Saturdays at the Lab

Saturday mornings, 10 am-12 noon, May 31–August 30, 2014

The Wrigley Marine Science Center holds an open house on Saturdays during the summer for visitors who want to see the inside of a working marine lab. This is a two-hour tour, open to the public, that begins at the waterfront of the Wrigley Marine Science Center, two miles east of Two Harbors on Catalina Island. Visitors can check out a touch tank, research exhibits, a science lecture and a tour of a hyperbaric chamber (unless the chamber is being used for treatments). Download the Saturdays at the Lab flier.

For more information, call (310) 510-0811.


2014 Speakers

June 7th – Chris Suffridge


Chris Suffridge – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: "B-Vitamins and Primary Production: Algae need their vitamins too!"  

Microbial plants in the ocean, phytoplankton, are incredibly important to all aspects of our lives. These microbes produce 50% of the Oxygen on the planet, and control global carbon dioxide concentrations which in turn controls the rate of global warming.  In order to understand these vital process, we must understand the factors that control the growth of marine phytoplankton.  It has been shown that B-vitamins exhibit control over phytoplankton dynamics. My research is focused on understanding what role B-vitamins play in controlling phytoplankton production and therefore mediating these global scale processes.

June 14th – J.R. Clark and Parker House


J.R. Clark – California State University, Northridge, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Reproductive Behavior of the Giant Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas

Giant sea bass are the largest and only teleost megacarnivore found in the California kelp bed community. They have been targeted for both recreational and commercial fishing since the late 1800’s causing the numbers to dwindle so rapidly that they are now on the IUCN Red List as a critically endangered species. For being such a popular trophy fish, there is very little known about their life history and behaviors. Reproductive strategies lay the foundation for an organism's success. I will be investigating the reproductive behaviors and mating system of giant sea bass with hopes to aid in the preservation of this species. Understanding these strategies and behaviors will aid in the conservation of the giant sea bass. The little information that we have about giant sea bassis mainly speculation with little to no data to back it up and I hope to in the gaps.


Parker House – California State University, Northridge, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Direct and Indirect Impacts of Fishing on the Trophic Structure of Kelp Forest Fishes off Southern California” 

The partitioning of food resources among different organisms in a community creates the trophic structure of an ecosystem. Altering this trophic structure by reducing or eliminating predators can drastically change the makeup of an entire community. My research focuses on how fishing for predatory fishes in Southern California kelp forest changes the overall fish community.

June 21st – Nathan Churches


Nathan Churches – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Molecular and Computational Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Genetic Selective Breeding in Bivalves”

For thousands of years humans have used selective breeding to improve various species of plants and animals. I am interested in discovering the genes that allow shellfish to grow in commercial aquaculture settings, with the idea that we can promote these genes in a selective breeding program. With selective breeding we can create shellfish that are not only valuable for commercial industry, but can be used in ecological contexts for purposes of bioremediation, oceanic landscape retention, and as ecosystem health barometers. This project also helps underpin a growing presence of locally based sustainable aquaculture in the Southern California area, which will increase the productivity and health of our local waterways. Results from this project may also be used to help poor countries increase their oceanic food productivity, an increasingly important topic in the modern fisheries era.

June 28th – Megan Hall & Yukun Lin


Megan Hall – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: "Monitoring Marine Pollution with Mussels"

Copper is a problematic pollutant in urbanized areas and waters with high boating activity. Copper pollution is primarily derived from antifouling paints on the hulls of boats and storm water runoff. Copper can be harmful to many marine organisms, but it is unclear to what extent. The levels of allowable copper in coastal waters are recommended by the EPA. These limits are determined by an EPA assay which exposes embryos of the mussel Mytilus to copper for 48 hours, and quantifies survival and normal development at the end of this brief exposure. My research incorporates molecular techniques into this assay to develop a more sensitive metric of copper pollution. I have also extended the monitoring period beyond the initial 48 hours to determine any long term effects on the survival and development of mussel larvae. Ideally, this research will be able to provide a more rapid and sensitive measure for the effects of copper toxicity on the marine mussel, and thus inform policy makers about appropriate limits for copper in marine waters.


