang 720C September 1973 Photo credit: The Old Calculator Museum (

The Wang 720C September 1973. The first computer at MLML. Capable of 1984 computing steps with an operating system consisting of a 64x32 diode ROM and a ferrite core RAM memory of 64x32x8 magnets. Input by cassette tape, single keys for the low level commands, output by Nixie tubes or IBM Selectric typewriter. The military still uses ferrite core memory in radiation hardened satellites.

This sudden burst of technology required some effort on my part to learn how computers really work. I thought I should know something about the machine language instructions that the CPU chips processed. I bought a HeathKit microprocessor trainer, wired it up, took the self taught course, wrote the required number of assembly language programs, passed the test, and realized that I really did not want to become an assembly language programmer.

This era was called the Computer Revolution for good reason. Suddenly the little folk had enormous computation ability and it didn't take long for more friendly scientific computers to come along. Ah... 1974: the HP-9820 with an algebraic programming language in RPN (reverse polish notation), paper tape output, magnetic carder reader and expensive RAM expansion modules , mathematics and peripheral control ROMs. All very exciting to me and another $7000. I had to get one of course.

In the early 70s the MLML physical oceanography group made the first synoptic survey of salinity, temperature and nutrient distributions in Monterey Bay. This work came to the attention of Bob Wrigley at NASA Ames Research Labs in Mountain View. Bob was a pioneer in the mid 70s in measuring phytoplankton concentrations in the ocean and was using his new hand held radiometers to do this. Simple, eh? Phytoplankton rich waters are green, poor waters are blue, wheat fields are amber. He wanted surface truth data in the Bay like he had done over agricultural areas and asked us to make chlorophyll measurements as he flew his radiometer. I had no idea where this new (to me) remote sensing would lead. He kindly provided me thermistors, fluorometers and strip chart recorders and supported my research assistant, Carl Schrader. We measured chlorophyll and suspended sediment concentrations, Secchi disk depths and compared ocean color to a Munsell color chart.

Until 1975 we used Nansen bottles but things changed when began using a Plessy 9400 conductivity, temperature, depth, CTD, profiler. No more hydro-casts. Data were recorded on the XYY chart recorders provided by Bob. Then we (yes, some poor graduate student) would pick off conductivity and temperature values from the graph and calculate salinity, density and dynamic height anomaly. We entered these into HP-9820 computer files to store the data for further processing. Not much later we added a Teletype printer with paper tape punch ($700).

But the big event in my computing and scientific life began in early 1977 with the HP-9825 desktop computer ($5900). This was a very mature machine: the HPL computer language, a qwerty keyboard, 16 kbytes memory, a plotter, disk drive, paper tape printer, and to do the science through data acquisition it had plug-in interface boards: 16-bit parallel, and the HP-IB interface that connected directly to the HP instrumentation. This computer was a revolution to engineers and scientists and sold over 28,000 through its 5 year life. With the 9825 we could record digital data directly from my CTD profiler using HP frequency counter, programable switch and voltmeter. The HPL language and HP-IB instrumentation were to shape my future.

The HP-9825, June 1977 Photo credit: The Museum of HP Calculators (

The HP-9825, June 1977. This revolutionary computer launched innumerable projects at MLML. First our work with Dennis Clark's CZCS satellite surface truth experiment, later our CTD, current meter and ocean profiling instruments with John Martin's Vertex project. Ultimately our association with Dennis Clark led to MLML's continuing work (1997-present) with the Marine Optical Buoy, MOBY.

After we had worked with Bob for a year or more, he thought it would be a good idea for me to see how the experts were developing surface truth measurements for the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) to be launched on the Nimbus 7 satellite. He paid for my October 1977 flight to Galveston, Texas to join the RV Gyre cruise headed by Dennis Clark. Dennis was a research scientist from NOAA's the World Wide Weather Center in Suitland Md who established a comprehensive program to measure spectral water-leaving radiance or simply the color of light reflected from the upper layer of the sea. These are the definitive surface truth data from which the CZCS scans would be corrected for atmospheric attenuation. He was using his brand new, state of the art spectral-radiometer. He lowered these to several depths producing radiance values at 80 wavelengths. To eliminate wave noise many scans were made at each depth. This is a data intensive process and to do this Dennis was using his brand new HP-9825!

