MLML 50th Celebration – Part II

By Jim Harvey (2 September 2016)

We are starting to get some of the pictures from the MLML 50th Anniversary celebration, so for the next few blogs I am just going to post pictures from the weekend. All the following photos were taken by David Schmitz. Please comment as needed. I will try and identify people but I will need help.



On Friday afternoon (5 August 2016) we had a VIP Reception, a few photos from that event.

L to R: Congressman Sam Farr, President of SJSU Mary Papazian, Assemblyman Mark Stone


L to R: Andy Feinstein (SJSU Provost), Tom Connolly (MLML faculty), Colleen Durkin (MLML Research Faculty), MJ Donohue (SJSU University Advancement). Seated L to R: Mrs. Calcagno, Lou Calcagno (former Monterey Supervisor), Jim Harvey. Justoff the photo to right Dave Garrison (NSF).


L to R: Paul Koch (Dean at UCSC), Ivano Aiello (MLML faculty), Michael Lee (CSU East Bay Faculty), Polly Legendre (Seafood expert, and Ned Lyke (former Faculty at CSU Hayward).


John Laird (CA Secretary of Natural Resources)


Then on Saturday morning, the MLML clan began to assemble. For most the day people reminisced, caught up, and toured the lab.

The entry way started to fill up by 1100.


Roger Ogren greets Brooke Antrim, with Monica Ferris on the right.


Marty Stephensen


And they posed for pictures

L to R: Tom Keickhefer, Kirsten Carlson, Ronnie Estelle, Sal Cerchio, Keiko Sekiguchi, and Tom Norris in background.


L to R: Mickey Singer, Carol Greene , Keiko Sekiguchi,  Jo Guerrero, John Hunt. I need help identifying everyone else


All of the labs were photographed although some people missed their allotted time and did not make the lab photo. I have added many lab shots here, but did not list all the people. So if someone wants to make a go of listing all the people in your lab’s photo, I will amend this blog.

Physical Oceanography. Top L to R: Drew Burrier, Stephanie Flora, Rod McGinis, Steve Lasley, Susan Chinburg, Patrick Daniel. Bottom L to R: Ryan Manzer, Tom Connolly, Jason Adelaars, Kathleen Donahue.


Benthic or Invertebrate Lab


mlml-50th-anniversary-dschmitz-080616-327_mixed group
Trailer Trash Years. Maybe this is the group of students that had already started drinking beer.


Invertebrate Lab ?


Phycology Lab


mlml-50th-anniversary-dschmitz-080616-290_Bird and Mammal
Birds and Mammals (and turtles) Lab


Ichthyology Lab


mlml-50th-anniversary-dschmitz-080616-335_Oliver with Benthic
John Oliver in front of the Benthic Lab


More to come in future blogs, including the Geological, Chemical , and Biological Oceanography labs and pictures of folks from the BBQ and dance. Please send us any pictures you want to share with us.

We survived and enjoyed: The MLML 50th celebration

By Jim Harvey (12 August 2016)

It was an awesome weekend (6 and 7 August 2016), as the MLML alumni, and current and past staff, faculty, and students assembled, talked, laughed, and celebrated. We had 450 people here on Saturday, and given that most of the people attending were probably alumni, that means about 50% of our 640 graduates were here. That’s an amazing turnout. The students made $2,050 via various events that will go to student scholarships. So you have helped the student cause in a big way.

I will be getting a large number of photos from the professional photographer next week, so this week is just a tease of random shots before next week’s photo blog.  I hope you enjoy.


We took pictures of each lab. Here is Ichthyology.

Danny's Photo of IchLabbers DSC09782b
Here is the largest lab picture, the Ichthyology Lab. Too many faces to identify, but you know who you are. Photo by Lori Heilprin.


We had fun under the tent.

Diana Watters, Aaron King, Andrew and Lois DeVogelaere
Diana Watters, Aaron King, Lucy Littlejohn, Teresa Farrar, Andrew and Lois DeVogelaere.


We had grads from the 1960s and early 70s who attended MLML just after the lab began.

Bud Laurent Chuck Versaggi,
Ann and Bill Davis, Victor Anderlini, Rich Ajeska, Chuck Versaggi, and Bud Laurent. Photo by Serafina Versaggi.


And they created their own t-shirts for the occasion.

First MLML volleyball team
First MLML volleyball team: Bud Laurent (modelling the shirt), Eric Dittmer, Dave Lewis, Hal Salwasser, Rich Ajesko, and Bill Davis (on top). I like the shirts. Photo by Serafina Versaggi.


The Quilt Quild produced three quilts for a raffle to generate funds for the Signe Lundstrom Memorial Scholarship Fund that supports MLML students. They raised $2,000.

MLML t-shirt quilt
One of the two MLML t-shirt quilts made by the MLML Quilt Guild.


quilt guild_McMasters adn Lois DeVogelaera
Lynn McMasters and Lois DeVogelaere sell raffle tickets for the three quilts,, the R/V Point Sur quilt is in the background. I think that is Sal Cerchio on the right coughing up some dough.


We made music under the tent.

Slough Stompers
The legendary Slough Stompers: Tom Harvey, Bruce Stewart, and Mark Silberstein, not pictured: Chris Jong, Jim Oakden, Ed Melvin, and John Hunt (actually you can just see the top of John’s blue hat as he plays the bass).


And we gathered in the field next to the tent.

