In this Newsletter...

We feature current research, events and outreach activities at SDSU's Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory.

In this issue:

  • Marine Microbes Matter
  • Photo of the Month
  • Events
  • About the Author
  • Shout outs
  • Why biology is awesome
  • A day in the life...
  • Sally the Scientist
Photo of the Month:
This month SDSU students traveled to the USC Wrigley Marine Lab on Catalina Island to complete their AAUS Scientific Diver Course. CMIL Marine Lab manager, Brandon Reyes, and Ines Galtier d'Auriac SCUBA dive above a field of invasive Sargassum horneri on one of the many training dives required to complete the course. In addition to diving, students toured the Catalina Island hyperbaric chamber, which is used to treat injured divers.  
Photo Credit: Genoa Sullaway, M.S. student


Tidepool with a Scientist
March 1st, 11:30 - 3:00 pm
Cabrillo National Monument

Shout outs!


Megan Morris, Mallarie Yeager & Priya Shukla receive the COAST Student Award for Marine Science Research

MEBSA received $6000 from the SDSU Student Success Fee to enhance our Marine Science Seminar Series! Stay tuned for a new and improved seminar schedule.

(SDSU authors in bold)

Dunn, RP, DB Eggleston & N Lindquist. 2014. Oyster-sponge interactions and bioerosion of reef-building substrate materials: implications for oyster restoration. Journal of Shellfish Research 33(3):727-738

About the Author
As a San Diego native, I grew up exploring the diversity of flora and fauna in our mountains, valleys, deserts and oceans. I met my current master’s advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale, in her undergraduate Ecological Metagenomics sequencing course and was immediately drawn to the research that Dr. Dinsdale and her students were conducting.

What I enjoy most about my research is integrating hands-on ecology experiments with molecular techniques, including DNA sequencing (the same techniques that are used to describe our own genome). Learning new techniques makes me a well-rounded researcher.

A typical day in the life...
Most of my days as a master’s student are spent working in the lab, either doing bench work or computer analysis of my results. When I was conducting my experiment I spent a lot of time maintaining the microscopic kelp propagules, changing the seawater, and taking pictures of the developing kelp. When the Ecological Metagenomics class is in session, you will probably find me in our sequencing room helping to prepare DNA samples for students. 

Sally the Scientist
Sally the Scientist SCUBA dives with Breckie McCollum in the Point Loma kelp forest.
SCUBA Sally and M.S. student, Breckie McCollum, conduct research in the kelp forest.

here to print your own Sally. Send in a picture of you and Sally exploring!  Every month we showcase our favorite Sally picture in our newsletter.
Support MEBSA

Our entire budget comes from donations and grants. If you would like to make a contribution to marine science outreach in San Diego, CA, please click here to donate. We greatly appreciate it! 

Marine Microbes Matter in Kelp Forests

By Megan Morris, M.S. Candidate

You may not have microbes on your mind when you visit the beach, but bacteria are the most abundant organisms that you will encounter in the water.

In fact, there are ~1 million microbes in every mL of seawater!

Don’t let this scare you. Most microbes are safe and actually serve beneficial functions to marine ecosystems. But because microbes are so small, their roles in the ocean are often overlooked. In order to better understand the roles of microbes in coastal environments, I am studying the microbial communities offshore San Diego in Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale’s research lab at SDSU.

I am investigating microbial communities living on giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera. Giant kelp is well-studied, but we know little about its associated microbes.

My research combines empirical ecology experiments with modern metagenomic methods, a technique that sequences genomic DNA fragments from many individuals. This process is similar to the sequencing methods used to study our own DNA. 

In one experiment, I evaluated the effect of microbes on microscopic kelp juveniles (or propagules), which are very sensitive to their environment. Most kelp propagules don't survive long enough to grow into adults. In my experiment, I exposed kelp juveniles to different amounts of microbial cells. Some of the microbes came from a Catalina Island marine preserve, while other cells came from more polluted waters near Point Loma (offshore from San Diego Bay).

MEBSA member exhibit at High Tech Fair
Megan prepares kelp reproductive blades for her experiment. The reproductive blades, called sporophylls, are responsible for releasing the microscopic propagules.

The growth and survival of kelp decreased when exposed to high amounts of microbial cells from Point Loma, and were more successful with a lower amount of microbes from Catalina Island. When I investigated the microbial DNA in the Point Loma water, I discovered a higher abundance of pathogenic bacteria, possibly influenced by runoff from the city. Catalina Island microbes had genes that could produce a compound attracting kelp juveniles to settle and grow.

These results indicate that microbes can either be beneficial or detrimental to kelp growth and survival.
Nick Hayman, M.S. student at SDSU, presents his research on estuarine ecosystems to the scientific community.Nick Hayman, M.S. student at SDSU, presents his research on estuarine ecosystems to the scientific community.
To monitor the effects of microbes on kelp, Megan takes weekly pictures and measures the growth of kelp juveniles. Shown here are the stages called gametophytes which develop from zoospores. Pictured left, the gametophytes are more abundant and larger when exposed to fewer microbes. Pictured right, a higher number of microbes in seawater results in fewer, smaller gametophytes. 

My research will improve our understanding of how microbes influence the life cycle of giant kelp, a key species to California’s marine environment.

Giant kelp supports a diversity of fishes, invertebrates and microbes along California’s coastline, and I hope that my research benefits the long-term conservation of this foundation species. 
Nick Hayman, M.S. student at SDSU, presents his research on estuarine ecosystems to the scientific community.
Members of the Dinsdale Lab and kelp forest ecologist, Dr. Matthew Edwards, collect kelp blades and microbial samples from the Catalina Island kelp forest. (Photo credit Miranda Brett)
Why is being a biologist awesome?
Being a biologist is awesome because I find myself learning new knowledge and techniques every day. I also love the collaboration opportunities that come with being a scientist. At SDSU, I work with fellow ecology students and mentor exchange students who visit our lab from universities in Brazil. 

Author: Megan Morris, M.S. Candidate, contact at
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Sarah G. Wheeler, Editor
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