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September 20, 2016

IMG_0100.jpgSANTA MONICA BAY                                                                                      Photo by Laurel Jones

The birds on Santa Monica Bay depend on a healthy ocean to survive. Who is working to make that happen and how can you become a meaningful part of the effort?

Meet Zack Gold—a Ph.D student at the LaKretz Center for California Conservation Science at UCLA; an avid surfer and scuba diver who grew up in Santa Monica and served as a lifeguard, as well, as helping to support the establishment of local Marine Protected Areas. In his own words:

During my undergraduate research at Stanford I became really interested in human impacts on marine ecosystems as well as using genetics techniques to study marine life. While there I was introduced to environmental DNA and became really interested in being able to use this tool to study how humans are impacting marine ecosystems and what management tools like MPAs are effective in restoring marine biodiversity and ecosystem health. So I came to UCLA under Professor Paul Barber to use eDNA techniques in the Santa Monica Bay and Channel Islands to study the the effects of MPA size and design on improving our local marine biodiversity, fish abundance, and ecosystem health. I am currently studying the biodiversity of marine protected areas in LA County using a new metagenomic tool called environmental DNA. In order to help my research, I am looking for helpful citizen science volunteers to help me collect seawater samples for this project.

This project is really exciting because it will allow us to compare the health of our marine ecosystems right in our backyard and give us insights into how the MPAs are working 5 years after they have been established.

If you want to learn more about the details of the research and project please check out my website here or follow this web address:

Now meet Emily Ryznar, another Ph.D student at the LaKretz Center for California Conservation Science at UCLA If you love tidepools (and who doesn’t?) then her project will be of interest to you. As she explains it:

I am attempting to quantify invertebrate diversity in CA kelp forests associated with crustose coralline algae (CCA), a very abundant algae in marine ecosystems that influences many marine invertebrates to live on or by it. 

How you can help–identify invertebrates and other species growing on CCA in the field and from photographs using CPCe (Coral Point Count with Excel Extension), a specialized computer program used to quantify marine diversity from photos. Interested participants will be trained in common kelp forest species identification and use of the program. You may help as much or as little as you want, there is no hard time-commitment.  Why is this important–CCA is very vulnerable to ocean acidification, which is predicted to increase in the future. CCA is required habitat for critically endangered invertebrates like abalone and coral. If CCA decreases due to ocean acidification, important invertebrates associated with CCA may also decline! CCA ecology is also relatively understudied in kelp forest ecosystems. You can reach Emily at

So many times we are hit with a wall of bad news about the environment and the oceans and are left feeling helpless to be able to make a difference. Now, you can.  Contact Zack or Emily for further information as listed above.

It’s for the birds.



  1. Laurel Jones, Education Chair permalink
    September 20, 2016 9:17 am

    Correction: The” La Kertz” Center named in the article should read the “La Kretz” Center. Laurel Jones


    • Chukar permalink*
      September 20, 2016 11:36 am



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