MLML 50th Group Photo Outside 080616
Greg Cailliet surrounded by MLMLers: Front row, L to R: Monica Farris, Lynn Krasnow, Greg Cailliet, Roger Helm, Steve Locy. Back row, L to R: Michele Karpov,  unknown, Susan Chinburg, Sara Tanner, Steve Lasley, Jim Oakden, Chris Jong, Bruce Stewart,   , Rod McInnis, Mary Yoklavich, Roger Odgren, and Bob Cowen..


It was great seeing everyone, and we missed all of you that could not be here. The whole weekend was a blast. Next week’s blog will be lots more pictures. Way to go MLML!




MLML: 50 Glorious, Weird, Fun, Productive, and Successful Years

By Jim Harvey (5 August 2016)

In the 50 years of its existence MLML has accomplished a great deal. Kenneth Coale calls it the “Little Marine Lab that Could”. John Martin said that its success was due to the MLML “spirit”. It certainly has a lot to do with people working together to achieve individual and institutional goals. It is truly remarkable that ethos is a part of all the people that work here. It does not matter if you are cleaning floors, working on facilities, maintaining and running boats, getting a M.S. degree,  shelving books, or mentoring students, everyone seems to like their job and know how important each person is to the greater good.

This is the last blog before the Anniversary weekend, but I hope we can continue to produce blogs into the future. There are still many stories to tell of the past, and innumerable ones starting right now. So anyone that has a blog idea please let me know, we want to continue this saga. But this week’s blog is sort of a summary, or a celebration of the 50 years of MLML and its SPIRIT.

Because the main purpose of MLML is to educate students and specifically to provide a topnotch Masters program in Marine Science, the people that have created this successful model have been the Faculty. Below is the list of the faculty (and some random pictures) and when they were here. It is the best I have right now, so if there are inaccuracies please let me know.

Directors of MLML

  • 1965 – 1971         John Harville
  • 1971 – 1972         Robert Arnal
  • 1972 – 1976         Robert Hurley
  • 1976 – 1993         John Martin
  • 1993 – 1994         Jim Nybakken
  • 1994 – 1998         Gary Greene
  • 1998 – 1998         Jim Nybakken
  • 1998 – 2011         Kenneth Coale
  • 2011 – now            Jim Harvey
Library dinner_2001_Lynne and
Gary Greene and wife Lynn


Library dinner_2001_Jim,Gary,S
Jim Harvey, Barry Giles, Simona Bartl, Kenneth Coale, and Joan Parker.


Faculty of MLML

Fac Retreat 04 (1)_72res
Faculty in 1997: L to R: Kenneth Coale, Jon Geller, Mike Graham, Joan Parker, Nick Welschmeyer, Erika McPhee-Shaw, Jim Harvey, Greg Cailliet, Gary Greene



  • 1973 – 1976         Tom Thompson
  • 1976 – 2002         Mike Foster
  • 2002 – now           Mike Graham
Ann Hurley


Mike Foster - MAY 2004
Mike Foster


Invertebrate Biology

  • 1966 – 1998         Jim Nybakken
  • 1976 – 1980         Ann Hurley
  • 1999 – now           Jon Geller
Jon Geller(1)
Jon Geller



  • 1971 – 2011         Greg Cailliet
  • 2011 – now             Scott Hamilton
Greg and Di
Greg Cailliet and wife Di


Mammals and Birds

  • 1966 – 1979         G. Victor Morejohn
  • 1981 – 1989         Bernd Wursig
  • 1989 – 2011         Jim Harvey
  • 2015 – now           Gitte McDonald
Bernd Wursig


Physical Oceanography

  • 1969 – 2000         Bill Broenkow
  • 2000 – 2014         Erika McPhee-Shaw
  • 2015 – now           Tom Connolly
William Broenkowinlab
Bill Broenkow


Erika McPhee-Shaw


Geological Oceanography

  • 1966 – 1978         Robert Arnal
  • 1978 – 1982         Hank Mullins
  • 1983 – 1992         Mike Ledbetter
  • 1994 – 2004         Gary Greene
  • 2006 – now            Ivano Aiello
Gary Greene


Chemical Oceanography

  • 1988 – 1998         Ken Johnson
  • 1998 – now          Kenneth Coale
Ken Johnson


Biological Oceanography

  • 1971 – 1972         Mary Silver
  • 1972 – 1976         John Martin
  • 1979 – 1986         George Knauer
  • 1989 – now            Nick Welschmeyer
Nic Welshmeyer
Nick Welschmeyer



  • 19     – 1978          Doris Baron
  • 1978 – 1994        Sheila Baldridge
  • 1995 – 2015        Joan Parker
  • 2016 – now          Katie Lage
Sheila Baldridge


Diving Safety Officer

  • 1973 – 1976         Tom Thompson
  • 1976 – 1980         Ann Hurley
  • 1976 – 1985         Mike Foster
  • 1985 – 2002        John Heine
  • 2002 – now           Diana Steller
John Heine


Diana Steller


We are, of course, most proud of the students that come out of this institution. They have gone on to become professors, Federal and State resource managers, teachers, researchers, and conservationists. I am sure that most have been successful in some small or large part because of their MLML education. The student body at MLML is mostly graduate students, especially recently, but it is constantly changing. The graph below shows the number of graduate and undergraduate students registered at MLML for the past 50 years.

MLML enrollment
Number of graduate students (red) and undergraduates (blue) students registered at MLML for Fall and Spring semesters since the beginning of courses at MLML in 1966. No, there was not a catastrophe in 1974, we just can’t find the data.


