$2 million grant to UC Santa Cruz funds research on Monterey Bay ecosystem

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has received a grant of $2 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a Center for Integrated Marine Technologies. The center will use new technological approaches to study the processes driving the highly productive coastal upwelling ecosystems along the California coast. The aim is to establish the scientific basis for effective monitoring and management of these ecosystems and the fisheries and other resources associated with them.

The center brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers from five partner institutions around Monterey Bay, with UCSC as the lead institution. The other partners are the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Laboratory in Santa Cruz. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is also involved, said Gary Griggs, a principal investigator on the grant and director of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences.

"Our goal is to develop an integrated view of these highly productive coastal ecosystems, using the Monterey Bay sanctuary as kind of a big laboratory," Griggs said.

"Part of the project will be to put all the data together in a way that is accessible and can be visualized, both for scientists and for public user groups," he added.

The California coast is one of just five major coastal upwelling regions in the world. While they make up only one-tenth of a percent of the ocean's surface area, upwelling regions account for 95 percent of the global marine biomass and more than 21 percent of the world's fisheries landings.

Despite the ecological and economic importance of coastal upwelling centers, scientists have only a rudimentary understanding of how coastal upwelling fuels the engines of productivity associated with them, said Donald Croll, a principal investigator on the grant and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC.

The Center for Integrated Marine Technologies (CIMT) will help scientists understand how key marine resources--including fisheries, seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles--respond to short-term and long-term changes in oceanographic processes, Croll said.

The codirectors of the center are Margaret McManus, assistant professor of ocean sciences at UCSC, and Jeffrey Paduan, associate professor of oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School and an associate adjunct professor of ocean sciences at UCSC.

"We are primarily interested in the upwelling plume and how it affects the ecosystems. Eventually the goal is to visualize this in three dimensions and see how it changes over time," McManus said.

The research on ecosystem dynamics will be supported by efforts to develop improved mooring-based monitoring systems and new systems for data management and visualization, she said. MBARI operates a system of mooring-based instruments that monitor conditions in Monterey Bay, and is working to upgrade and expand this system. Other sources of data include remote-sensing satellites, shore-based measurements, and regular cruises aboard research vessels to monitor oceanographic conditions and the distribution and abundance of nutrients, plankton, fish, and other marine life.

McManus, who oversees the data and visualization group, emphasized that new visualization tools will be needed to meet the demands of scientists, resource managers, and the public. McManus has experience with these issues as coordinator of the Network for Environmental Observation of the Coastal Ocean (NEOCO), which integrates oceanographic data from seven UC research sites along the California coast.

"We will be using some of the NEOCO data, but the CIMT project is more focused on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary," she said. "The great thing about the center is that it is bringing together partners from around Monterey Bay who are studying different aspects of the same problem."


Note to reporters: To contact Gary Griggs or Margaret McManus, call Alex Gramond at (831) 459-2464 or e-mail agramond@ucsc.edu.

Images can be downloaded from the web at http://www.ucsc.edu/news_events/download/.