Nine students defend thesis research in 2020!

By June ShresthaMLML Ichthyology Lab

2020 was a big year. We saw a global pandemic, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and wildfires raging across the state. Despite all of this, we had nine students pull through to defend their thesis research in 2020! Please join me in congratulating the following students:

  • Lindsay Cooper, Phycology Lab
  • Kenji Soto, Geological Oceanography Lab
  • Amber Reichert, Pacific Shark Research Center
  • Mason Cole, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
  • June Shrestha, Ichthyology Lab
  • Dan Gossard, Phycology Lab
  • Jacoby Baker, Ichthyology Lab
  • Emily Pierce, Invertebrate Zoology Lab
  • Miya Pavlock-McAuliffe, Physical Oceanography Lab

Please read below to learn a little more about each student's research. As always, please also check out the posts highlighting student research from previous years as well at the following links: 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Special author note: As I am one of the students that defended and graduated this year, this will be my last post for The Drop-In. From writing about classes to conferences and student research, it's been a pleasure writing for this blog. Hopefully someone else will carry the torch forward in the new year to highlight and celebrate the research of graduating students!

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Marine science snapshots: Fieldwork, wildlife, and community at Moss Landing Marine Labs

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

While working on the latest Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Annual Report, my friend and fellow MLML student employee Caroline Rodriguez collected a bunch of amazing photos from the Moss community. While she used many of the best shots in the final report (check it out here!), there simply wasn't enough room for all of the great photos she had amassed. So Caroline reached out to me and asked if I was interested in compiling all these images into a post on The Drop-In blog. And as you can probably guess since you are reading that very post, I said yes!

After a year of mostly staring at screens and working from home, looking through these images of fieldwork, amazing animals, and beautiful scenery taken by my wonderful peers, professors, and colleagues over the last few years has been a great reminder of why I chose to come to MLML in the first place. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. So, without further ado, I present a glimpse into the highlights of life at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories as told by photos from the MLML community.

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Grad school: pandemic edition

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

I think it’s safe to say that before the start of this year, no one could have possibly predicted the truly wild twists and turns of 2020- and the year isn’t even over yet! The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has radically altered the world and for most folks, life over the past 8 months has been pretty chaotic and stressful. I never imagined that on top of all the regular day-to-day stress of graduate school, I would also have to deal with a deadly pandemic, but here we are!

So what exactly has life as a grad student been like during these very strange Corona-times? Lots of people have asked me that question since March, and I typically respond some variation of stressful/overwhelming/profoundly boring/way too much time spent on Zoom. If they happen to catch me on a good day where I have made some big breakthrough with my thesis or had a super productive morning then I might even tell them it’s not so bad. In truth, grad school during a pandemic is a lot like grad school during a normal year: highs and lows. Except now I (almost) never leave my house. So, without further ado, I present a brief Buzzfeed-style look into my life as a Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) grad student during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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How 4Ocean Made Recycling Economically Sustainable

By Kali Prescott, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

An estimated 5.25 trillion tons of plastic is currently adrift in the ocean having extensive deleterious effects on wildlife (Erikson et al., 2014). Reduce, reuse, recycle has been the battle cry of environmentalists and ocean clean up organizations since the public first realized the severity of marine plastic pollution. For decades plastic producing companies have touted recycling as the solution to plastic pollution in the ocean while simultaneously shirking responsibility—claiming that recycling “is not economically viable”. Continuing to produce virgin plastic unfortunately remains cheaper than producing products from recycled materials even with technological developments.

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What is a marine heat wave?