The MLML student body has changed, from a male dominated group to mostly females. As you can see from the figure below, when MLML started in the mid-1960s it was nearly 80% males in the program, and now females represent nearly 80% of our graduate students.

sex ratio graph
Percentage of female (reddish) and male (bluish) incoming students to MLML from 1970 to 2016.


During its existence MLML also has built a worldwide reputation in science, public service, and outreach. We estimate that MLML has generated in excess of $400 million in research funding. Much of this funding is the result of a burgeoning research community that assists with some of the educational goals (these are the Research Faculty) or are purely soft-money researchers that are an integral part of the MLML success (there are the Research Affiliates). These Research Faculty and Affiliates train and hire MLML students, add diversity to the research endeavors, and greatly expand our research capacity.  Below is a graph of the recent history of MLML research funding.

MLML Proposal Activity 1998 -2015
Amount of research dollars awarded (red) and proposed (blue) from 1998 to 2015 by the total MLML research efforts. .


MLML has grown, evolved,  and thrived because everyone that comes here works hard, is dedicated, works together, and has fun. It has been a wonderful ride.

Along those lines we also want to get copies of photos. Many of you took pictures when you were at MLML or have spectacular ocean-themed shots. We would like to use them for a variety of purposes if you are willing so send us your photos, we can scan pictures or 35mm slides, then we will return them. Or bring them to the 50th celebration.











Look Micro, Think Macro: The Legacy of 40+ Years of Electron Microscopy at MLML

By Ivano Aiello (28 July 2016)

Popular science magazines and documentaries depict marine scientists as sea going adventurers equipped with a pair of binoculars or a fish net, or explorers who dive in the abyss using SCUBA or with submersibles to observe the ‘big’ things that populate the oceans.

radiolarian_S. Tanner
The invasion of the saucer man! No, this is not a picture of an alien creature but a close up (scale bar to the bottom right is 1mm) of internal structure, spines and exoskeleton of a radiolarian, a single-celled, planktonic organism that populates the waters of the Monterey Bay and builds its skeleton using silicon. Yes the same stuff that makes up the bulk of microchips. The picture was taken by Sara Tanner using MLML’s Hitachi S-3400N-II SEM.


Although it is true that there are some marine biologists that track the movements of humpback whales or great white sharks, and oceanographers that explore submarine canyons and other geological features which often surpass in size and majesty similar land features, not all marine biologists and oceanographers study the big things: it is quite the opposite.

coccosphere_S. Tanner
At the bottom of the food chain: this SEM photograph by Sara Tanner shows a well preserved coccosphere which is an agglomerate of tiny ‘shields’ made of calcium carbonate that single-celled marine algae called coccolithophorids.


The development of modern marine science in the last century has demonstrated that it is only by fully understanding the small-scale processes and features that we improve our knowledge of the vastness and complexity of the ocean’s habitats. In a sense, the small (the ‘micro’) is the new frontier to understand the big (the ‘macro’).

The numbers speak for themselves. According to recent estimates, about ½ of the global biomass (the weight of all living things) could be made of single celled microbes most of which live in or underneath the oceans. Big living things are at the top of very complex food webs while foundations are made of often very small organisms: for instance a whale can consume as much as 40 million krill per day. Big geologic features like mid-ocean ridges (the largest mountain chains on earth) are made of minerals invisible to the naked eye. And much of the sediments that fill up the ocean basins are made of the hard remains of tiny planktonic organisms that populated the oceans thousands to millions of years ago.

Pseudo-nitzscia_S. Tanner
Pennate diatoms genus Pseudo-nitzschia photographed by Sara Tanner Many species produce domoic acid, a neurotoxin which is responsible for Amnesiac Shellfish Poisoning.


To study the small world of the oceans, classic tools of marine science are not enough to observe and collect valid scientific data. The observation of the microscopic features of marine organisms such as corals, foraminifera, diatoms or sponges or the interior structures of organic cells (nucleus, mitochondria…etc.) requires very high magnifications, 10,000 and larger, more powerful than the optical microscopes, limited by the physics of light can yield.

copepod_S. Tanner
A primary consumer: Sara Tanner took this SEM picture of a copepod, a so called primary consumer, an intermediate link in the food chain that ends up with ternary and quaternary consumers like sharks.


The invention of the first electron microscope by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska and the production of the earliest scanning-transmission electron microscope (SEM) by Manfred Von Ardenne in Berlin in the 1930s allowed scientists to finally observe the microscopic world to magnifications before unthinkable. The introduction of the first commercial scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) in 1965 opened up a new world of analysis for materials scientists.

sand particle_I. Aiello
No is not a meteorite! In paleoceanography a speck of sand can tell a lot. This one tells us a history of ancient glaciers and icebergs that occurred in the Bering Sea more than a million of years ago. Note the clear cut on the right side of the grain indicating mechanical breaking typical of glacial environments. Photo Ivano Aiello.


Electron microscopes are scientific instruments that use a beam of energy electrons that allow us to ‘see’ objects on a very fine scale. The electrons are accelerated by a high voltage electron gun in a cathode ray tube (yes like the one used in the old school televisions) and condensed in a beam that scans and interacts with the specimen: the interactions produces new (secondary) electrons or backscattered (primary) electrons that are captured by a detector and turned into an electrical signal. A computer analyzes the signal and based on the location of the beam and intensity of the signal converts it into an image.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories has been at the forefront of scanning electron microscopy to study of the ultrasmall world in marine science since the very beginning of this technology. In the early 1970s, the lab acquired a Topcon SEM. It was the work of MLML’s first faculty member Dr. James Nybakken used the SEM to explore the world of marine invertebrates (James Nybakken: the first faculty member of MLML; Signe Amanda Lundstrum a lab technician for Dr. Nybakken in the early 1970s served as the first SEM technician until 1989 the year when the Loma Prieta 1989 earthquake destroyed the old building.