Upper: Wang 720C ferrite core memory 2048 bits. You can count them. February 1973. Lower: HP-9825 16 Kbyte dynamic RAM memory card provided by Dennis Clark for his CZCZ work. January 1977. A big advance: 64 times the Wang memory.

He had a complicated program: two instrument vans, an electronics engineer and several technicians to handle the instruments. I was a complete stranger to this work and to Dennis who I had not met until the day I arrived. As a guest, I stayed out of his hair, but observed his preparations. One of his technicians was assigned to use the 9825 to acquire data from the radiometer. After two days I saw that he was having trouble programming the computer. I offered to help, explaining that he would be dependent on the way I stored data in my data base, Dennis thought this over a day or so and agreed; “OK”. As they say, the rest is history.

I had a week at the dock to learn about his instruments and needs for data processing. After three days at sea on the Gyre I was still working on the programs but at the first station (October 25, 1977) my programs brought in the data, did the averaging, applied the calibrations, and plotted the corrected radiance spectra. At that time I adapted the way we had been organizing our oceanographic data, what we now call MLDBASE, just a computer filing system to hold the radiance data and identifying (metadata) information.

I worked with Dennis for four years during the CZCS era learning about satellite oceanography from Dennis' NOAA and NASA and university colleagues. There was much to learn. One occasion was especially memorable. On a trip to the Visibility Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I met Ros Austin who was developing image processing software to display and interpret data from the CZCS satellite. He had DEC VAX computers with satellite data stored on huge disk drives. The programs Howard Gordon from University of Miami developed to remove the atmospheric haze were really complicated. Howard's work developed over several years. At Scripps that day Ros started the image processing program, we went to lunch and late in the afternoon the corrected map of 'water-leaving radiances' and computed chlorophyll concentrations appeared on a black and white display.

Between 1979 and 1996 my group participated in John Martin's highly successful VERTEX program. The National Science Foundation called John's discovery that iron is a limiting nutrient as one of the most important oceanographic discoveries of the century. During this time Dennis funded one graduate student (Jeff Nolten and later Richard Reaves) to work on the CZCS project. He kept me in a holding pattern until he could launch his Marine Optical Buoy, MOBY, project.

VERTEX-3 November 1982. Mark Yarbrough on the RV Cayuse with our CTD data acquisition using our beloved HP-9825 and a lot of fancy equipment. Mark now leads the MLML MOBY operation in Honolulu.

Before the earthquake (October 17, 1989), John Martin introduced me to David Packard (founder of Hewlett-Packard) who saw we were still using an old HP-9825. I think John suggested that I might work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to display weather and ocean conditions at the Aquarium. Mr. Packard gave me a tour of the Aquarium and his mechanical tide predicting machine. We discussed how we could measure waves, tides and weather to display as an exhibit. As a result he provided the HP computers (HP-9826), data acquisition instruments (HP-3497), weather station, current meter and ocean buoy. Somehow along the way I asked if he could provide a second computer to share the programming load. That's how I got (and still have) an HP-9816. I picked it up at the Aquarium one day in 1985. The box was addressed to Mr. Packard who had paid list price out of his own pocket. The ocean and weather station began operation in March 1986 and we continued operating it until 1995 when the U.C. Santa Cruz REINAS project assumed its operation.

After the earthquake Dennis designed the MOBY prototype. MOBY was to be an autonomous buoy moored near Lanai, Hawaii. This first-of-its-kind system provides daily 'water-leaving' radiance measurements used to calibrate ocean color satellites whose sensors slowly degrade in time. Luckily for me, at that time I had some brilliant graduate students: Mark Yarbrough, Mike Feinholz and Richard Reaves. Mark had designed and built our new Integral CTD Rosette System. Once again I asked Dennis to carefully consider if he would task us the job of building, programming, calibrating, launching, operating and reducing data from this device. He was truly impressed with Mark's mechanical, electronic and organizational skills, Richard's programing skills with low level assembly language, and Mike's methodical calibration methods. He took us on... again.

