Research Projects

Current Projects

Data Center – CEDEN and CalDUCS

Improving the coordination of water quality efforts and accessibility of water quality data throughout the state of CA is a high priority.  The purpose of the California Data Upload and Checking System (CalDUCS) is to collect and integrate water quality data from California’s Citizen Monitoring groups, data grant recipients, and any other programs interested in providing data to the California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN).  The information handling capability of the Data Upload System includes a full compliance capability of loading QA/QC information, associated metadata for water quality, toxicity, tissue, and bioassessment data.  Data entered into the CEDEN central data repository will help to create a more robust set of water quality information by which to assess the status and trends of the health of California's waters.  The MPSL-MLML Data Center provides technical support for the systems development and IT infrastructure.

Regional Monitoring Program (RMP) Fish Tissue in San Francisco Bay

Based on results from a 1994 Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program (BPTCP) pilot study of fish tissue contamination, a long-term monitoring effort of sport fish from San Francisco Bay is being conducted.  This work is incorporated as a regular component of the San Francisco Bay Regional Monitoring Program (RMP), which is managed by SFEI.  MPSL-MLML is involved in the study design, sample collection, and data management.  This work has resulted in the issuance of fish consumption advisories by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), a number of technical reports and conference presentations, and peer-reviewed journal publications.  The last fish tissue survey conducted by MPSL-MLML was in 2019.

Regional Monitoring Program (RMP) Bay Margins and Priority Margins Units Studies in San Francisco Bay

MPSL-MLML collected sediment during the summer of 2015 (Central Bay), 2017 (South Bay), 2020 (North Bay), and 2023 (Central and South Bays) as part of the Bay Margins Sediment Study for the Regional Monitoring Program (RMP) for Water Quality in the San Francisco Bay. Sediment and tissue samples were also collected in Priority Margin Units (PMUs) in Richmond Harbor (2023), San Leandro Bay (2016 and 2023), Emeryville Crescent (2019), and Steinberger Slough (2020) as part of the RMP. Bay margins (i.e., mud flats and adjacent shallow areas of the Bay) are more productive and highly utilized by biota of interest (humans or wildlife) than the open Bay areas. These studies provide a spatially-distributed, urban-focused characterization of surface sediment contamination and ancillary characteristics within shallow Central Bay margin areas. MPSL-MLML is involved in the study design, sample collection, and lab processing of the sediment samples before sending to laboratories for analyses. The San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) will conduct data analyses and produce a report summarizing the results. In 2017, a special study was conducted focusing on the collection of microplastics in water, sediment, and fish in San Francisco and Tomales Bays.

Western EMAP (WEMAP) and the National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA)

This project began as a five-year multi-state effort to assess near-coastal ecosystem health of the West Coast (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawai'i) according to methods and procedures developed under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). In California, a four-year multi-agency cooperative study is managed by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) and includes partners from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), and MPSL (MLML, DFG, and UC Davis).  The first year effort (1999) was dedicated to a probabilistic survey of California coastal bays and estuaries.  Year two (2000), which was a cooperative effort with the EPA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), focused on a probabilistic survey of 200 stations in San Francisco Bay.  Year three (2002) focused on a probabilistic survey of intertidal wetlands and year four (2003) focused on a probabilistic survey of offshore (20-200 meters) near-coast stations.  This work was conducted on the NOAA ship MacArthur II.  We conducted a special study in Morro Bay in late 2003 under which water, sediment, and fish tissue samples were collected.  In 2004, another round of WEMAP sampling was conducted in California's bays and estuaries with water and sediment samples collected at 49 stations and trawling for fish occurring at 31 of those stations.  Funds were allocated to conduct additional sampling in bays and estuaries in 2005 and 2006.  Water and sediment samples (n=32) were collected each year with trawling for flatfish species conducted at each station. This was the last sampling under WEMAP and the survey shifted to a five year rotation under EPA’s National Coastal Condition Assessment.  MPSL-MLML provided field and logistical support for the California surveys in 2010, 2015, and 2020.

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Past Projects

Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP)

In 2001 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) established the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) to implement comprehensive environmental monitoring in all of California’s watersheds.  The focus is to provide the information the SWRCB and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) need to effectively manage the State’s water resources for a wide range of beneficial uses. SWAMP was developed in response to Assembly Bill 982, as it relates to the implementation of the requirements of Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), other applicable federal regulations, and monitoring and assessment programs. SWAMP is a collaborative effort with the SWRCB, RWQCBs, CDFG, USGS, and several contractors.  MPSL-MLML was primarily involved with overall data management, quality assurance, and logistical support for the state through 2015 and will continue to support the state’s bioassessment efforts through 2025.

Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program

The BPTCP is a legislatively mandated program administered by the State Water Resources Control Board.  This environmental monitoring effort began in 1989, and funded the MPSL group from $650,000-1,200,000 annually through 1999.  Since the monitoring aspects of the program began in 1992, over 1400 sediment samples throughout coastal California have been collected and analyzed for a variety of indicators.  The primary goal of the program is identification, assessment, and cleanup of sites designated as “toxic hot spots”.  The state is now in the process of public review of the proposed cleanup plans for over twenty high priority toxic hot spots throughout the state's coastal areas.  Over twenty technical reports and six peer-reviewed journal publications have been produced directly by the MPSL team over the course of this project to date.  Six additional journal manuscripts are currently in review or final preparation.  The legislation authorizing this program sunset in 1999, however new legislation (AB 641) built upon past program successes and led to the initiation of the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) which is ongoing and will extend well into the future.

California Invasive Species Survey (ISS)

The Ballast Water Management Act of 1999 stipulates that the CDFG conduct appropriate studies necessary to develop a list of non-indigenous aquatic species occurring in the marine and estuarine waters of the state. The CDFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and MPSL-MLML conducted field and laboratory studies jointly.  OSPR identified seven regions of the state, representing the state’s major ports and estuaries, to conduct both field and literature studies on the presence of non-indigenous aquatic species.  These areas include: the major ports of San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Hueneme, Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay and adjacent waters, Humboldt Bay, and a number of small harbors along the length of the California coast.  The survey was primarily an investigation of epifaunal communities, but also included minor investigations of infaunal communities, plankton communities, and fish communities.

The Marine Invasive Species Act of 2003 further stipulated that CDFG must conduct ongoing surveys along California's coast in order to document the distribution of non-indigenous aquatic species.  The 5-year study included a re-survey of the ports and estuaries surveyed in 2000 as well as a more intensive survey in San Francisco bay and, for the first time, a comprehensive survey of California's outer coast.  The project involved both field collections and a comprehensive literature review to create a database that includes information on all known non-indigenous aquatic species in the marine and estuarine waters of the state.  Additional field surveys were completed between 2004 and 2007 in habitats throughout the state's coastal and outer coast waters.  The overall ISS effort included the participation of the MLML Benthic Ecology lab and a number of specialized taxonomists throughout the state.  The final report for the Outer Coast sampling in 2004 as well as additional information regarding this project can be found at: FINAL 202_O C report_1_2.pdf.

EPA Genetics Survey

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Cincinnati, Ohio funded the collection of estuarine introduced (non-native) species along the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia).  MPSL-MLML collected specimens throughout California's major bays and estuaries in 2006.  This work will support the task of making community-wide comparisons of invasion pathways across Pacific coast estuaries.

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