Saving Topcon SEM after quake_L. McMasters
It was the year 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake that destroyed the old lab and the old Topcon SEM was carefully removed to be transferred to the trailers in Salinas.


After the earthquake the SEM was setup in the Salinas trailers with the help of Signe. Guillermo Moreno then replaced her for a few years and finally Sara Tanner has been the main SEM technician until 2015. While MLML was in Salinas, Sara operated an ISI SX30 SEM from 1994 until the lab moved to its present location at Moss Landing, when we purchased a Hitachi S520 in 2000.

Sara Tanner’s specialty has been to distinguish and define fine structures necessary for phytoplankton identification, and she has numerous collaborations including important studies on iron fertilization with Kenneth Coale.

New Hitachi S-3400N-II SEM at MLML
The new Hitachi S-3400N-II low-vacuum SEM at MLML. The EDX probe can be seen in the back of the electron gun.

In 2009, through an institutional grant supported by the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program, MLML acquired a Hitachi S-3400N-II, a modern low-vacuum SEM, equipped with an X-ray spectrometer EDX. These state of the art instruments and the large sample holder (10cm) of the new SEM have significantly increased the ability of faculty, research and scientists from nearby institutions to conduct microanalysis of biological material, sediments, rocks, hard skeletal parts, and other materials.

The low-vacuum capability of the new SEM together with the X-ray spectrometer combine the power of back-scattered electron imaging with the ability to display the distribution and quantification of elements therefore the stoichiometry of the targeted material. This technique, based on the characteristic X-ray radiation produced by a substance bombarded by an accelerated beam of electrons, is fundamental to determine the composition of unknown minerals and other biological and non-biological materials at the nanno-scale.

celestite in coccolith matrix
Backscattered electron microscopy showing very bright (much denser) crystals of celestite (strontium sulfate) embedded in a matrix of mostly dissolved coccoliths of Pliocene and Pleistocene age. This specimen comes from the fluid mud floating in the Urania Basin, one of the first deep water hypersaline anoxic basins ever discovered. Photo Ivano Aiello.


Since 2009, there have been many examples of multidisciplinary studies done by faculty and students in many labs within and outside MLML.

Undoubtedly this relatively new instrument with its incredible imagining and compositional capabilities will give further opportunities to investigate the micro-world of marine sciences and will inspire future generation of MLML’s students.

Special thanks to Sara Tanner and Lynn McMasters for helping with pictures and stories for this blog!

Deepsea mud_I. Aiello
Deep marine sediments in the Bering Sea. Some people call it mud, but there is much more to it. In places of high primary productivity like the Bering Sea, the ‘mud’ is made by hard parts of dead marine plankton (mainly diatoms) that settle out from the ocean surface, blanket the seafloor and fill up entire ocean basins. Photo Ivano Aiello.




The K-T Boundary of Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Gary Greene ( 21 July 2016)

Bathymetry in Monterey Bay
Bathymetric image from Google (in blue colors) and MBARI (orange to purple colors) of the Monterey Canyon system that heads at Moss Landing, one of the worlds most studied submarine canyons; blue dot is location of MLML.


The Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary in geologic stratigraphy marks a seminal time in geologic history, a time when dinosaurs and other organisms were extinguished from the surface of the earth and the rise of new genera and species occurred. A similar type of evolution can be said to have occurred at the Moss Landing Marine Labs, a time line marked by the earthquake of 1989.

Earthquakes are not unusual along active plate boundaries such as the one that MLML sits on, but they are always a surprise when they occur. This of course is what makes MLML such an attractive place to study marine geology and has attracted faculty and students to the place in the past 50 years. Situated on the Pacific-North American plate boundary at the continents’ edge and overlying a block of Cretaceous granite known as the Salinian Block, the Labs’ geographic location has been transported from where Santa Barbara is located today to its present position since the mid-Tertiary time, in the past 27 million years.

faults along western CA
The San Andreas fault (SA) lays to the east of Monterey Bay with the western side moving northward and the eastward side moving southward. MLML is located on the Salinian Block of granite (in yellow).


The dynamic edge of the continent is expressed in many faults mapped both onshore and offshore. In the Monterey Bay region the San Andreas is the master plate boundary fault, rupture along which produced the 1989 earthquake, but just offshore of MLML in Monterey Bay are several other active faults, faults of the San Gregorio and Monterey Bay fault zones that control the geomorphology of Monterey Canyon and part of the San Andreas fault system.

Fault systems in Monterey Bay
Multi-beam echo sounder bathymetric image of the seafloor offshore of MLML in Monterey Bay showing locations of faults and fault zones associated with the San Andreas Fault system, a major tectonic plate boundary, and the fault offset geometry of Monterey Canyon.