The computer world changed dramatically over this period. At the temporary MLML campus in Salinas we used a MicroVAX II to act as a local area network server and distributed computer facility to the several portable buildings. Various labs used computer terminals to use the MicroVAX for various tasks as well as for local e-mail. During a visit with us, Dennis' Miami colleagues installed their state of the art CZCS image processing software on our MicroVAX. My student, Ed Armstrong, used this FORTRAN program called DSP for his master's thesis work and later went on to use this experience at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

There was no Internet yet. And during this time personal computers evolved. Everyone used their PC or Macs. When the Internet finally arrived in 1998, I was asked what name to use as our Internet URL. Without direction from above I chose During the 'Salinas Marine Lab' years I discovered a life-changing programming language, MATLAB. We rewrote all of our HPL programs and our now extensive MLDBASE data into MATLAB and moved away from the VAX into the future, for us on PCs which ran MATLAB (but sadly, not on Macs at that time). With my students in my Satellite Oceanography class I rewrote the Miami DSP CZCS image processing program in MATLAB. The image processing that had taken hours at the VIS Lab ran in 5 minutes on our PCs.

The VAX is gone, October 2000. Stephanie Flora pulls the plug on our aged MicroVAX at MLML on the hill. The VAX had been used as our local network server since the days at the Salinas Marine Lab. All of this is hidden now.

For years I taught MS-263 'Application of Computers in Oceanography'. Early on it was with the Wang, later with HPL, FORTRAN, then MATLAB. At a MATLAB conference in San Jose, I lamented that no basic programming text with MATLAB was in print. A publications representative casually said why don't you write one. I did. It was rejected. I persisted and then self published; selling my CD book on Amazon. 'Introduction to Programming with MATLAB for Scientists and Engineers' went viral. It sold several hundred copies.

MS-263 Applications of Computers in Oceanography, December 1998. Salinas Marine Labs (The Salinas trailers). Here we have descended to using PC clones in the SML computer lab. However, now we have discovered MATLAB!

It is now 41 years after I met Dennis on the Gyre. Mark Yarbrough and Mike Feinstein continue to operate Dennis' Marine Optical Buoy MOBY in Hawaii, Stephanie Flora performs the complex data processing from the autonomous buoy in MATLAB on her Mac. She posts the data on the Internet for use by the world-wide remote sensing community to atmospherically correct worldwide ocean color imagery from a series of satellites that evolved from CZCS. The data are stored in an advanced MLDBASE format, but our programs can still read those data taken on the Gyre and my hundreds of CTD profiles and current meter records. Though I retired 12 years ago, I still use MATLAB (on a MacBook). Not long ago I dusted off our CZCS programs and ran the MATLAB version I had named PSD (DSP spelled backwards, or with tongue in cheek, perhaps meaning 'Pretty Simple Dennis'). It ran in 10 seconds.

Look what has happened since the heady days of the Wang 720C. My simple benchmark program tells the tale of increasing speed of computers I have used over the years. Sadly, I didn't run the benchmark on the Wang which may have been faster than on the HP-9825.

Cray 1 1976 0.01 FORTRAN (Los Alamos)
HP-9825 1977 1 HPL
VAX 11/780 1979 1.5 Unix/FORTRAN (NOAA MD)
HP-85A 1979 80 BASIC
HP-9826 1985 9 HPL
Micro VAX II 1985 0.31 Unix/FORTRAN
Toshiba 3100 PC 1986 0.3 MATLAB
Toshiba 4400 PC 1992 0.04 MATLAB
VAX 4000 1992 0.19 Unix/FORTRAN
Toshiba 4800 PC 1994 0.012 MATLAB
MacBook 2009 0.0000073 MATLAB
Cable tray at the new MLML on the hill at Moss Landing. December 1999. This is how we connected to the outside world of the Internet. Most of this fiber-optic and “10-Base T” twisted pair infrastructure is hidden in four equipment closets and the network room in the basement.

I am now long departed from the computer scene at MLML, where the Internet and laptops reign supreme. Now everyone owns a super computer or two, not only on the desktop, but as smart phones in their pocket. I don't know what computers large or small that MLMLers now use. The only thing I may recognize at MLML today are in the hallways. When the architects consulted me about distributing Ethernet cables throughout the building I suggested cable trays along the hallways. Look up and you may see them now.

