Brief compilation of ongoing and completed research at the Coastal Center.

Samantha Cheng
Samantha Cheng of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology works on understanding the evolution of biodiversity as it applies to fisheries management, focusing particularly on squid in Indonesia. Using RAD sequencing to generate large panels of genome wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPS) to identify patterns of genetic connectivity between geographic localities, Samantha has determined that the squid species she is studying, the big fin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) now in fact is three distinct species instead of just one as previously thought. The correct classification of these species improves the accuracy of fishery regulations in an effort to increase sustainable fishing. Using genomics techniques, Samantha is partnering with the California Department of Fish and wildlife to assess the genetic diversity of southern and northern California market squid populations. Currently, California market squid is the largest fishery in California and her work could have tremendous ramifications for squid fishery management.

Aradhna Tripati
Dr. Aradhna Tripati of the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences and the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences is concentrating on coastal responses to climate change and increasing levels of CO2. Specifically, her group and collaborators are studying how ocean acidification and warming affect marine organisms. With ecosystems so delicately balanced, changes in the pH and temperature of the ocean can drastically alter calcification and impact entire communities. Utilizing novel ideas and tools, Dr. Tripati is gaining insight on organismal responses to environmental change. For example, she is using mollusk shells to study changes in water chemistry and learn how organisms react to a warmer and more acidic environment.

James C. McWilliams
Professor James C. McWilliams of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department is currently using computer models to get a better picture of the future of the North American west coast. His applied mathematics and geophysical fluids dynamics background enables him to see how various aspects of the coast interact and respond to environmental alterations through computer models. The scale of the models is variable, ranging from the examination of the general California current to simulation of pollution dispersal in the Santa Monica Bay, while the breadth of his work includes physical, biogeochemical, ecological analyses. Professor McWilliams is working to combine physical ocean models with biogeochemical models to better understand the scope of ocean acidification impacts on the west coast.

Paul Barber
Dr. Paul Barber of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is currently studying evolution and conservation of marine biodiversity, mostly in Indonesia, a region that is the heart of the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle is defined by the presence of regions with at least 500 hard coral species, and encompasses portions of the Philippines, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Malaysia. Indonesia is heavily reliant on its corals for cultural reasons, economic well-being, food security, and job opportunities among others. For these reasons and more, it is important to understand the drivers that generate diversity as well as the impacts of pollution and other human stressors that are degrading reefs in this region, so that we can maximize biodiversity conservation and minimize biodiversity loss. Dr. Barber is a co-founder of the Indonesia Biodiversity Research Center (, an institution dedicated to promoting biodiversity research in Indonesia by Indonesian scientists and students.

Other projects

Biogeochemical model on ocean acidification, hypoxia and nutrient flow in the Southern California Bight:
Curtis Deutsch and Jim McWilliams - proposal submitted to the California Ocean Protection Council.

Anthropogenic influences on biodiversity in Indonesian coral reefs
Paul Barber - received an NSF PIRE grant. 
For the first time, autonomous reef monitoring structures will be placed to compare human impacted reefs (downstream of watersheds with urban development, agriculture, forestry, and mining) and reference reefs.

Impacts of climate change on California coastal wetlands
Rich Ambrose, Glen MacDonald and the Southwest Climate Center - funded by USGS.

Development of a Southern California coastal wetland restoration manual of Best Management Practices 
Rich Ambrose, Mark Gold, Glen MacDonald - Marisla Foundation grant

Establishment of Marine Protected Area boundaries in Southern California and the Channel Islands
Rich Ambrose - key member of Scientific Advisory Committee for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife – completed.

Anthropogenic impacts on estuaries and lagoons in southern California

1. Peggy Fong - focus on sedimentation and nutrient impacts on algal and sea grass communities.

2. Dave Jacobs - anthropogenic impacts on fish biodiversity in coastal estuaries in California and Baja California.

Pollution impacts on coastal resources

1. Mike Stenstrom - wide variety of stormwater pollution and wastewater treatment including stormwater pollutant loading models, and BMP design and optimization efforts for Cal-Trans, Boeing and other facilities.

2. Keith Stolzenbach - completed extensive research on the aerial deposition loading contributions to polluted runoff in Santa Monica Bay. 

3. Mark Gold – collaboration with UC Berkeley and the Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project on the health risks of swimming at beaches with high densities of fecal indicator bacteria and pathogens.  Two studies have been completed, with another nearing completion and a study on the health risk of surfing at polluted beaches is up for State Clean Beach Initiative (CBI) funding. 

4. Jenny Jay - completing a CBI project on source tracking for pathogen and pathogen indicators in the Topanga Creek watershed that drains to the chronically polluted Topanga Beach.  She has completed similar efforts at numerous beaches in the region. – State Water Resources Control Board – CBI

Integrated water management study for the city of Los Angeles:
Stephanie Pincetl and Mark Gold in collaboration with Terri Hogue from the Colorado School of Mines
study to determine the most cost effective solutions to meet state and federal water quality standards, including those for Santa Monica and San Pedro Bays, while maximizing other beneficial uses including water supply, flood control, habitat and recreational open space. – City of Los Angeles, NSF