Yukun Lin – Harvey Mudd College, Department of Computer Science
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Shark tracking Using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles” 

Studying the movement of sharks and other fish is an important tool for monitoring and maintaining fish populations and their habitat. However, quantifying these movements poses significant challenges. Typical methods for tracking tagged individuals manually or with static hydrophone arrays are limited by human endurance and coverage respectively. To address these issues, we have developed a system of multiple autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) capable of autonomously tracking and following an acoustically tagged leopard shark. The multi-AUV system has been field tested, and is capable of tracking tagged leopard sharks for extended periods of time with an accuracy on par with human tracking. This summer, I plan to use the multi-AUV tracking system in combination with accelerometer data loggers to collect fine scale spatial and behavioral data of leopard sharks in Big Fisherman Cove, Catalina Island.

July 5th – Jessica Maxfield


Jessica Maxfield – University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Uncovering the Secrets of Sex Change: Mapping the Sex Change Pathway in Gobiid fishes”

There is amazing diversity in the ways in which fishes reproduce, anything humans can imagine doing fish do naturally. They form mating pair bonds, have harems (dominated by a male or a female), change sex (back and forth or in one direction), have social and environmental control of their sex determining systems and so much more. My research seeks to elucidate the mechanisms that allow for this diversity in one family of fishes, Gobiidae. Using molecular techniques, I am exploring the evolution of the ability the change sex in both directions in two representative species. I will be addressing questions such as: Are the genes and gene pathways used by these two species similar or different? How many times has sex change likely evolved in this family?  And has this ability contributed to the groups overall success? I hope to uncover what genes regulate a switch from egg production to sperm production and back again, a process that has never before been documented from a molecular perspective.

July 12th – Patrick Sun


Patrick Sun – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Examination of Oxidative Stress through the Generation of Reactive Oxygen Species in the Marine Copepod, Tigripus californicus in its Native Habitat”

Pollution adaptation and acclimation in a marine crustacean Tigriopus that lives in tide pools. My research primarily focuses on studying pollution tolerance and how marine life responds to pollution exposure. My research also looks at the natural habitat of Tigriopus for environmental factors that may influence pollution tolerance. 

July 19th – Bonita Lam


Bonita Lam – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Victoria J. Bertics Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Looking in Marine Sediments for New “Electrogenic” Bacteria - Applications in Energy Generation and Bioremediation”

The metabolic versatility of microorganisms allows them to thrive and survive in environments where most all other life would not be found. My project focuses on looking at marine sediments, more specifically the depths in marine sediment where there is no oxygen present. I use a targeted culturing technique where I can find bacteria with a specific ability/metabolism by burying electrodes in the sediment and applying an electrical potential. These electrodes provide electrons – an energy source to the bacteria that are able to take electrons from the electrode. This ability is called extracellular electron transfer (EET). EET has only been recently discovered and studied extensively in model microorganisms. Discovering more microorganisms that have this capability is crucial and will contribute to our understanding of biogeochemical cycling. In addition, these microbes could contribute to biofuel generation and bioremediation (using bacteria to clean up toxic pollutants).

July 26th – Hamdi Kitapci & Connor White  


Hamdi Kitapci – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Molecular and Computational Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: "What is the Relationship Between Environment and Genome Adaptation? Local Adaptation vs. Phenotypic Plasticity"

Hamdi’s research will explore the relationship between environment and genetic adaptation of the barnacle, a sessile organism that lives permanently attached to a substrate in the intertidal habitat. During high tide they are immersed in the water and can get oxygen and nutrients, during low tide they are exposed to air with no nutrients. Barnacles need to cope with this stressful environment by changing their gene expression profile. Hamdi will collect barnacles following a tidal cycle to detect which genes are responsible for this adaptation.


Connor White – California State University, Long Beach, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: "Influence of Environmental Variables on Movements and Behavior of the Leopard Shark, Triakis semifasciata"

During summer months a large number of leopard sharks aggregate in Big Fisherman Cove to seek out warm water. I am trying to use technology to answer questions about why sharks are selecting Big Fisherman Cove and really how sharks make decisions. I am using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), to track and record the position of sharks, while I attach behavioral data loggers to individuals. This will allow me to determine what sharks and doing, as well as where they are doing it. I hope to use this information to determine how environmental conditions such as waves, temperature and habitat type influence the behaviors and activity levels of leopard sharks.

August 2nd – Sean Canfield


Sean Canfield – University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “How Dispersal Capability Affects the Diversity and Population Dynamics of Marine Fishes”

My research focuses on evolutionary patterns associated with fishes that exhibit limited dispersal capability - in other words, fishes that don't travel very far in their lifetimes, either as adults or as larvae.  By examining large-scale evolutionary patterns alongside population-level analyses, we can start to get a clearer picture of the evolutionary consequences of this type of lifestyle.