Epiloque from Jeff Arlt (iTech MLML):

Two of the 6 computing and network racks in the MLML server room.

As of May, 2016 those Ethernet cables continue to carry 1s and 0s up and down the hallways of MLML. The ‘core’ of the network has continued to evolve and is now made of glass, fiber-optic cables, that connect the Cisco network switches in closets in each of the building wings back to the server room at 1 gigabit per second.

When MLML moved back to Moss Landing in 2000 the MicroVAX II was replaced by Sun Ultra Sparc servers that hosted the MLML web server and other servers supporting our connection to the Internet and communication with the World Wide Web. The computing environment continued to evolve over the years utilizing: Apple Xserve servers, HP dl360 servers to our present Virtual Computing environment based on a state of the art SpringPath Hyper-Converged computing environment.

SpringPath Hyper-Converged computing environment.

The network has evolved so that faculty, researchers, students, staff, and visitors can connect to the MLML campus network using any of their wireless or wired devices while travelling over the 1Gb connection to the CENIC CalREN, California Research and Education Network. Data, and beyond. Voice and video now run through those data cables that Dr. B. so ingeniously hid while also making them easy to access.





We are streaming our weekly seminars on our You Tube Channel:

Connect with MLML using:

Goodbye R/V Point Sur

By Kenneth Coale (5 May 2016)

R/V Point Sur off Moss Landing.

I was aboard from her first cruises out of Moss Landing in 1983, to her last cruises from MLML in 2014. Maybe that is why I was the scientist asked to speak at her farewell, and maybe this is also why I was so reluctant. She was in near perfect condition and not just from the looks of her. Recently rebuilt engines, engine controls, navigation, steering, electronics on the bridge, new crane on the bow, new trawl winch, paint on the decks, inside and out, new wastewater management system, air compressors, interior LED lighting, etc… There was little if anything that had not been recently refurbished. Stem to stern and keel to mast, she was fully equipped and had a full complement of tools in the main lab, electronics lab, boatswain locker and engine room and a full set of rigging gear for almost any over-the-side operation, safety gear, firefighting equipment, communications equipment and hundred of thousands of dollars worth of scientific equipment and instrumentation.


She had just completed two successful trips to the Arctic and one to the Antarctic and she was still among the most economical vessels to operate in the US fleet of research vessels for her size. Yet, MLML had received direction from the National Science Foundation to dispose of her.

I had served on the UNOLS Council (University NationalOceanographic Laboratory System is the non-governmental body that advises NSF regarding ship scheduling, fleet improvement and other matters related to the nation’s fleet of research vessels) for two terms representing an operating institution and was an active user of the MLML/NSF Research Vessel Point Sur. I had just completed two cruises on the study of methyl mercury in marine fog, and three cruises as part of an NSF sponsored Chief Scientist Training Program designed to encourage young investigators to use large marine facilities such as the R/V Point Sur. The UNOLS Council had recommended to NSF that she be retained. In spite of all of this, the NSF was experiencing heavy internal pressure, pressure from OMB, a loss of facility funding due to an over commitment to cabled observatories and needed to get inventory off of their books. MLML was about to loose her flagship due to politics and failures in leadership, both at the local and national level. I was selected to give an overview of the scientific achievements that the R/V Point Sur had supported, but my blood was boiling and my heart had sunk. Yet this was no attitude in which to say goodbye, but what could I say?

My class had rigged flags from the bow, over the top of the mast and to the stern A-frame. There was food and chairs, tables and drinks. Former crew, scientists and dignitaries had assembled. Camera crews from KSBW and KION. Faculty from MBARI, MLML, NPS took their place and I was beginning to sweat about what I would do.

We heard from several speakers including Jim Harvey, Mike Prince, Stewart Lamerdin, Chris Scholin, Steve Etchemendy and then it was my turn.

“Thank you Mike, Stewart, Chris and Steve for this window into the past and the roots that this vessel has grown. These flags represent the affiliation and the heritage of our students, staff, faculty and colleagues over the years, many of whom have sailed on Pt. Sur. Not all flags would fit, the little ship is just not long enough.

But she is a treasure.

