MLML Climate Collective (MCC): Addressing the climate crisis with collective action

by Taylor Azizeh and Basil Darby, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab and MLML Physical Oceanography Lab

These days, “climate change” seems like a buzzword in many settings. However, the rapid and devastating effects of an anthropogenically-shifting climate are at the forefront of scientists’ minds at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML). Underneath the brilliant science happening in our small community and amidst administrative bureaucracy, there is a stormy, ominous cloud hanging over our heads, echoing the same collective thought: What are we going to do about climate change?

As we write this in early September 2022, California is experiencing one of the most extreme heat waves ever recorded in the western United States at this time of year. On the other side of the world, after months of endless monsoons which have resulted in ten times the average rainfall, over one-third of Pakistan is underwater, with massive floods displacing millions of people. Pakistan contributes only 0.6% of global CO2 but is facing devastating repercussions. This is becoming an all-too-familiar story for most of the global south

It’s undeniable that excess carbon dioxide produced by humans through industry, energy production, transportation, and more is affecting the entire planet in innumerable ways, including via heat waves. To quote the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” [1]

The world’s oceans, which cover 70% of the Earth, have acted as a massive carbon sink by absorbing 90% of the excess heat produced by increased carbon emissions [1]. Studying the ocean’s role in global systems is an overarching objective of researchers at MLML. We are a consortium institution that was founded in a spirit of collaboration across CSU campuses and disciplines, with the goal of “advancing marine science, serving society, and transforming public discourse and policy towards sustainable human interaction with the world.”

As such, researchers here cover an incredibly wide range of topics. For the most part, we are acutely interested in how climate change affects marine systems, ranging from mammals to invertebrates to large-scale oceanographic processes (for examples of this, see Table 1).

Table 1. Examples in the literature of how climate change can affect the eight main faculty research groups at MLML.
Lab Sources
Biological Oceanography Gradinger (1996), Thompson et al. (2015)
Chemical Oceanography Altieri & Gedan (2014), Hoegh-Guldberg et al.(2007)
Geological Oceanography Hunt et al. (2013), Trenhaile et al. (2010)
Ichthyology Lab Genner et al. (2010), Pörtner et al. (2007)
Invertebrate Ecology Byrne et al. (2020), Reddin et al. (2020)
Phycology Lab Assis et al. (2018), Krumhansel et al. (2013)
Physical Oceanography Bakun et al. (1990), van Leeuwen et al. (2022), 
Vertebrate Ecology Kovacs & Lydersen (2008), Forcada & Trathan (2009)
It’s happening now… and it’s serious

The negative effects of anthropogenic climate change are innumerable and could range from food shortages and an increased risk of disease to all-out wars over water rights and access (see the IPCC report [1] for a more complete list). It has also been shown that human impacts are causing what is known as the sixth mass extinction [3]. It’s impossible to overstate the implications resulting from this, especially if we continue along the same trajectory of emissions (Figure 1).

The U.S. economy is projected to lose between about 1% to 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually by 2100 through shifts in mortality, labor, production, agriculture, crime, and coastal storms under a high emissions scenario. The question, therefore, is not “How can we afford to implement solutions?”, but rather: How can we afford not to?

“Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating, and adapting to, climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development.” [2]

Figure 1. Projections of temperature into the future given different emission scenarios. Source: IPCC (2021), Credit: Jenessa Duncombe

One of the first steps in addressing a problem is identifying the root cause. The individual is not to blame. There have been many examples of how companies like Exxon Mobil influence policy by lobbying politicians, producing disinformation campaigns, and actively preventing solutions. And considering US taxpayers are subsidizing the fossil fuel industry with about $20.5 billion per year, one could argue that these companies have been extremely successful. 

A collaborative and collective effort of communities is a powerful tool that we have at our disposal. We must utilize it if we have any chance at addressing these threats to human civilization and our global ecosystem. As daunting as it is to stand up to large corporations, the power really is with the people. Once enough people recognize this, we can start to take steps to enact change.

Moss Landing Marine Labs Climate Collective (MCC)

The brunt of climate impacts will be felt locally at first – which is the most important place we can enact change. Many local governments already have action plans which include reductions in CO2 targets and other measures. Many scientists aim to produce objective, accessible science and aren’t always ready to get involved by making political statements. However, the Moss Landing Marine Labs Climate Collective (MCC) believes that it is no longer just a political issue. We believe that politics, social justice, and science are intimately intertwined (Figure 2). Therefore, we seek to facilitate discussions, increase collaborative learning and research, and push for climate solutions and action plans.

Figure 2. An illustration (IPCC 2022) of the interconnection of climate science, environmental impacts, and subsequent human actions

Combating the climate crisis while doing thesis work, completing coursework, and working potentially 1-3 jobs may seem like an overwhelming or impossible task. Even if you are not a graduate student, working in the job force while slowly seeing the climate crisis unfold can make you feel powerless. But working towards climate action is possible and it must be done. The U.S. is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and this being a global issue means that we are all under an obligation to give what time and energy we can to this.

If we share the burden together, the weight on our shoulders will feel so much lighter. 

