Research faculty member Dr. Iliana Ruiz-Cooley studies movement of harmful algal bloom toxins through food web

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) occur when colonies of toxin-producing algae grow out of control. Along the California coast, some of those most severe blooms are caused by the algae Pseudo-nitzschia (pictured here), which produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid. This toxin accumulates in small fish, like sardines and anchovies, which are then eaten by marine mammals and humans, leading to neurological disorders and ultimately death if not treated.

SJSU/MLML research faculty member Dr. Iliana Ruiz-Cooley uses stable isotopes to study how domoic acid moves through marine food webs in Monterey Bay. This California Sea Grant-funded research will advance our understanding of HAB dynamics and improve both fisheries management strategies and marine mammal conservation efforts.

Read more about Dr. Ruiz-Cooley’s HAB research in the California Sea Grant story.

California sea lion exhibiting effects of domoic acid toxicity. Photo credit: Iliana Ruiz-Cooley

Alumna Brijonnay Madrigal awarded NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship

MLML alumna Brijonnay Madrigal was recently named a 2020 Nancy Foster Scholar! The highly competitive NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program supports women and minorities pursuing graduate research in oceanography and marine biology.

Bri received her MS in Marine Science from MLML in 2019. Her master’s thesis research through our Vertebrate Ecology Lab examined the acoustic behavior of killer whales from the Bering and Chukchi Sea in Alaska. She will be heading to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to begin her PhD in the fall.

Learn more about Bri and the Nancy Foster Scholarship Program in the NOAA media release.

Professors Michael Graham and Scott Hamilton receive new California Sea Grant funding

SJSU/MLML Professors Michael Graham of our Phycology Lab and Scott Hamilton of our Ichthyology Lab have received new grant funding from California Sea Grant. Their project titled “Assessment of practical methods for re-establishment of northern California bull kelp populations at an ecologically relevant scale” will focus on restoring native seaweed populations and combatting destructive sea urchin overgrowth.

This grant is one of six funded by California Sea Grant as part of their 2020 Kelp Recovery Research Program. Together the grants total $2.1 million and are funded jointly by California Sea Grant and the California Ocean Protection Council, in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Read more about Dr. Graham and Dr. Hamilton's new research project here.

Professor Gitte McDonald featured on Voices from Antarctica Podcast

SJSU/MLML Professor Gitte McDonald and Vertebrate Ecology Lab graduate student Parker Forman are featured in the latest episode of Radio New Zealand’s Voices from Antarctica podcast.

Last fall, Dr. McDonald traveled to Cape Crozier, Antarctica to lead a team of researchers studying the foraging ecology of emperor penguins. Learn more about their research and what it’s like to live and work in Antarctica in the podcast! Listen here.

Photo credit: Gitte McDonald

NMFS Permit 19108

Professor Ivano Aiello collaborates with NOAA Fisheries on Butano Creek Restoration

For decades, sediment buildup in Butano Creek has caused a number of problems for fish and people alike. This sediment has blocked migrating steelhead and coho salmon, contributed to major fish die-offs, and flooded roads and local communities in San Mateo county.

In response to these many issues, the National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, assembled an expert panel to assess the situation and determine a path forward. SJSU/MLML Professor and Department Chair Ivano Aiello served on this panel and provided his expertise in sedimentology and geological oceanography to the group. Together, NOAA and partners developed the Butano Creek restoration plan which recently culminated in the removal of 70,000 cubic yards of sediment - enough to fill more than 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Looking to the future, NOAA now anticipates less flooding, fewer fish kills, and maybe even the return of the endangered coho salmon to the newly restored Butano Creek.

Learn more about the restoration project in the NOAA feature article.

Photo credit: San Mateo Resource Conservation District

30 years: The iron hypothesis is no more

On 20 February 2020, Heather Stoll published a paper in Nature chronicling the history of the Iron Hypothesis, which was proposed by Dr. John Martin. John Martin was a pioneer in his field, and was the Director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories/San José State University for 17 years (1976 - 1993) after a few years as a Professor. He led a number of significant research projects, including Vertex. But probably most important was his hypothesis that iron was a limiting element in some parts of the oceans, an expectation that ran counter to the beliefs of most of his colleagues. You see, his colleagues had been sampling the oceans for many years and had data that indicated there was plenty of iron to allow increased productivity in most places. Yet, they were having a hard time explaining why productivity was not greater than would be expected given the abundance of light and nutrients in these places.

John Martin had a great crew to help him develop and test his hypothesis. Many of these people were former MLML graduate students that gravitated to the engaging, brilliant, and supportive scientist. The crew included Steve Fitzwater the guy who did everything, Mike Gordon who was the analytical mastermind, Sara Tanner who brought a botanist’s perspective, and Craig Hunter who seemingly was able to build whatever was needed. The group also included Kenneth Coale, who as a post-doc from UCSC had many of the necessary traits to be the second in command. Kenneth eventually used his command skills to guide MLML as Director for 12 years.

