Learning About Marine Ecology First-Hand.

By Allie Welch, student from Mar Vista High School’s Poseidon Academy.

Earlier this month, I was part of a small group from Mar Vista’s Poseidon Academy, that took part in WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratories off the coast of La Jolla.  Upon arrival, students are broken up into three groups; water, plankton, and fish identification. Once we were split off into separate groups we began taking data and analyzing the species and environment they inhabit.

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Building Ocean Stewardship Through WILDCOAST’s MPA Floating Laboratories

Last week students from Mar Vista’s Poseidon Academy program boarded the  fishing vessel Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing Marina in Mission Bay and participated in WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratory Project. Once aboard, students split into three research groups and began sampling water quality, plankton, and fish abundance and distribution.

Under the guidance of WILDCOAST staff and volunteers, students used modern sampling techniques to measure various water parameters to determine water quality, executed plankton collection using towable nets, dropped GoPro video cameras on fishing rods to observe fish assemblage and dissected squid. When the three-hour sampling cruise was complete, each student research group presented their methods, findings, and the importance of their data, all of which was collected inside the South La Jolla MPA (marine protected area), to the other groups. They used the collected data to contribute to ongoing baseline monitoring efforts in California’s statewide network of MPAs.

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Get to know your neighbor: Sea Urchin, Echinoidea

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I am a Sea Urchin and a part of a class of organisms called Echinoidea. There are 950 species of Echinoderms in all of the world’s ocean and found all over the world in warm and cold water, typically in rock pools, mud, coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass beds. I live in clumps of 5-10 and my lifespan often exceeds 30 years, however scientists have found some specimens to live over 200 years making me one of the longest living animals on earth. I am round and spiny ranging from 3-10 cm. I can be various colors including black, dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, blue and red. Since I am nocturnal, I usually hide during the day and become more active and feed at night. I prefer to eat seagrass and seaweed that grows on the rocky seafloor. Sea urchins are a primary food source for sea otters, starfish, wolf eels, triggerfish, and others that hunt for me. In the San Diego area, sea urchins are important to kelp forest ecosystems as a food source for the California spiny lobster and sheephead.

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Week #3: Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

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I am the single most important organism in kelp forest ecosystems. So important in fact, scientists named the entire ecosystem after me. I am uniquely adapted to thriving in nearshore rocky habitat that covers much of the benthos of San Diego county’s marine areas. Something that most people do not know about me is that I am not a plant but actually an algae. I differ from plants in many ways, but most noticeably I do not have roots. I have what is known as a holdfast, which I use as an anchor to secure themselves to the seafloor. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, I have been recorded growing by as much as 2 feet a day and reaching sizes of 150 feet in a single growing season. As a primary producer, I provide nourishment for the entire southern California ecosystem and facilitate San Diego counties vast biodiversity. 

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Get to Know Your Neighbors, Week #2: The Garibaldi Fish

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You may have seen me florescent orange, ebbing and flowing with tidal surges against the dark backdrop of the sea floor. If you have snorkeled, swam, or kayaked near La Jolla Cove (in the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve) you may have noticed me curiously pecking away at exposed sections of rocky reef in search of tidbits of food, my favorite being small invertebrates. Just like you I also have a home and at a certain age I built myself a house in order to find a mate. My mate or mates lay eggs in the rocky substrate that I maintain and fiercely protect. I have been known to aggressively attack anything swimming too close to my developing eggs… even humans! Because of my charisma and tenacity I was named the California state marine fish and was also the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’ “red fish” in the popular story of Cat in the Hat.

Why should humans care about me?           [Read more…]

Inspired by the Our Ocean Conference

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Serge Dedina, WILDCOAST’s Executive Director

Last week, the U.S. State Department issued a last minute invitation for me to attend the Our Ocean Conference in Washington D.C. hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. According to Secretary Kerry, the purpose of the conference was, “To catalyze actions to protect our ocean from these threats and to empower a new generation to lead the way toward a healthy and sustainable ocean.” As the Executive Director of WILDCOAST, I have worked tirelessly with my amazing team and fishing communities, governments, and the private sector to establish safe havens in the ocean to protect key ecosystems and ocean wildlife. Areas such as Cabo Pulmo National Park are now global models for ocean conservation, with fish stocks rebounding at an incredible pace after banning fishing. And in California, our advanced and extensive system of MPAs are recovering fish populations up and down the coast. So it was great to see global leaders come together to announce new measures for ocean conservation and funding initiatives to further on the ground marine protection initiatives.

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Get to Know your Neighbors!

Get to know your neighbors in San Diego county media segment

Photo by Octavio Abuerto

Photo by Octavio Aburto

In this media segment WILDCOAST would like to introduce San Diegans to some of their closest neighbors… wildlife. San Diego county and its nearshore marine areas are home to one of the most diverse and dynamic ecosystems on the planet. The interactions, both intentional and passive, between humans and wildlife create some complex issues at such an extreme urban/ natural interface. Many San Diegans are keen on issues that arise between humans and wildlife for competing space but may not understand things from a wildlife point of view. WILDCOAST is here to act as translator for local wildlife and inform human residents that wildlife residents, although voiceless, need to be heard. This segment will also act as a reminder to WiLDCOAST followers that opportunities to volunteer are plentiful.

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WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratories are Helping to Conserve our Marine Protected Areas

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This summer and fall, WILDCOAST is carrying out an exciting project to engage San Diego County students in the conservation of the region’s marine protected areas, or MPAs. Through our Floating Laboratory project, students from the Sycuan Teen Center, La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, San Ysidro Girl Scout Troop 5912 and Imperial Beach Junior Lifeguards are conducting real scientific research on the water to help guide MPA management decisions and enhance their ability to protect coastal and marine resources.

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Exciting Times for MPA Watch

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Photo credit: Heal the Bay

This past week was an exciting one for MPA Watch.

As everybody who works in conservation knows, protecting anything is an ongoing task. The job doesn’t simply end once the regulations have been written and the signs have been posted. Further work is needed, including ongoing policy work, enforcement, and continued outreach to educate people on the importance of properly managing protected areas. In the case of California’s marine protected areas (MPAs), MPA Watch has been working to fill some of these needs, at least partially.

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Hoover High School Students Explore La Jolla’s MPAs

On Tuesday, March 29, WILDCOAST took out a group of 25 students from Hoover High School’s mentoring program Cardinals Interact Club to learn more about San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Students got a chance to tour the special facilities of Scripps Institution of Oceanography that included the Scripps Pier and the Scripps research aquarium and lab.  During the tour, students learned about the wonderful work our partners at The Semmens Lab at Scripps are doing to asses the health and effectiveness of La Jolla’s MPAs and the marine species that live in them.

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