Note to editors and reporters:
Contact the Cal State L.A. Public Affairs office at (323) 343-3050 to
arrange interviews with CSULA Professors Carlos Robles or Patrick Krug.
CSULA researchers examine an overlooked aspect of climate change:
effects of altered rainfall on coastal marine populations
Cal State L.A. named partner of a new Cooperative
on Marine Ecosystems and Climate
CSULA students with Biological Sciences Professor Carlos Robles (l) conducting field research.
Los Angeles, CA –
With its national reputation for diversity-focused
education in the environmental sciences, California State University,
Los Angeles has been named as a partner of a new research institute
established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Cal State L.A. team will conduct projects exploring
how predicted changes in sea surface salinity might affect latitudinal
species distributions and alter the behavior of key predators in coastal
communities. The work will be one component of a comprehensive
investigation of climate and its impacts on Pacific Ocean communities
undertaken by the new NOAA consortium called the Cooperative
Institute on Marine Ecosystems and Climate (CIMEC).
According to CSULA Biology Professor Carlos Robles,
a member of the Cooperative Institute Leadership Council, “Cal State
L.A. students and faculty will focus on how altered rainfall might
affect coastal marine populations. Many marine organisms are known to be
sensitive to brackish or briny water, but how near-shore marine
communities might be affected by shifts in fresh water run-off with
global climate has received little attention.”
The five-year $55 million federally-funded CIMEC is based
at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA.
The CIMEC aims to foster collaborations between NOAA Southwest Fisheries
Science Center on the Scripps campus and its academic partners,
consisting of Cal State L.A., UC San Diego, UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa
Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and Humboldt State.
L-r: CSULA graduate student Matthew Garchow and Professor Patrick Krug collecting algae patches to bring back to the laboratory.
“Cal State L.A. was selected in order to capitalize on
its existing strengths in diversity-focused geosciences education to
support NOAA’s efforts to develop a diverse workforce,” said
Robles. “Each year, six CSULA research fellows would receive intense
training in projects addressing the themes of global climate research
and ecosystem management. There will also be two internships at Scripps
and Southwest Fisheries Science Center that will offer students
experience in marine conservation policy or training.”
Robles, who is currently conducting field research at
Bamfield Marine Science Centre in Barkley Sounds, British Columbia, is
testing whether coastal gradients in salinity affect the activities of a
keystone predator, the sea star Pisaster ochraceus, in response
to changes in watershed discharge. Altering the effectiveness of a key
predator can transform the structure of entire shore communities, said
Robles. A combination of lab and field experiments, on-shore
miniaturized salinity monitors, and computer simulations of sea-surface
flows are utilized to examine the role of salinity gradients in shaping
predator activity patterns and prey population distributions resulting
from altered rainfall predicted for climate change.
In another research project, led by CSULA Biology
Professor Patrick Krug, common marine molluscs will be used as an
exemplary system to study the impact of changing salinity on latitudinal
distributions. Two closely-related species of sea slugs have abutting
north-south latitudinal limits near San Francisco Bay. Krug indicated
that the boundary between the two seasonally shifts south following
rainfall events that favor the northern species, which shows a greater
tolerance for brackish water incursions.
“Many coastal species have shifted their ranges northward
in the last 50 years,” said Krug, “but we know very little about how
temperature, rainfall and competition limit where you find a given
organism. Using our model system, students will collect data and develop
methods to predict how marine animals will respond to ongoing climate
Additionally, CSULA Geography Professor Hengchun Ye
will be providing assistance for both research related to problems
of climate change.
Overall, the CIMEC will serve larger objectives:
collect and analyze data to improve understanding of climate processes
globally and within the southwestern U.S. marine environment
expand knowledge of ocean and atmospheric processes associated with
climate change and its impacts on various spatial and temporal scales;
better understand marine ecosystem structure and function, to forecast
algal blooms and fish and beach contamination, and to protect threatened
develop human coastal communities that are resilient to climate change
and understand the relationships between these communities and natural
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in
the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of
the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.
For the NOAA press release:
For the past decade, the CSULA campus has garnered a
national reputation for diversity-focused education in the environmental
sciences with hundreds of journal articles and abstracts published with
student coauthors, with over 40 graduates accepted to environmental
science Ph.D. programs or placed in agency positions, and the founding
of a cross-department master’s degree to support interdisciplinary
environmental science training. Much of this progress was made under
a National Science Foundation-funded center at Cal State L.A. that
concluded its 10-year lifespan in 2009. The University’s CIMEC
partnership would continue to build on this history of success.
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