The Pets of Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

At this point in the pandemic, I think we all know that working from home is a real drag, but for many of us, one of the few redeeming aspects is getting to spend way more time with our pets! From quarantine puppies to beloved bunnies to troublemaking cats, these creatures have brought us comfort and joy during these deeply stressful times. Sure our whole lives take place on Zoom now, but there is nothing quite like the thrill of seeing your professor hold up their cat to greet the class or watching your colleague's dog chase their tail in the background during an important meeting.

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Ichthyology Lab alumna June Shrestha named 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow

Congratulations to SJSU/MLML alumna June Shrestha on her selection as a 2021 California Sea Grant State Fellow! 

This competitive program matches recent grads with municipal, state, or federal host agencies in California for year-long fellowships that provide training at the interface of science, communication, policy, and management. June received her MS in Marine Science from Moss Landing Marine Labs in 2020 and will be working with NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary for her fellowship. June will support efforts to revise the sanctuary management plan, facilitate engagement with stakeholders during sanctuary advisory council meetings, and contribute to education and outreach initiatives.

Read more in the California Sea Grant State Fellowship announcement.

Nine students defend thesis research in 2020!

By June ShresthaMLML Ichthyology Lab

2020 was a big year. We saw a global pandemic, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and wildfires raging across the state. Despite all of this, we had nine students pull through to defend their thesis research in 2020! Please join me in congratulating the following students:

  • Lindsay Cooper, Phycology Lab
  • Kenji Soto, Geological Oceanography Lab
  • Amber Reichert, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Mason Cole, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
  • June Shrestha, Ichthyology Lab
  • Dan Gossard, Phycology Lab
  • Jacoby Baker, Ichthyology Lab
  • Emily Pierce, Invertebrate Zoology Lab
  • Miya Pavlock-McAuliffe, Physical Oceanography Lab

Please read below to learn a little more about each student's research. As always, please also check out the posts highlighting student research from previous years as well at the following links: 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Special author note: As I am one of the students that defended and graduated this year, this will be my last post for The Drop-In. From writing about classes to conferences and student research, it's been a pleasure writing for this blog. Hopefully someone else will carry the torch forward in the new year to highlight and celebrate the research of graduating students!

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Vertebrate Ecology Lab alumna Sharon Hsu starts new job as right whale aerial observer

Congratulations to MLML alumna Sharon Hsu who recently accepted a fantastic new job with the Center for Coastal Studies as an aerial observer on their North Atlantic right whale team! Sharon received her MS in Marine Science from SJSU/MLML in 2020. Her thesis research in Dr. Gitte McDonald's Vertebrate Ecology Lab focused on stable isotope analysis in leatherback sea turtles.

Ichthyology Lab alumna Devona Yates publishes thesis results in MEPS!

Congratulations to SJSU/MLML Ichthyology Lab alumna Devona Yates on the recent publication of her thesis research in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series! Devona’s paper, co-authored by Professor Scott Hamilton, examines the effects of marine reserves on predator-prey interactions in central California kelp forests.

Read the full paper here: 

Marine science snapshots: Fieldwork, wildlife, and community at Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

While working on the latest Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Annual Report, my friend and fellow MLML student employee Caroline Rodriguez collected a bunch of amazing photos from the Moss community. While she used many of the best shots in the final report (check it out here!), there simply wasn't enough room for all of the great photos she had amassed. So Caroline reached out to me and asked if I was interested in compiling all these images into a post on The Drop-In blog. And as you can probably guess since you are reading that very post, I said yes!

After a year of mostly staring at screens and working from home, looking through these images of fieldwork, amazing animals, and beautiful scenery taken by my wonderful peers, professors, and colleagues over the last few years has been a great reminder of why I chose to come to MLML in the first place. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. So, without further ado, I present a glimpse into the highlights of life at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories as told by photos from the MLML community.

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Grad school: pandemic edition

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

I think it’s safe to say that before the start of this year, no one could have possibly predicted the truly wild twists and turns of 2020- and the year isn’t even over yet! The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has radically altered the world and for most folks, life over the past 8 months has been pretty chaotic and stressful. I never imagined that on top of all the regular day-to-day stress of graduate school, I would also have to deal with a deadly pandemic, but here we are!