August 9th – Hantten Han & Xiaoshen Yin


Hantten Han – USC Department of Earth Sciences, Program in Ocean Sciences
Victoria J. Bertics Summer Fellow
Project Title: “The Effect of Reduced Sulfur and Copper on Nitrification in the Sediment of Catalina Harbor”

I am a sea-going chemical oceanographer, participating in various oceanic expeditions in the Pacific Ocean, to study about the effect of chemicals on important microbial processes that play important roles in our climate change. To be more specific, I am studying about the effect of Cu and Sulfide on nitrification, by which ammonium would be oxidized to nitrite and then further be oxidized to nitrate. Meanwhile, nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas could be generated in nitrification. In addition to the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Harbor is another research site of mine. I have been working on sulfide measurement in various types of sediments in Catalina Harbor as well as in the seawater column by using two low detection limit sulfide methods developed in our lab. For this summer, I want to continue my exploration in the Catalina Harbor sediment to examine the effect of Cu and Sulfide on nitrification in the Catalina Harbor sediments.


Xiaoshen Yin – USC Department of Biological Sciences, Program in Marine and Environmental Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Genetics of the Pacific Oyster”

I hope to explore the genetic basis underlying the response to environment and the early mortality in the Pacific oyster. My research aims to answer the following questions: (1) What are the genetic and physiological bases of differential growth and survival under changing conditions of ocean acidification? (2) What is the dynamics of the mortality of the Pacific oyster during the early life stages, especially before and after metamorphosis? (3) What are the potential causes (e.g. failure to settle vs. mortality after metamorphosis) and genetic bases underlying the early mortality in the Pacific oyster?

August 16th – Sam Ginther


Sam Ginther – California State University, Northridge, Department of Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “The Effects of Sargassum horneri on Kelp Forest Fishes of Coastal Southern California”

My study aims to understand the effects of an introduced alga, Sargassum horneri, on kelp forest fishes.  As this alga has the potential to drastically alter native fish habitats, notably Macrocystis pyrifera, my study wil provide insight on how an invasive alga can alter fish community structure and will improve management actions during future invasive events.

August 23rd – Jenny Hofmeister & Zhi “Spider” Zhu


Jenny Hofmeister – University of California, Berkeley, Integrative Biology Program
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Factors Influencing Distribution and Abundance of Octopus Inside and Outside of a Marine Protected Area in a Kelp Forest Rocky Reef Ecosystem”

Why do octopuses go where they go, and why do we find them where we find them? My research aims to answer these questions and more as I SCUBA dive in the kelp forests near Two Harbors. Octopuses have very complex and dynamic behaviors, and they play an important role in the food web. This means they can respond relatively quickly to changes in their environment. But what are the most important changes that will elicit the greatest responses in octopuses? I measure the abundances of octopuses, predatory fishes, moray eels, and snails to get at this question.


Zhi Zhu – USC Department Biological Sciences, Program in Marine and Environmental Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “The Potential Effects of Climate Change on Toxin Accumulation in Food Webs”

With increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, the global temperature is predicted to increase ~4°C by the end of this century. One type of toxic diatom (Pseudo-nitzschia) has been discovered that can produce more toxin (domoic acid) in warmer and sourer (higher CO2) environments. This change may affect how much toxin may accumulate in bivalves (such as, mussel, oyster), fish, sea birds, sea lion, and whales. My research objective is to understand how the temperature increase and CO2 increase may affect the amount of toxin that can be accumulated in higher level animals. The results of this research may help to guide the management of aquaculture and improve seafood safety under projected climate change scenarios.

August 30th – Ben Higgins


Ben Higgins – University of California, Santa Cruz, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Wrigley Institute Summer Fellow
Project Title: “Ecology and Natural History of the California Moray Eel (Gymnothorax mordax) 

I am interested in figuring out just what specific role the California moray has in the kelp forest ecosystem. Kelp forests are some of the most species rich and productive habitats in the ocean. It is therefore not surprising that kelp forest communities are also some of the most well studied systems in California and home to multiple National Marine Sanctuaries. Despite the large body of data on predatory interactions, we lack information on feeding ecology for many top predators that inhabit kelp forests. This paucity of information may be because of large predator declines or simply the elusiveness of some species. One example of a large elusive predator in kelp forests about which little is known is the California moray eel. Surprisingly, basic questions (e.g. how many there are, where they live, what they eat, how much they move in a given area) have yet to be asked about this likely apex consumer. However, because of their cryptic lifestyle, morays have managed to remain virtually undetected in standard species surveys.