Monterey submarine canyon, eroded deeply into the granitic rocks of the Salinian Block, sits just offshore of Moss Landing and is the largest such feature along the contiguous U.S. It is the size of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River and its active heads are a stone throw from the beach. Here the canyon heads intercept sand transported along the coastal nearshore areas and sends the sediment down to the abyss. Cold nutrient waters upwell in its heads inviting in marine fauna including whales that feed and frolic in its waters. Fran Shepard, the father of Marine Geology, recognized the geological significance of this canyon in the 1930s and it has been intensively studied ever since, being the most studied canyon in the world. Scientific contributions from students, faculty, and researches at MLML often in cooperation with colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have furthered the understanding of submarine canyon processes.

Monterey Submarine Canyon head at MLML
The Monterey Submarine Canyon has a number of heads that abut Moss Landing. The intake for the MLML seawater system sits offshore of MBARI (to the northwest of the MLML pump house), on a small plateau between two heads of the canyon. The red star represent the location of the old lab prior to the 1989 earthquake.


From 1966, when I first came to the Labs to study marine geology, to 1989, MLML resided in a converted cannery and the former Beaudette Foundation’s marine laboratory on the Moss Landing Spit, with the ocean waves lapping at its backside. The library, hosting wood paneling, a fire place, and windows to the sea was a warm, ideal, and inviting snug place in which to learn, and was lovingly overseen by one of the most gracious and welcoming librarians I have ever known, Sheila Baldridge. After the Labs were expanded in the 1980s, the library was moved to an upstairs location in the old cannery building, again overseen by Sheila, where Director John Martin provided the first USGS Pacific Marine Geology field office, which I was able to occupy until the earthquake hit and pulled the Labs apart.

The earthquake, of course, destroyed this quiet, bucolic setting, but it had fostered a hidden strength in its students, faculty and staff, and the community that rose to tackle the rebuilding of the Labs. From the dust, or should I say from the sand boils and liquefaction, was born the: “Friends of Moss Landing Marine Labs,” “Back-to-the Bay” movement, “Save the Water Tower,” and the fight to build a new laboratory, despite “Sally,” Noel Mapstead, and Native American objections to rebuilding the Labs on “The Hill.”

post_quake (4)
MLML after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


After the earthquake, faculty, staff and students moved to a temporary trailer campus in Salinas, far from the sea and where chocolate permeated the air rather than salt spray. It is a wonder that anyone teaching, studying or working at the Salinas facilities can eat chocolate today. Nevertheless, all persevered with each and everyone connected to, or in support of, the Labs (far too many people to list here), in good faith and selflessly, sometimes on conflicting courses, undertook personal and team efforts to return the Labs to Monterey Bay and to build a lasting institution for the coming generations of students.

Salinas Trailers 7
The trailers that comprised MLML for ten years on Blanco Rd, Salinas.


It was my privilege to come to the Salinas Labs in 1994 as Director to assist in guiding through the hurdles in the path to the sea. Cloaked in the likes of a larvacean house, a fitting costume for any of the Labs’ Halloween parties at Elkhorn Yacht Club, I appeared on the scene with the intent to filter out the bull s___ (B.S.) that falls from above and pave a smooth path forward. I was pleased to receive considerable support and with this support we were able to turn back opposition. In spite of finding Native American midden remains, and a multitude of legless lizards on the hill, the Labs received the funding necessary for reconstruction (thanks at least partially to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation). The new MLML facility was completed after nearly a decade of struggle.

The time line (MLML’s K-T boundary) was transcended once the new facilities were in place. The faculty had designed a magnificent building, well laid out for teaching and research. It now stands as the window into the ocean and from its expansive backside overlooks the Pacific and the head parts to Monterey Canyon, where geological processes and active marine mammal and bird activity can be observed first hand. Survival of the fittest occurred and new generations of faculty, students and staff are carrying the Labs across its K-T boundary and into a future with great promise. Being on the MLML scene 50 years ago seems like yesterday, but I am a geologist and 50 years is the blink of the eyelid in geologic time.

cloud point of MLML main building
Cloud Point image of the main building of MLML on the hill based on a recent UAV flight.





The Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC)

By Joseph J. Bizzarro (14 July 2016)

Sharks are sexy, sure – but skates and chimaeras are sexy too. You want proof? Well, good (or too bad, because here it comes). This week’s blog is about MLML’s Pacific Shark Research Center, an extremely productive program that was initiated in 2002 and has graduated 25 students and produced > 250 conference presentations, 180 peer-reviewed publications, and 22 books.

Founders of PSRC
PSRC Staff Members (from L to R) Wade Smith, Joe Bizzarro, Greg Cailliet, and Dave Ebert. It’s unclear why Joe and Dave got to hold the big jaws while Wade and Greg were stuck with the wee bits.


Back at the turn of the century, three prominent shark research programs at Mote Marine Laboratory, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the University of Florida were working to secure federal funds to conduct biological research on elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) with direct applications for fishery management. East coast populations of several shark species were in trouble, mirroring a global trend of severe declines in many species – especially those that are extremely k-selected and/or subject to intense exploitation – and shifts in the composition of skate assemblages. The greatest federal advocates of the program, however, were congressional representatives from California. This was fortuitous for Greg Cailliet, who had a long professional and personal history with the major players from each of the east coast institutions and had carved out his own prominent elasmobranch research program at MLML. Phone calls were made, many long emails were surely exchanged (this is Greg we’re talking about), and behold. In 2001, Congress approved $1.5 million in funding to the National Shark Research Consortium through the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Highly Migratory Species program. With this award the only west coast representative, the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC), was born.

Bert_M. Boyle_J Kemper_K James
Dave Ebert instructs PSRC students (L to R) Mariah Boyle, Jenny Kemper, and Kelsey James in the fine art of catshark identification.