Before I get started, or loose my grip, I wanted to thank Dolly Dieter, Linda Goad, Rose Dufour, Jim Holik, Bob Houtman, Tim Schnoor , Jon Alberts, Annette DeSilva, and many others at NSF, ONR and UNOLS for giving us such a ride, and trusting us with a public asset that has delivered such a huge public benefit. I think that, for this, we can all be grateful.

Eleanor Roosevelt said many wise things. One was one my wife repeats:  Do something that scares you every day. Well, I have never retired a ship, and this may be one of those days.

I have spent some time on the Sur.   Cumulatively, it has been years.

And, I gotta say that without a crew this ship is just a hulk of metal and paint.

With every crew the ship gets better

And I have recently sailed with the best crew I have ever seen

Rick, Bobby, Loren, Alex, Scott, Jack, Olin, Tara, Stian, you guys are the best

No, I can’t let it rest.

Just because you are losing your jobs and your workplace, this is no reason to be sullen.

We did not make all this grub and grog,

Nor dress this ship in fancy flare

To hark back and pine away

‘Bout times gone by, days ill to bear

On those who sit to reminisce

Bout better days now times amiss

Just suck it up and take a piss,

Then get back down to business

This here event will require

That you all rise up and inspire

Give your arses some respect

And abandon ties to the internet

Now stand up from your reclined poise

And be prepared to make a noise

For this is no time for wallerin

Now is the time that we be hollerin

For the rest of this incantation

Will require participation”


The crowd rose, a bit perplexed, but all stood up

I then explained that we were going to sing a Shanty in a call-and-response format and I explained how the Shanty would work. I created cue-cards for their singing parts and had briefed my class ahead of time.


“ The Pt. Sur Shanty",

Farewell to Whiskey Sierra Charley, 2276


Call:                 In ’81, two ships were forged

Response:    Though the seas are rising

Call:                Cape Hatteras and Florida

Response:   Sail on Point Sur

Call:                To Carolina and Florida bound

Though the seas are rising

Call:                The restless ship came westward round

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                A purpose called, a resounding sound

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Carry scientists and crew around

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Who plumb the depths and scour the seas

Though the seas are rising

Call:                For clues to test hypotheses

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                From Aleutians, North to Bering Sea

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To Bransfield Straits and the Southern Lee

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Ten thousand souls she carried the lot

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To wonder why and ask why not

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Discoveries from her labs we see

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Have changed the course of oceanography

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Yet questions sought and some answers flee

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Still challenge both you and me

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                But leaders with their skulls so thick

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Can sink a vessel just as quick

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                As a reef that rose and claimed the hull

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Of Ocean Researcher and her souls

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                Let your story be told dear

Though the seas are rising

Call:                Of a ship whose life did not end here

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                But one that sailed back out to sea

Though the seas are rising

Call:                And saved the earth from humanity

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                The time has come to bid farewell

Though the seas are rising

Call:                To a faithful ship who has served us well

Sail on Point Sur

Call:                We toast your service and loyalty

Though the seas are rising

Call:                And wish fair winds and a following sea

Sail on Point Sur

Response:   Sail on Point Sur, Sail On,… Sail On Point Sur, Sail On.”


I had positioned my student Alex, on the bridge and when the Shanty was over, Alex let off two short blasts on the ship’s horn, and everybody broke for drinks on the dock.

Cake for the Point Sur farewell. Cake by Tara Pastuszek

We did find a good home for the R/V Point Sur. Colleagues from the University of Southern Mississippi and the Louisiana Marine Consortium spent a couple of weeks loading and provisioning her for her second trip through the canal, back to the Gulf of Mexico, where she would be operated in support of science related to the Deep-Water Horizon blowout. The crew and scientists could not believe her condition and her provisions.

R/V Point Sur docked in New Orleans for Ocean Sciences (Feb 2016) after transfer to the University of Southern Mississippi. Photo by Ivano Aiello.

As she sailed from Moss Landing for the last time, she was flying two signal flags: Bravo and Zulu. Flown together these flags indicate “Job well done”.


R/V Point Sur sailing out of Moss Landing harbor for the last time, with two MLML Boston Whalers escorting her out. Photo by Andrew DeVogelaere.