What does it mean to you to be part of the Moss Landing Marine Labs community when faced with such an existential threat to human civilization?

It means coming together to face these problems head-on. Everything from advocating divestment from fossil fuels to making local initiatives more accessible to the Moss Landing community. Solutions to the climate crisis need to also address complex issues like race, class, gender, and sexuality.

MCC Mission Statement:

“We are a collective of students from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory CSU consortium that strives to advocate for the implementation of sustainable university and community-wide practices. We believe that politics, social justice, and science are intimately intertwined, and therefore we created the MLML Climate Collective (MCC) which aims to support action towards combating causes of anthropogenically-driven climate change through tangible measures, such as:

  • Obtaining comprehensive carbon neutrality plans (without carbon offsets) with a detailed timeline from home campuses
  • Creating a dialogue about university divestment in fossil fuels
  • Identifying and implementing sustainable campus living measures, including power generation and conservation, responsible recycling (e.g. food, clothes, electronics), and campus water management
  • Recognition of intersectionality (i.e. class, gender, race, sexuality, etc.) in climate response
  • Providing a safe space and inclusive environment to openly discuss climate issues and ways to support the MLML community”

These next couple of decades will be a challenge for everyone, so we kindly invite you to join us in the MLML Climate Collective. If you are interested in being involved please contact us.



[1] IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In press.

[2] IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926

[3] Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul R Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo. “Biological Annihilation via the Ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction Signaled by Vertebrate Population Losses and Declines.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - PNAS 114.30 (2017): E6089–E6096.

Gradinger, R. (1995). Climate Change and Biological Oceanography of the Arctic Ocean. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 352(1699), 277–286. doi:10.1098/rsta.1995.0070 

Thompson, Peter A. et al. “Climate Variability Drives Plankton Community Composition Changes: The 2010–2011 El Niño to La Niña Transition Around Australia.” Journal of Plankton Research 37.5 (2015): 966–984.

Altieri, AH, and KB Gedan. “Climate Change and Dead Zones.” Global Change Biology 21.4 (2015): 1395–1406.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O et al. “Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 318.5857 (2007): 1737–1742. 

Hunt, James E. et al. “Frequency and Timing of Landslide-Triggered Turbidity Currents Within the Agadir Basin, Offshore NW Africa: Are There Associations with Climate Change, Sea Level Change and Slope Sedimentation Rates?” Marine Geology 346 (2013): 274–291.

Trenhaile, Alan S. “Modeling Cohesive Clay Coast Evolution and Response to Climate Change.” Marine Geology 277.1 (2010): 11–20.

Genner, Martin J. et al. “Body Size-Dependent Responses of a Marine Fish Assemblage to Climate Change and Fishing over a Century-Long Scale.” Global Change Biology 16.2 (2010): 517–527.

Pörtner, Hans O, and Rainer Knust. “Climate Change Affects Marine Fishes Through the Oxygen Limitation of Thermal Tolerance.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 315.5808 (2007): 95–97.

Byrne, Maria et al. “Limitations of Cross— and Multigenerational Plasticity for Marine Invertebrates Faced with Global Climate Change.” Global Change Biology 26.1 (2020): 80–102.

Reddin, Carl J., Ádám T. Kocsis, and Wolfgang Kiessling. “Marine Invertebrate Migrations Trace Climate Change over 450 Million Years.” Global Ecology and Biogeography 29.7 (2020): 1280–1282.

Assis, Jorge, Miguel B. Araújo, and Ester A. Serrão. “Projected Climate Changes Threaten Ancient Refugia of Kelp Forests in the North Atlantic.” Global Change Biology 24.1 (2018): e55–e66.

Krumhansl, Kira A, Jean-Sébastien Lauzon-Guay, and Robert E Scheibling. “Modeling Effects of Climate Change and Phase Shifts on Detrital Production of a Kelp Bed.” Ecology (Durham) 95.3 (2014): 763–774. Web.

Bakun, A. “Global Climate Change and Intensification of Coastal Ocean Upwelling.” Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 247.4939 (1990): 198–201.

van Leeuwen, SM et al. “The Mediterranean Rhodes Gyre: Modelled Impacts of Climate Change, Acidification and Fishing.” Marine Ecology Progress Series (Halstenbek) 690 (2022): 31–50. Web.

Kovacs, Kit M, and Christian Lydersen. “Climate Change Impacts on Seals and Whales in the North Atlantic Arctic and Adjacent Shelf Seas.” Science Progress (1916) 91.2 (2008): 117–150. Web.

Forcada, Jaume, and Trathan, PN. “Penguin Responses to Climate Change in the Southern Ocean.” Global Change Biology 15.7 (2009): 1618–1630. Web.

Crippa, M., Guizzardi, D., Solazzo, E., Muntean, M., Schaaf, E., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Banja, M., Olivier, J.G.J., Grassi, G., Rossi, S., Vignati, E.,GHG emissions of all world countries - 2021 Report, EUR 30831 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2021, ISBN 978-92-76-41547-3, doi:10.2760/173513, JRC126363

Fourteen students defend thesis research in 2021!