At establishment, the PSRC consisted of three staff members in addition to Greg, who served as the Program Director: David Ebert, who acted as Program Manager, and Project Managers Joe Bizzarro and Wade Smith. For the first few years, Joe and Wade were still toiling on their MS degrees while also working for the PSRC. The influx of funding also helped to support MS research for Greg’s ichthyology students who were interested in elasmobranchs, and the targeting of new students whose interests aligned with the goals of the program. These goals were to conduct basic and applied biological research on chondrichthyan fishes (elasmobranchs plus chimaeras, a poorly known sister group to the sharks, skates, and rays), establish the PSRC as a resource center for scientific information on chondrichthyans to public policy makers, provide scientific expertise to NMFS and state management agencies to help better monitor and manage chondrichthyan fisheries off the U.S. Pacific Coast and in Alaskan waters, and participate in collaborative research on national and international issues involving shark, ray, and chimaera biology. Research was focused on addressing major gaps in our understanding of the life history (age, growth, reproduction, and demography), stock structure, ecology, and fishery biology of commercially and recreationally important chondrichthyan species.

Lewis Barnett and a Big Skate
Former PSRC student, Lewis Barnett, hoists an aptly named big skate (Beringraja binoculata) during fieldwork in the Gulf of Alaska.


“Shark” is a great buzz word – appealing to funding agencies – but in practice, the PSRC could have been dubbed the Pacific Skate Research Center, as the majority of the research has focused on this group of batoids (skates and rays). Skates are exploited in commercial groundfish fisheries throughout the world’s temperate and boreal regions, primarily as bycatch in other fisheries. Despite this incidental take, fishery mortality has altered species composition of skates and caused substantial declines in the populations of many large, nearshore species. Skates were afforded little scientific or management attention in the past because they have not supported lucrative or sustained fisheries. However, this situation is changing because skates are predators and competitors of other commercially important groundfishes, and because dramatic changes in the population sizes of exploited species have occurred. In the water off the U.S. Pacific Coast and in Alaska, management regulations either have curtailed or severely reduced commercial shark landings, but skate bycatch remains a major problem throughout the region, and skate management is therefore a primary concern.

PSRC open house_1
Recent PSRC students at Open House: L to R: Matt Jew, Amber Reichert, Justin Cordova, Vicky Vasquez, and Paul Clerkin.


Skates are represented by nearly 300 species of benthic, egg-laying cartilaginous fishes that constitute one-quarter of all extant chondrichthyans. Although they are extremely speciose, skates have conservative morphology, consisting of a dorso-ventrally flattened body and a limited color pallet that includes shades of brown, grey, and black. Skate identification therefore is difficult, and skate species have been historically misidentified or grouped into generalized categories by fishery scientists and managers for convenience. Describing new skate species and addressing current identification problems  therefore has been a research priority of the PSRC.

Broad Skate
Skates have historically been associated with soft seafloor regions consisting of silt, mud, and/or sand. However, recent spatial studies by PSRC personnel and others, and in situ video like this image of the broad skate, Amblyraja badia, at the Davidson Seamount (1641 m), have revealed much more diverse and complex habitat associations.


Although species-specific identification has been problematic, some general characteristics of skate biology have emerged. Skates are extremely widespread, ranging throughout the globe from intertidal regions to the abyssal plain. They typically have k-selected life histories, a trait that is especially pronounced in species that attain relatively large sizes and those that inhabit deep-water. The ecological interactions of skates are not well understood, but they historically have been considered to be generalist predators that occur mainly on soft-bottom regions. PSRC research has helped to advance our knowledge of these aspects of skate biology, and more publications on skates have been produced since 2002 by PSRC personnel than by any other group in the world.

whiteblotched skate
Generalized or erroneous identification and a lack of scientific attention have resulted in a poor understanding of distribution and abundance patterns of eastern North Pacific skates. This and several other whiteblotched skates (Bathyraja maculata) were recorded by PSRC personnel off SE Alaska in 2006, representing an eastern range extension of > 1000 km.


The salad days of the PSRC stretched from 2002–2009. During that time, federal funding was consistent and ranged from 1.5 to 2.0/year, split roughly equally among the four NSRC institutions. Federal funding was, however, terminated in 2009, and coincided with substantial change in the composition and focus of the PSRC. In 2008, Wade left to pursue a PhD at Oregon State University. Joe hung around until the funding ran out in the summer of 2009, then matriculated at the University of Washington during the 2009 to conduct his own PhD. In addition, Greg retired at the end of the 2009 academic year.

Since 2009, the PSRC has mainly functioned under the direction of Dave Ebert on shoestring budgets, as no steady or substantial source of direct funding has been available. The main objectives of the program remain the same, but Dave began to focus more effort on discovering “Lost Sharks,” poorly known or unidentified/misidentified species and especially those that are exploited in commercial fisheries. This focus builds on some of the major misconceptions of chondrichthyan fishes. The public’s perception of sharks often conjures up images of a large, fearsome, toothy predator, with its large dorsal fin cutting its way through the waters’ surface. However, the reality is that sharks come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the world’s largest fish, to the dwarf pygmy sharks (Squaliolus spp.). In addition, the batoids and chimaeras have historically received considerably less scientific attention than sharks, but are similarly exploited directly as fishery targets, or indirectly as bycatch.

