In this Newsletter...

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

In this issue:

We share the exciting details of Zostera Experimental Network (ZEN).
Photos of the Month:

Sally joins the Marine Algae Class on their annual Big Sur camping trip. Here they are  learning about and searching for algae specimens in the intertidal. (Photo credit: A. Warneke)

Researchers get up close and personal with a California Spiny Lobster. The Lobster is aboard the RV Melibe for use in laboratory experiments at CMIL. Researchers are testing the functional response of lobsters feeding on purple urchin as prey. (Photo credit: R. Dunn)


Join us on Friday, May 9th from 6-10pm at Paradise Point Resort & Spa for an evening of art, music, awards, and awareness to benefit our mission of protecting our oceans, waves, and beaches.Get your tickets here! The event will feature live and silent auctions of artwork, vacation and spa packages, surf gear, and other luxury items. There will also be an interactive art project and live art installations from Wade KoniakowskySean Dietrich, and Rodney Rodrigo Mccoubrey. Music will be provided by San Diego musicians Tristan Prettyman and Paul Cannon. Click here for directions.

What: Surfrider Foundation's Art Gala
When: May 9th, 6-10pm 
Where: Paradise Point Resort and Spa

Shout outs!

Congratulations to the following students and faculty who published research and/or received awards.


Matthew Haggerty was awarded an American Society for Microbiology Student Travel Grant.
Megan Morris  received a COAST Travel Grant.

Shelby Rinehart was awarded the Society of Wetland Scientists Student Research Grant.

Sarah Wheeler achieved an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship. This is a great accomplishment! Only 12 people in the nation are chosen. Sarah will be going to 
North Carolina to intern at the Raleigh News, and observe as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow writing about science. Click here to learn more.
Dunn RP, Eggleston DB, and Lindquist N. (2014). Effects of substrate type on demographic rates of eastern oyster (*Crassostrea virginica*). Journal of Shellfish Research 33:177-185

Stallings CD, Brower JP, Heinlein Loch JM, and Mickle A. (2014). Catch comparison between otter and rollerframe trawls: Implications for sampling in seagrass beds. Fisheries Research 155: 177-184
Support MEBSA

We get our entire budget 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! 

Finding Enlightenment through Seagrass ZEN

This semester Shelter Island beach has a new group of regulars. Every Thursday afternoon five San Diego State undergraduate students don wetsuits and wade out into the cool murky waters of San Diego Bay. The students are part of a new internship program, run through Dr. Kevin Hovel's lab, studying seagrass community ecology. The internship is part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project called the Zostera Experimental Network, or ZEN.

ZEN is a global collaborative of research scientists who are working to uncover the main environmental factors (i.e. nutrient availability, temperature, biodiversity, etc.) driving eelgrass (Zostera marina) growth and survival. Eelgrass is the most widespread marine plant in the world, existing in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and ranging from as far north as the Arctic Circle to its southern boundaries in Baja California and North Carolina. This wide range of habitats means that eelgrass is subject to a wide range of climates. To fully study such a wide-ranging species, ZEN has created a network of scientists, which spreads across 16 countries and over 50 individual sites. 

The first iteration of the ZEN experiments, led by Dr. Emmet Duffy from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), took place during the summers of 2011 and 2012, and led to many interesting discoveries. The study concluded that the biodiversity of small bug-like critters, referred to as mesograzers, positively influence seagrass growth. Mesograzers are beneficial to seagrass by consuming the epiphytic algae, a type of small algae that grows directly on the seagrass blades. If these algae are left unchecked, they can overgrow and smother the seagrass. Interestingly, ZEN found that seagrass grows better and is more productive when there are more types of mesograzers present. However, like most research endeavors this study also generated new and exciting questions. The main question that arose from the ZEN 1 study was: how does the structure of the seagrass (e.g. is it sparse and clumpy or dense and lush) affect the mesograzers and seagrass growth? 

Students for the ZEN internship work in the seagrass bed located of Shelter Island wading beach. (Photo credit: E. Voigt)

This question spurred the second round of ZEN experimentation (ZEN 2), which takes place this summer and next year. In addition to leading the Southern California ZEN site, SDSU professor, Dr. Kevin Hovel is taking on added responsibilities by acting as one of three head researchers on the ZEN 2 project.  Dr Hovel’s expertise in seagrass structure makes him a key addition to the ZEN 2 team, which includes Dr. Jay Stachowicz from U.C. Davis, and Dr. Duffy from VIMS. ZEN 2 also welcomes a new undergraduate internship program. ZEN recruited top students from the three core campuses: VIMS, U.C. Davis, and SDSU. These students are currently participating in a semester long class, taught at their home campus, where they learn about ZEN experimental methods and the theories of seagrass ecology. The class includes both field and classroom components and teaches students a range of skills from identifying mesograzers to how to resolve problems in the field. The class also focuses on strengthening student’s ability to conduct scientific research through discussions about experimental design and statistical analysis. After completing the course students will spend their summer implementing their new skills by conducting the ZEN 2 experiments at one of the numerous ZEN sites across the world. Through this internship program ZEN increases the number of participating sites by providing trained interns to areas with low manpower (a critical and often limiting resource in complex field studies) and provides interns with a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with prominent faculty and labs across the world. 

The San Diego ZEN interns pose with Sally the Scientist on their last day of fieldwork before going abroad. (From the left: Whitney Dailey, Shay Hengen, Jen Joseph, Chris Bayne, and Joshua Jaeger). (Photo credit: E. Voigt)

This summer the San Diego State interns, or “ZEN-terns” as they are affectionately called, will be traveling to the ZEN sites located in North and South Japan, Sweden, Finland, Boston, Massachusetts, and Baja California, Mexico.  To learn more about the ZEN program and to follow the ZEN-tern’s adventures abroad through their summer blog posts, please visit

Author: Erin Voigt, M.Sc., contact at
Bring Sally with You

Don't forget to bring Sally the Scientist along with you! Click here to print your own Sally the Scientist, and send in a picture of you and Sally doing science. We will post your picture on our webpage.  Every month Sally and MEBSA members will pick the best Sally the Scientist picture to showcase on our newsletter!
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