So what exactly has life as a grad student been like during these very strange Corona-times? Lots of people have asked me that question since March, and I typically respond some variation of stressful/overwhelming/profoundly boring/way too much time spent on Zoom. If they happen to catch me on a good day where I have made some big breakthrough with my thesis or had a super productive morning then I might even tell them it’s not so bad. In truth, grad school during a pandemic is a lot like grad school during a normal year: highs and lows. Except now I (almost) never leave my house. So, without further ado, I present a brief Buzzfeed-style look into my life as a Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) grad student during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Marine snow & climate change

By Annie Bodel, Plankton Ecology & Biogeochemistry Lab

Endings are Beginnings

In a forest when something dies--a leaf, a plant, an animal-- it likely settles onto the ground where it begins a process of decay and integration into the layers of earth beneath. Unless it's carried far away by a scavenger, it mostly stays local after it dies, becoming a part of soil nutrient and mineral cycles at most a meter deep.

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Shifting Foundations

By Acy Wood, MLML Phycology Lab

When I was a child, I used to be mesmerized by seaweed swaying in the surf when I went tidepooling or kelp flowing back and forth in the currents at the aquarium. I loved finding underwater plants because it always meant that I was going to find some amazing animals, too. Whenever I went wading into a meadow of seagrass, I would place my feet cautiously to avoid the crab claws that could suddenly shoot up. If I brushed aside some sea lettuce near a cluster of rocks, a fish might quickly flutter away into a new hiding place. Aside from the plant properties that they all share, these seagrasses and algae also have something else in common: they served as foundation species for their communities.

Just like trees in a forest, these underwater plants are essential to the very identity of their ecosystems. They dominate them, shape them, alter them, define them. A kelp forest ecosystem doesn’t exist without the kelp, nor is a seagrass meadow a meadow without the seagrass. All the other members of their ecosystems directly or indirectly rely on the foundation species in some way. For example, young rockfish tend to gather in kelp forests to hide from predators.  I’ve always loved to learn about foundation species, even before I knew what the term was. It’s almost an instinctual thing that we already know. When you enter a new place or conjure an image in your mind, foundation species are usually the first to stand out, such as corals in a coral reef or evergreens on a mountain.

The reliance on a single species means that researchers need to give special attention to the conditions that species thrives in. Any changes that the foundation species experiences will inevitably trickle down to the other community members. Going back to our example, if the kelp that make the kelp forest are unable to thrive, then the young rockfish will have to go somewhere else to hide. Oftentimes, underwater plants are sensitive to specific temperatures or specific depths. They may grow very well in places that have the right mix of conditions, but will no longer flourish if those conditions happen to change from what the plants need. Similarly, if an area nearby changes to suit them, then they can move right in.

The combination of suitable conditions for underwater plants helps define their range, or the area an organism can be found. Over time, that range can shift. Our planet is experiencing a period of rapid climate change, which is predicted to shift the ranges of underwater plants as coastlines experience new sea levels, new temperatures, and more. Since so many underwater plants serve as foundation species, the range of the animals that rely on them may shift also.

By understanding what our underwater plants need to survive and flourish, scientists can model and predict where we can expect to find these foundation species over time. In general, since many underwater plants are limited by temperature, most are seeing a shift northward as global temperatures warm up. We can then predict that the organisms attributed to these foundation species could see a northward shift as well. This could mean in the future, if I want to wade out into a seagrass meadow and try to find my crabs, I’ll have to drive further north a little longer.

Holly visits Cawthron!

Blog post from the MLML Environmental Biotechnology Lab

Credit: Marine Biosecurity Toolbox

Dr. Holly Bowers had an awesome experience as a visiting researcher at the Cawthron Institute in New Zealand in 2020! Although she has previously collaborated with some of their team, those relationships were expanded upon and new ones were formed during this visit. She worked closely with the Biosecurity Team to run two experiments testing different filter types and filtration times for efficient eDNA and eRNA capture, using the dinoflagellate Alexandrium as a model species. An eDNA/eRNA review paper with a biosecurity angle is in the works.

With the Safe New Zealand Seafood Programme she worked to expand geographic specificity testing for qPCR assays targeting four species within the toxin-producing genus Pseudo-nitzschia. A continuing collaboration with the team aims to characterize species diversity and toxin production of a subset of Pseudo-nitzschia species around New Zealand. She returns with an expanded knowledge base and heaps of ideas for future collaborations!

Check out this article from the Marine Biosecurity Toolbox to learn more about Holly’s trip to New Zealand!

Heading back to Picton after a successful dolphin watching trip!