Life. I have been lucky enough to have known a lot of kindness in this life. For a long time, I believed I had seen all the kindness - and more - than I could have asked for in a lifetime. And yet, life and the people in it continue to surprise me.
There is a place named Parismina - it's a tiny dot on our map - a village of about 500 people in the heart of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, accessible only by boat. My first introduction here was in 2014, and I’ve never lost touch since. I last spent 4 months here in 2018 doing my thesis research with leatherbacks, working alongside ASTOP (Asociacion Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina), a local nonprofit sea turtle organization. During this time, I walked over 500 miles. I measured leatherback turtles - giant behemoths of the unknown - weighed their eggs, moved their nests, and watched their babies dig their way up from the sand to crawl into the same water their mothers came from.
As a marine biologist, part of my job is to study the behavior of whales and how they interact with their environment. Many projects I am involved in are long-term (40+ years) studies that follow individual whales throughout their lives. Long-term projects allow researchers to document how whales have reacted to changes in their environment in the past and how that affected the population as a whole. These data can help determine how whales are responding to climate change and how their response may affect their long-term survival.
I'm happy to share that we've had a total of 13 students students defend their theses in 2019! Please join me in congratulating the students, and read below to learn a little more about their research.
SCIENCE often brings to mind measured and exact descriptions. But, often the process of conducting science requires curiosity, creativity, and a willingness to take an experimental risk. Qualities that are more often associated with art. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, these two fields collaborate more often than expected. A local artist, author, and phycologist, Josie Iselin, recently held a workshop at her studio where participants could explore the collaboration of seaweed science, art, and a little bit of history.
The colors and textures of seaweed create a kaleidoscope of diversity along California’s coast that has drawn artists and scientists to the shore for decades. To preserve these species for study, they are usually pressed and dried. But preserving specimens in this way makes them difficult to incorporate into an identification manual. Photography, illustration, and printmaking offered solutions to this problem. In the early ages of photography, a type of print making, called cyanotype printing, began to expand how field guides could be created. Today, high color photos in books and on our phones or apps like iNaturalist make identifying and enjoying our beaches very easy. However, these classic techniques of pressing and printing are still valuable to studying seaweed.
Joise’s workshop focused on the cyanotype printing technique. Cyanotype prints are made by coating thick paper with two chemicals that react when exposed to sunlight. Objects, or seaweed, are placed on the paper. The sunlight reacts and turns the exposed paper a deep blue, and the paper covered by the object remains white. The paper is then rinsed in a water bath and dried flat. Simple straightforward process, except of course the weather, the day of the workshop it was raining in the Bay Area.
Under Josie’s kind and attentive guidance, we began a cyanotype first: experimenting under rain conditions. We began by placing delicate fronds and branches on paper. To protect the paper and seaweed from the rain they were placed under glass before being placed on a flat outside surface. It took between 20-40 mins for the print to develop, but it worked! Producing the prints in the rain resulted in some varying hues of blue, abstract shapes, and some beautiful pieces of art from the combination of sun and rain. The contrast of the white and blue reveal the playful and unique shapes algae and marine plants create.
To learn more about the history, science, and art tied up in seaweed explore Josie Iselin’s new book The Curious World of Seaweed, released in August 2019.
My time as a student at Moss Landing have been some of the most enjoyable years of my life. I have had the opportunity to learn from some wonderful professors, improve on my skills as a scientist, and do field work in places like Baja California and aboard the R/V Atlantis. While I appreciate the many academic experiences being an MLML student has given me, I am most grateful for the chance to meet you all. The MLML community is one of the most positive places I have been. Seriously, if I have talked to you before, I would really like to give you a hug and thank you for making MLML such a positive and supportive place. I have too many stories to mention here.
However, despite all of the good Moss has given me, there have been low moments too. None more so then the last few months.
Come out and join us for an interactive peek at MLML research during this two-day event! Taking place all weekend, this special occasion is a family favorite with educational attractions and activities geared for all ages, yummy food, and best of all - it's FREE!
For more info and a schedule of events, check out our Open House website or continue reading below!
This post is a companion to the recent post about the Global Kelp Systems course. While both Chile and Monterey are dominated by kelp, they are not identical. Part of the fun of the class was the ability to compare and contrast the local environments.
One of the unique advantages of Moss Landing Marine Labs is the opportunity to participate in international science education. This winter a small group of MLML students traveled to Central Chile to participate in an international class focused on kelp ecology. In Chile, kelp --mainly the genus Lessonia-- doesn’t stop at the subtidal but instead comes all the way into the intertidal. What’s even more surprising is the first glance of the Las Cruces’ Chilean coast looks like it could be the rocky shores of Monterey or Pacific Grove. But, looking closer it is quite a different world.
This week's post comes from grad student Bri Madrigal. Bri recently started her own K-12 outreach program called Listen Up! to get kids interested in science and teach about the importance of acoustics in the marine environment.
I love working with children. They are enthusiastic and inquisitive, and I am always so amazed by how much they can absorb and learn. From a young age, I knew I wanted to become a marine biologist and inspire children to be interested in science by exposing them to new subjects and teaching them about the ocean. As marine scientists, we realize the importance of ocean conservation and we want people to make changes in their daily habits in order to maintain healthy oceans and healthy ecosystems.
But first, we need to make people care about the ocean. How do you do that? One way is by connecting people to the amazing animals that live in the ocean. I believe that marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and other charismatic megafauna, are an avenue to tap into peoples' hearts and inspire them to care about our oceans. When these values are established as children, I believe this will make a more profound impact on how they perceive environmental issues, influence their daily habits and influence their vote as adults to make an impact on ocean conservation.
I went hiking yesterday, and one of my friends made mention of how in Santa Cruz we are in a little bubble. Our access to redwoods and the ocean all in one hike is a natural escape and we are particularly fortunate to live and work where we do. Besides the stress-reducing getaway aspect, I think we are also lucky for the marine science community we are a part of, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) is certainly included within this. However, there is a world outside of this redwood-duff, kelp-canopy bubble, where we all can do more to support the greater marine science community, especially those who wish to start families and maintain their careers.
Last week at MLML, SWMS hosted one of our female tenure-track faculty members, Dr. Gitte McDonald, and her colleague Dr. Stella Hein, a visiting faculty/staff at UC Santa Cruz, for a lunch discussion centered around a recent paper published in Marine Mammal Science titled: “Equity and career-life balance in marine mammal science?” . I found this conversation on career-life balance appreciated and I’d like to share my thoughts and some takeaways from the afternoon.
To wrap up our coverage of the Habitat Mapping class projects, this week's post walks us through an investigation of the ways in which wildfires can impact both the physical condition of streams as well as the associated invertebrate community. Small invertebrates which live in the riverbed are closely linked to the sand itself. The size, shape, and composition of the sand --and therefore any changes to those conditions-- can directly affect the collection of animals found in a given stream.
Their class project explored changes in streambed characteristics resulting from one wildfire of interest: the 2016 Soberanes Wildfire. Burning throughout Monterey County, it was the most costly wildfire in U.S. history at the time, and it destroyed dozens of homes. Garrapata Creek, Soberanes Creek, Rocky Creek, and Big Sur Creek flow through the affected area, making them important streams for post-fire analysis.