Unknown shark
A Sculpted Lanternshark (Etmopterus sculptus), a species described by David Ebert in 2011. Paul Clerkin photographed these little sharks during a survey in the Southeastern Atlantic. This project was done in collaboration with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Southeast Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO). Paul was very excited to be included as the ship’s shark expert and help identify shark species to assess the area’s vulnerability to fishing pressure.
E scultus by Jacque Orvis
Head of a Sculpted Lanternshark (Etmopterus sculptus). Photo by Paul Clerkin.


Our awareness of the diversity of sharks and their relatives has increased substantially in contemporary times, with more than 240 new species described over the past 15 years. This represents nearly 20% of all shark species that have been described throughout human history. Most of these new discoveries have come from the Indo-Australian region, followed by the Western Indian Ocean and western North Pacific regions. However, despite such a rich and diverse fauna, the majority of sharks and their relatives have largely been “lost” in a hyper-driven media age whereby a few large charismatic shark mega-stars overshadow the majority of shark species. While these mega-star’s, such the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), receive much media adulation and are the focus of numerous conservation and “scientific” efforts the “Lost Sharks” remains largely unknown not only to the public, but also to the scientific and conservation communities.

little sharks
Andrea Launer with young leapard sharks.


Currently, Dave advises 11 graduate students that comprise the PSRC. Joe is back from UW, working with Mary Yoklavich at the NMFS facility in Santa Cruz, and Greg is enjoying his retirement and no longer directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the PSRC. Greg and Joe do, however, collaborate regularly with Dave and his students and have several research projects in progress on chrondrichthyans. The hope is that Dave’s Lost Sharks program will garner the attention of an interested funding agency, restoring a much needed financial infusion to the program. Regardless though, in true MLML fashion, Dave continues to work (gratis) for the PSRC in order to educate MLML students and continue to build our knowledge base about chondrichthyans. The accomplishments and productivity of the PSRC are considerable (see below) and speak to the dedication of the staff and students involved, and their love of these ancient cartilaginous fishes.

trawler_Paul Clerkin
Paul Clerkin took this shot of the deck on the fishing vessel Will Watch as the crew was preparing to deploy their deep-sea trawl net (note the people in the orange slickers). Paul spent two weeks aboard this ship studying sharks caught as bycatch. During this survey Paul discovered a number of new shark species which another Pacific Shark Research Center student and he are currently describing with the help of David Ebert.


Paul Clerkin
Paul Clerkin holding what is believed to be a new species of sleeper shark. This is the only specimen of the species, and we know absolutely nothing about these interesting animals. Photo by Jacqueline-Remy Orvis.


PSRC Facts:

  • 25 MLML/PSRC graduate students completed their degrees; 13 of these students have gone on and enrolled into Ph.D. programs with 5 having completed their Ph.D.
  • Since inception the PSRC has conducted >100 research projects, mostly in the California Current, Gulf of Alaska, and Eastern Bering Sea large marine ecosystems, but also in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and Mexico.
  • During this project period we have produced approximately 700 publications (average 56/year) including those that have been published, are in press, or are currently in review; this includes 22 books.
  • PSRC Students were lead or co-authors on approximately 350 of these publications.
  • PSRC students averaged 10 publications each of all kinds including book chapters, IUCN Red List Assessments, popular articles and electronic on-line publications.
  • PSRC staff and students published 180 papers (average 14.4/year) in peer-reviewed professional journals.
  • Individual PSRC graduate students averaged 3 peer-reviewed publications each.
  • The PSRC has contributed to about 130 IUCN Red List Assessments.
  • The National Shark Research Consortium received $11,088,174 in Federal funding from 2002-09.
  • $1,400,000 in extramural funding was additionally secured by PSRC personnel, which helped support graduate students at MLML and provided additional support for field work and travel.
  • 25 MLML Graduate students were partially or fully supported.
  • PSRC staff and students attended over 80 professional conferences and gave 250 presentations.
  • PSRC personnel delivered the keynote address at 10 International Conferences.
  • Six PSRC students won individual conference presentation awards for best student presentation.
  • The PSRC has named 30 new species of chondrichthyans, making us the 2nd leading institution globally for discovering and naming new species.
  • The PSRC has discovered 5 chondrichthyan species from off the California coast that had not previously been known.




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.

Figure 1. Tomo Eguchi and Erica Burton doing Statistics Class homework in Salinas trailer study room (which also served as journal and map storage, TV room, computer lab, copier room, snack and soda machine vending, and lounge area).


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).

Figure 2. Phil’s Fish Market where lunches or fish specimens were acquired (1992).


Figure 3. MLML Small Boats and Diving operations (1992). Gateway to Elkhorn Slough and SCUBA diving fieldwork.


Figure 4. John Heine’s Dive Class aboard R/V Ricketts. Pictured left to right: Tony Orr, Erica Burton, Michele Jacobi, Matt Edwards.


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).

Figure 5. Fish-ageing quarter of the Ichthyology Lab Trailer. Pictured left to right: Korie Johnson, Schaeffer, Dawn Outram, and Julie Neer.


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).

Figure 6. Fall 1993 Ecology Class cruise aboard R/V Point Sur (posing on dock). Pictured: Back Row, left to right: Jon Kao, unknown, Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere, unknown, unknown, Jonna Engel, Elaine Herr, Dave Lindquist, Michelle White, Sean McDermott, Lisa Kerr Lobel, Erica Burton, unknown; Front Row, left to right: Kit Muhs, Dr. Gregor Cailliet, Noel Cristimoto (?), Barbie Byrd, Korie Johnson Schaeffer, Rebecca Reuter, Eli Landrau Woodvine, Leigh Nerney, and Bill Leopold.


