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CSUMB scientist surveys marine ecosystems

Aug. 10, 2010

"Most Californians don't think about how colorful and vibrant the rocky reefs are," CSUMB Professor James Lindholm said in late July as he and other researchers surveyed areas of the North Coast.

Dr. Lindholm, Rote Professor of Science and Policy, is collaborating with Dirk Rosen of Marine Applied Research and Exploration of Oakland to survey deep-water habitats using a remotely operated vehicle.

Some of the images transmitted from the ROV showed a seafloor near the Farallon Islands exploding with purple, red, green and orange anemones, sponges, sea cucumbers, sea squirts, rockfish and other creatures. The images are gathered by the ROV, which flies a few inches above the surface of the rocky reef.

"The ROV, because of its versatility and ability to stay down for long periods of time, gives us an opportunity to collect a lot of data," Dr. Lindholm, director of CSUMB's Institute for Applied Marine Ecology, told the Contra Costa Times.

In July, the researchers finished the first round of video and still-camera surveys of newly created marine protected zones from San Mateo County north to Mendocino County. They gathered over 140 hours of video and more than 8,500 photos, as well as other information.

Scientists want to capture what these underwater regions look like now so that the images can be compared with those taken in the future to learn what has changed as a result of the new marine reserves and other protected areas.

"I'm very excited about what the baseline project will deliver; it will be right on target with determining how these areas are performing," Cheri Recchia of the Ocean Protection Council said last April when the funding was awarded.

The council provided funding for 11 projects that will target marine life and habitats for up to three years, studying the organisms inside and outside the protected areas to establish a picture of marine ecosystems and human activities.

The baseline program is a collaboration among California Sea Grant, the Ocean Protection Council, California Department of Fish and Game, Ocean Science Trust and the Marine Protection Area Monitoring Enterprise.

For more information, visit the California Sea Grant website at

Photo credit: Dr. James LindholmThe image was taken by a remotely operated vehicle; it shows a deep-water rockfish and a basket star