By Sierra FullmerMLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Do you know what a marine heat wave is? Imagine being outside in the peak heat of summer, walking in what feels like a sea of heat. Heat waves, during which temperatures are much hotter than normal, occur in the oceans as well as on land. An unusual warming of the ocean can have many cascading effects, not just for the organisms living in the water, but also those on land which rely upon the ocean’s resources. This was demonstrated in 2014, when the Alaskan ‘warm blob’ became a trending phrase, even outside of the scientific community. This unusual hot spot in the North Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Alaska reached a peak in 2016, ranking in the top five heat anomalies ever recorded. During this time, the top 100-300 meters of the ocean warmed up to two degrees Celsius, or three point six degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough water to reach from one to three American football fields deep! It may not seem like that much of a difference but imagine how much energy is required just to heat a small pot of water. Now scale that up to the size of the Gulf of Alaska, and three football fields deep.

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Living among emperor penguins: 2019 field expedition to Antarctica

by Parker Forman, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Transcript of radio chatter from the penguin scientists at Camp Crozier 13:15 hrs on November 15th 2019:

Markus: Gitte and Parker ....... This is Markus ....... Do you copy?

Gitte: This is Gitte and Parker ........ We copy .......... Over

Markus: Penguin 5 has returned to the colony! ....... David and I have eyes on ....... Penguin 5 ......... Over

Gitte: Markus ........ We will meet you at the colony ........ Clear

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Saving sea turtles from cold stunning

By Daphne Shen, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Every October, animal rehabilitation facilities around the northeast gear up for another sea turtle cold stun season. Cold stunning for sea turtles is similar to hypothermia for people, and typically occurs in November and December. As the ocean temperature drops below about 10°C (50°F), a sea turtle’s body shuts down. Since they are cold-blooded, their body temperatures are close to that of the surrounding water. Once they get too cold, sea turtles become lethargic and are no longer able to swim or eat, and end up at the mercy of the currents.

These turtles, usually juveniles, wash up on beaches around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Long Island, New York. They can be found traveling up the East Coast with the Gulf Stream and spending their summers feeding in the waters off the coast of New England. As the water cools down, sea turtles should instinctively migrate back south towards Florida and the Caribbean. The problem is that many animals get caught in bays and can’t figure out how to navigate back to the open ocean, eventually succumbing to cold stunning when the water rapidly cools.

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CSI: Marine Mammal 🐋 – A day in the life of an MLML stranding responder

By Lauren Cooley, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

The hotline rang at 2pm and I quickly ran across the lab to grab the phone, excited to find out what new adventure awaited me. “Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Stranding Network, this is Lauren,” I answered.  The caller had been out for a walk on Del Monte Beach in Monterey, California and had stumbled upon a deceased California sea lion. He relayed to me his location and a brief description of the animal. I thanked him for reporting the sea lion to our hotline, packed up my equipment and headed out the door, excited for another glamorous (or maybe not) day of marine mammal field work!

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Support Costa Rican sea turtles – Vote for ASTOP!

By Sharon HsuMLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Life. I have been lucky enough to have known a lot of kindness in this life. For a long time, I believed I had seen all the kindness - and more - than I could have asked for in a lifetime. And yet, life and the people in it continue to surprise me.

There is a place named Parismina - it's a tiny dot on our map - a village of about 500 people in the heart of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, accessible only by boat. My first introduction here was in 2014, and I’ve never lost touch since. I last spent 4 months here in 2018 doing my thesis research with leatherbacks, working alongside ASTOP (Asociacion Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina), a local nonprofit sea turtle organization. During this time, I walked over 500 miles. I measured leatherback turtles - giant behemoths of the unknown - weighed their eggs, moved their nests, and watched their babies dig their way up from the sand to crawl into the same water their mothers came from.

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Navigating a changing world: The challenges giant whales face as they search for bluer pastures

by Jenn Tackaberry, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

As a marine biologist, part of my job is to study the behavior of whales and how they interact with their environment. Many projects I am involved in are long-term (40+ years) studies that follow individual whales throughout their lives. Long-term projects allow researchers to document how whales have reacted to changes in their environment in the past and how that affected the population as a whole. These data can help determine how whales are responding to climate change and how their response may affect their long-term survival.

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