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CSU COAST Awards 6 MLML Students

January 31, 2013 - 3:00pm

CSU COAST Awards Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Students

by Jacque Orvis

Six Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) students from San Jose State University and CSU Monterey Bay were awarded marine science research grants from COAST – the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology – this month.

CSU system-based COAST provides resources to fund graduate student research for coastal and marine science advancement.

“Getting this award allows me to have the resources that I need to purchase all the equipment needed to run my experiments,” said Lexi Howard, an SJSU graduate student studying phycology at MLML.

Howard is researching the effects of climate change on the growth and distribution of California coast kelp forests. 

“Sometimes it can be hard to pursue the research questions you are truly interested in because of the cost,” she said, “but awards like COAST make more research possible.”

Recipient Will Fennie said he applied for the award to fund his research and practice applying for grants.

“It’s a very important skill to learn for both students and scientists,” said Fennie, a CSUMB graduate student studying the impact of climate change on rockfish at MLML.

“Researchers in Australia have shown that increased CO2 in the seawater impairs the ability of clownfish to detect predators,” he said. “In some cases it even causes clownfish to become attracted to predator scents and leads to increased mortality due to predation in the lab and field.”

The COAST award is also funding other research in the ichthyology lab at MLML, such as graduate student Jenny Bigman’s recent shark study.

She won the award this year and last, funding research on the dietary habits of North Pacific spiny dogfish – a curious and harmless spotted shark found cruising around rocky reefs and sandy bottoms of the North Pacific Ocean.

“It is quite prestigious to win this award once, but to do it twice is very impressive,” said Dave Ebert, MLML research faculty and program manager of the MLML Pacific Shark Research Center.

Bigman said funds for both years are financially supporting both chapters in her thesis, and her research on the trophic ecology can help develop plans to manage how the shark is fished.

“(It) will have important implications for ecosystem-based fisheries management, especially as it pertains to high tropic level predators and food web dynamics,” Ebert said.

Bigman added the North Pacific spiny dogfish are economically important predators that are increasing in abundance, making them more popular among commercial fisheries.

COAST Director Krista Kramer said she was impressed that six out of 25 award recipients are MLML graduate students this year.

“The awards are intended to alleviate some of the financial burden our students face as they pursue their degrees,” she said. “If we can provide them with some relief and allow them to focus more wholly on their research, then that’s a success!”

MLML/SJSU graduate students Gabriela Navas, Cheryl Barnes and Andrea Launer also won COAST awards to support their ongoing studies of Pacific geoduck genetics and age distribution, reproductive characteristics of California halibut, and sex- and size-specific segregations of leopard sharks, respectively.

Alexis Howard collecting Nereocystis luetkeana, Photo by Arley Muth


Will Fennie collecting juvenile rockfish, Photo by Scott Hamilton


Jenny Bigman with a skate specimen, Photo by James Knuckey