Figure 7. Fall 1993 Fisheries Class cruise aboard R/V Ricketts. Pictured left to right: Heather, Leigh Nerney, Erica Burton, Dr. Gregor Cailliet, Dawn Outram, and Karl Mayer.


Figure 8. Spotted Sand Bass ageing fieldwork crew in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, Mexico during Spring Break 1994. Pictured left to right: Shirley Andrews, Cheryl Baduini Zaricki, Korie Johnson Schaeffer, Tony Bennett, Tanya Sozanski Bennett, Erica Burton, Lara Ferry, Lisa Kerr Lobel, Doreen Moser Gurrola, and Allen Andrews.


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).

Figure 9. Dancing at Blue House party. Pictured left to right: Jonna Engel, Karen Crow, unknown, Mark Pranger, and Lara Ferry.


Fig_10_Dream Theater
Figure 10. Dream Theater marquee, Monterey.


Figure 11. Dive Instructor John Heine and Dr. Ken Johnson at Bowling Tournament, looking confident in claiming bowling trophy. In background: Michelle Lander, Michele Jacobi, Cheryl Baduini Zaricki, Brendan Daly, and MLML students.


Figure 12. Team B.U.I. at 1997 Bowling Tournament. Pictured left to right: Pat Iampietro, Matt Edwards (with arm in sling; what a trouper!), Erica Burton, and Stewart Lamerdin.


Figure 13. Dr. Greg Cailliet holds court at his Ichthyology Lab house party. Pictured left to right: Rick Starr, Greg Cailliet, Lisa Ziobro de Marignac, Allen Andrews, Joe Bizzarro, and Jean de Marignac.


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.

Figure 14. MLML Ground Breaking ceremony on the hill, September 1997. Pictured left to right: Allen Andrews, Korie Johnson Schaeffer, Brendan Daly, Ned Laman, and Tony Orr (holding souvenir shovel, “MLML, We’re Back!”).


Seriously Formative Years at Stillwater Cove

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

rockfish in kelp canopy_John Heine
Rockfish in the kelp canopy of Stillwater Cove. Photo by John Heine


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.

Rockfish_Scott Gabara
Photo by Scott Gabara


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.

Blue rockfish_Scott Gabara
Blue rockfish. Photo by Scott Gabara


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.

Kelp_John Heine
Famous shot of Macrocystis by John Heine


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.

Rockfish photos extracted from the thesis of Todd Anderson (1983).


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.

kelp canopy_John Heine
Kelp forest of Stillwater Cove. Photo by John Heine



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)

Stillwater Cove - Google Earth
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.  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.

Rainbow Starfish_Photo by Scott Gabara
Rainbow Starfish. Photo by Scott Gabara.


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. 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.

cucumber_Photo by Scott Gabara
Cucumber. Photo by Scott Gabara


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.

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.

Gopher Rockfish and rocky reef. Photo by Scott Gabara

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 Stillwater_RHIB_Jasmine Ruvalcaba
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.

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.

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.

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


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.

Anthopleura and kelp. Photo by Scott Gabara.

James Nybakken: The first faculty member of MLML

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

Nybakken in tieDr. 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.

Broenkow, Nybakken, Martin
Drs. Bill Broenkow, Jim Nybakken, and John Martin.


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”


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.

John Oliver and Al Hodgson with Smith-McIntyre grap
John Oliver & Al Hodgson lowering Smith-McIntyre grab to collect benthic samples for Sea Grant project.


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).

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


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.

On Cayuse 1980- Gary mcDonald, Jim Nybakken, Mike Kellogg, John Cooper
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.


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.

Countiong clams
Counting clams at MLML; 11 Jun 1975. Dr. Nybakken seated at top of photo, Vidya Narine at very top of photo, Andrea (Purdue) McDonald (with clipboard) seated on bench by coffee cups, Terry Eckhart (yellow shirt), Kathy Casson (blue shirt lower left), Mark Stephenson (blue shirt, extreme right), Jim Barry (curly blond hair, Lynn Krasnow (seated to Jim’s right recording data). We can’t ID the others.


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.

Nybakken 1975 Mexico
Dr. Nybakken in “full field trip mode”, with forceps on cord around his neck, field notebook on right hip, thermometer and Rapidograph pen in shirt pocket. Holding large Nemertean at Cruz Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico, 23 Jan 1975. Photo by Gary McDonald


Nybakken in tree in Mexico collecting orchids 1975
Dr. Nybakken in tree collecting orchids; Punta de Mita, Nayarit, Mexico; 26 Jan 1975. Photo by Gary McDonald


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.

Back row- Jim Nybakken, John Pearse, Jeff Goddard, Shane Anderson; front row- Terry Gosliner, Andrea (Purdue) McDonald, Genny Anderson, Vicki Pears. Photo by Lise Goddard.
Back row L to R: Dr. Nybakken, Gary McDonald, John Pearse, Jeff Goddard, Shane Anderson; front row L to R: Terry Gosliner, Andrea (Purdue) McDonald, Genny Anderson, Vicki Pearse. Photo by Lise Goddard.


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 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.

Nybakken on boat
Jim Nybakken on one of the Te Vega cruises


The rosters of these trips, the itineraries and background is available at:

The Te Vega logs include Nybakken’s field notes from his first cruise to Indonesia in 1963:

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.

Marine Biology by Nybakken

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.