By Emily Montgomery, MLML Phycology Lab

2021 was a complex year to be a graduate student, with global societal issues demanding our attention and energy alongside our usual scientific workload. The emergence of the COVID-19 vaccines brought with it the hope of being able to safely socialize in-person with our friends and loved ones again. The resilient Moss community was able to return to some in-person activities in the Fall of 2021, including hosting the first lab Halloween party since 2019!

During this rollercoaster of a year, 14 students successfully defended their MLML theses virtually via Zoom. Please join me in congratulating the following students:

  • Ann Bishop, Phycology Lab
  • Taylor Eddy, Invertebrate Zoology Lab
  • Bonnie Brown, Fisheries and Conservation Biology Lab
  • Matthew Jew, Ichthyology Lab
  • Justin Cordova, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Gregory Bongey, Geological Oceanography Lab
  • Jennifer Tackaberry, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
  • Sophie Bernstein, Ichthyology Lab
  • Rachel Brooks, Ichthyology Lab
  • Holly Doerr, Ichthyology Lab
  • Melissa Naugle, Invertebrate Ecology Lab
  • Kristen Saksa, Ichthyology Lab
  • Jacquie Chisholm, Physical Oceanography Lab
  • Amanda Camarato, Physical Oceanography Lab

Read below for pictures of the graduates, and explore the links to their thesis announcement posts with more info about their projects and the YouTube recordings of their defenses.

Check out posts commemorating past defenders written by MLML alumna June Shrestha: 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Read More

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

How 4Ocean Made Recycling Economically Sustainable

By Kali Prescott, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

An estimated 5.25 trillion tons of plastic is currently adrift in the ocean having extensive deleterious effects on wildlife (Erikson et al., 2014). Reduce, reuse, recycle has been the battle cry of environmentalists and ocean clean up organizations since the public first realized the severity of marine plastic pollution. For decades plastic producing companies have touted recycling as the solution to plastic pollution in the ocean while simultaneously shirking responsibility—claiming that recycling “is not economically viable”. Continuing to produce virgin plastic unfortunately remains cheaper than producing products from recycled materials even with technological developments.

Read More

What is a marine heat wave?

By Sierra FullmerMLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Do you know what a marine heat wave is? Imagine being outside in the peak heat of summer, walking in what feels like a sea of heat. Heat waves, during which temperatures are much hotter than normal, occur in the oceans as well as on land. An unusual warming of the ocean can have many cascading effects, not just for the organisms living in the water, but also those on land which rely upon the ocean’s resources. This was demonstrated in 2014, when the Alaskan ‘warm blob’ became a trending phrase, even outside of the scientific community. This unusual hot spot in the North Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Alaska reached a peak in 2016, ranking in the top five heat anomalies ever recorded. During this time, the top 100-300 meters of the ocean warmed up to two degrees Celsius, or three point six degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough water to reach from one to three American football fields deep! It may not seem like that much of a difference but imagine how much energy is required just to heat a small pot of water. Now scale that up to the size of the Gulf of Alaska, and three football fields deep.

Read More

Living among emperor penguins: 2019 field expedition to Antarctica

by Parker Forman, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Transcript of radio chatter from the penguin scientists at Camp Crozier 13:15 hrs on November 15th 2019:

Markus: Gitte and Parker ....... This is Markus ....... Do you copy?

Gitte: This is Gitte and Parker ........ We copy .......... Over

Markus: Penguin 5 has returned to the colony! ....... David and I have eyes on ....... Penguin 5 ......... Over

Gitte: Markus ........ We will meet you at the colony ........ Clear

Read More

Saving sea turtles from cold stunning

By Daphne Shen, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Every October, animal rehabilitation facilities around the northeast gear up for another sea turtle cold stun season. Cold stunning for sea turtles is similar to hypothermia for people, and typically occurs in November and December. As the ocean temperature drops below about 10°C (50°F), a sea turtle’s body shuts down. Since they are cold-blooded, their body temperatures are close to that of the surrounding water. Once they get too cold, sea turtles become lethargic and are no longer able to swim or eat, and end up at the mercy of the currents.

These turtles, usually juveniles, wash up on beaches around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Long Island, New York. They can be found traveling up the East Coast with the Gulf Stream and spending their summers feeding in the waters off the coast of New England. As the water cools down, sea turtles should instinctively migrate back south towards Florida and the Caribbean. The problem is that many animals get caught in bays and can’t figure out how to navigate back to the open ocean, eventually succumbing to cold stunning when the water rapidly cools.

Read More

CSI: Marine Mammal 🐋 – A day in the life of an MLML stranding responder

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

The hotline rang at 2pm and I quickly ran across the lab to grab the phone, excited to find out what new adventure awaited me. “Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Stranding Network, this is Lauren,” I answered.  The caller had been out for a walk on Del Monte Beach in Monterey, California and had stumbled upon a deceased California sea lion. He relayed to me his location and a brief description of the animal. I thanked him for reporting the sea lion to our hotline, packed up my equipment and headed out the door, excited for another glamorous (or maybe not) day of marine mammal field work!

Read More