Throughout MLML’s 50 year history (1966-2016), this CSU teaching and research institute has grown from a small facility, serving faculty and students that traveled from their home CSU campus, to a fully integrated institution with a thriving research community, full time faculty and staff, and a successful graduate program that is considered one of the best in the nation.  MLML students, faculty and researchers have taught or conducted field work throughout the world in all major oceans, including Antarctica.   To date, 648 students have received their Masters in Marine Science from MLML and researchers have brought in an estimated $550 million in grants and awards.  MLML has also contributed to the local community by holding an Open House each year that welcomes between 2,000-3,000 visitors, offering tours and conducting outreach to K-12 schools with a Teacher Education Program.

 MLML – Major Accomplishments, 1966-2016
  • 28 years operating the 135’ R/V Point Sur vessel for the National Science Foundation
  • Dr. John Martin, former MLML Director, discovered that iron could limit productivity in many oceans.  (Considered one of the most significant discoveries in the past 100 years).  "Give me a half tanker of iron and I will give you an Ice Age" (John Martin, lecture at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, 1988)
  • Over 650 graduates (as of 2017) with a Master’s degree in Marine Science who have obtained positions in academia, government agencies and public/private institutions
  • Received the Environmental Hero Award from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 2004
MLML – The Early Years

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories was conceived by professors at San Jose State College in the early 1960’s, and in December 1965 the facility was purchased for $210,000 from the Beaudette Foundation for Biological Research. The MLML consortium initially included the California State College campuses from San Jose, San Francisco, and Hayward (now East Bay). Almost immediately the campuses from Sacramento and Fresno joined the consortium.  Dr. John Harville became the first Director, and under his leadership the Policy Board established curriculum, staffing, and operating policies.  The official dedication of MLML occurred on April 28, 1967, and was attended by 250 invited guests and the MLML community. Lieutenant Governor Robert Finch delivered the dedication address and Chancellor Glenn Dumke provided introductions. The following day approximately 500 persons attended the first MLML Open House, establishing a tradition that continues today.

MLML – The Earthquake and Aftermath (1989-2000)

Although the epicenter of the 15-second, 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake that occurred on October 17, 1989 was 37 km north of Moss Landing, it destroyed much of the MLML buildings.  The foundation was moved one meter towards the ocean.  The water tank was swaying 2-3 feet each way, pipes and windows broke sequentially and the oceanographers nervously tracked the resulting tsunami (which turned out to be minimal).   Miraculously no one was hurt and almost all specimens, equipment and furniture emerged intact.  The student, staff and faculty had to climb 2 feet up onto the Moss Landing bridge to evacuate because the land had sunk on both sides.  The Monterey County officials immediately came out to the site and red tagged the MLML building.  Thanks to the ingenious efforts by a local engineer, MLML was allowed access to remove everything and move to temporary trailers in Salinas.  MLML immediately started plans to construct a new building over the next two years.  MLML received permits and permission to build on the hill in 1997.  The spectacular Main Lab building opened on the hill in Moss Landing in 2000 and is shared not only with other marine research groups, but many community organizations as well.


MLML – R/V Point Sur (1987-2015)

MLML operated the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 135-foot R/V Point Sur for 28 years, conducting 1,100 cruises for an estimated 10,000 students and researchers throughout the Northeast Pacific and to the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and Antarctica.   In 2014, NSF decided to retire the R/V Point Sur so the vessel was sold to the University of Mississippi where it resides today. The beloved R/V Point Sur was a landmark to the Moss Landing community.  MLML held a retirement ceremony for her in 2015 attended by alumni, current and former Faculty and marine scientists from around the world.

With the retirement of the R/V Point Sur, MLML’s ability to take classes to sea and to sample the coastal environment is compromised.  Furthermore, the remaining smaller vessels at MLML cannot operate overnight, for extended periods of time, or deploy and recover larger pieces of instrumentation (e.g. corers, ROVs, submarines, moorings). To accommodate these types of gear and provide for class cruises, MLML hopes to someday acquire another larger vessel (75’-95’) to retrofit, or purchase new, that is capable of operating at sea for 10-30 days.

MLML – Today and Tomorrow

MLML has evolved from a field station, used by CSU consortium faculty and students who visited the lab for classes and research, to a full institution.  MLML continues their educational goal to produce broadly trained marine scientists with strong research skills.  Ready access to nearby, unique marine environments allows MLML to continue its tradition of emphasizing field research in its educational program.  Over the last decade, MLML students and researchers have participated in studies, investigations and discoveries of climate change factors, global warming, fisheries, ocean acidification, monitoring environmental health by measuring trace metals and methylmercury on the surface of CA waterways, sustainable and responsible aquaculture, assessing coastal erosion issues due to sea level rise and studying biodiversity throughout CA waters and the western Pacific.

For detailed descriptions of the history of MLML, please see:

History of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories: The Early Yearsby James Nybakken

History of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories The Middle Years (1978-1995) by Michael Foster.