Unfortunately, John did not live long enough to see his Iron Hypothesis tested in the field. In 1993, just months after his death, Kenneth and Ken Johnson (MLML and now at MBARI) led the first direct test of the Iron Hypothesis when they fertilized a portion of the ocean with iron and watched John’s vision turn the colors of productivity. Besides his hypothesis about iron, one of the great legacies of this era was the beginning of large-scale experiments in the open ocean. After many ocean experiments by the Martin team and many others that followed, it is clear that the Iron Hypothesis is no longer a hypothesis, it is now a paradigm. The NSF recognized this work as one of the top discoveries in oceanography in the past 100 years.

It seems a good time to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of John Martin and his team, but also to recognize that this discovery was uncovered in a relatively small CSU marine lab in central California. MLML continues to produce incredible science, students, and discoveries.

We continue to recognize the contributions of John Martin to MLML/SJSU and marine science by having named one of our Research Vessels the R/V John H. Martin; by establishing a scholarship in his name via contributions from John’s wife, Marlene, and his family; and by remembering his legacy and his description of our essence as the “spirit of Moss Landing”.

To read more about the incredible history of John Martin please take a look at these posts by Kenneth Coale:

This one describes how MLML came to operate the R/V Point Sur:
https://www.mlml.calstate.edu/2016/04/20/the-good-pirate-john-martin-seizes-the-rv-cape-florida/

This one is a summary of John’s life and achievements written by Kenneth and the Scientific Writing class at MLML:https://aslopubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lob.10078

MLML awards nearly $30,000 in scholarships to 26 graduate students

Thanks to the tremendous success of our 2020 Open House crowdfunding campaign and the generosity of our many donors, this year Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and San José State University were able to award nearly $30,000 in scholarships to 26 of our incredible graduate students in recognition of academic achievement and community service.

Congratulations to all our scholarship awardees and thank you to everyone who supported our SJSU/MLML crowdfunding campaign, we couldn’t have done it without you!

Alumna Dr. Edem Mahu receives prestigious FLAIR fellowship from the African Academy of Sciences

We are thrilled to announce that SJSU/MLML alumna Dr. Edem Mahu was recently awarded a 2020 Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) fellowship from the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society! These prestigious awards provide two years of research funding to outstanding early-career African scientists. Dr. Mahu will use the fellowship support to gauge the impacts of climate change and non-climate stressors on oyster fisheries in the Gulf of Guinea, which sustain impoverished communities in several surrounding countries and are increasingly under threat.

Dr. Mahu first came to MLML in 2010 as a foreign exchange student from the University of Ghana to complete her Master’s degree research with Dr. Kenneth Coale, then Director of MLML. She focused her studies on the potential impact of an oil spill to the sediment microbial activity in Elkhorn Slough. Using oil from the Deep-Water Horizon spill, she combined sediment geochemistry with the fluoroscene diacetate method (recently developed by Dr. Nick Welschmeyer’s lab) to quantify the impact.  Dr. Mahu then returned to MLML to conduct her Ph.D. research working with Dr. Coale and Dr. Ivano Aiello. This time she came bearing sediment cores from several estuaries throughout Ghana. With help from researchers at MLML and USGS she age-dated the cores, performed mineral analysis and trace metal concentrations to develop an understanding of sediment provenance (where the sediments came from) in each one of the corresponding watersheds and link the contamination to specific processes. She returned to the University of Ghana and successfully defended her Ph.D. becoming the first marine biogeochemist in Ghana.

Now a lecturer at the University of Ghana, Dr. Mahu continues to collaborate and publish with MLML scientists. She was also recently awarded an OWSD Early Career Fellowship from the United Nations' Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World. Through this fellowship, she is developing affordable and easily accessible soil nutrient testing kits to prevent the spread of fertilizers from farmlands into lagoons and other coastal environments in Ghana. Congratulations on your tremendous success, Dr. Mahu!

MLML and SJSU announce new partnership with NOAA through Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems (CIMEAS)

We are thrilled to announce that Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and San Jose State University have partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a founding organization in the Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems (CIMEAS). Hosted at UC San Diego, this cooperative institute will conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research on climate, oceans, and ecosystems while training the next generation of scientists.

We are excited to partner with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Humboldt State University, California State University, Los Angeles, Farallon Institute, UC Davis, UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz in this exciting new venture.

Learn more about CIMEAS in the SJSU Newsroom article

Captain John Douglas of MLML Marine Operations helps free entangled whale

Captain John Douglas of SJSU/MLML Marine Operations recently helped free an entangled humpback whale in Monterey Bay. The whale was severely entangled in commercial Dungeness crab fishing gear that anchored it in place, preventing normal movement or feeding.

Captain Douglas collaborated with teams from the US Coast Guard, The Marine Mammal Center, Marine Life Studies, and the National Marine Sanctuaries West Coast Region to free the whale. Thank you to JD and the entire rescue team for your outstanding work!

Learn more about the disentanglement effort in the NOAA press release