Another great trip

Back from another great trip to Bahía de los Angeles. This was our annual Spring trip, where Ocean Discovery Institute and associated researchers go down to present our results to Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, make arrangements for boat transportation for the summer research, and train with new staff and students for the field season to come.

Was lucky enough to get to come back in a car with my grad student (Thais) and Shara Fisler (yes, KPBS Women's History Month Local Hero Shara Fisler), so the whole way back was fun, informative, and exciting. No better way to make 11 hours pass by quickly than to spend it with great company.

The rest of our group was not as fortunate - they ended up stuck for a few days south of San Quintín, where the roads had been blocked by protesting farmworkers. Not that I am complaining...I have nothing but sympathy for the farmworker's plight, given their low wages, backbreaking work, and poor treatment. There is a great article on the issue here.

*please* don't let the dean know!

We had a ridiculous amount of fun looking at fish communities along the gradient of flushing along Mission Bay. I fear if Dean Norton sees how much fun we have teaching she might realize she shouldn't pay me so much anymore - it is just too much joy!

So - shhhhhhhhhhh!


from city heights to the white house

This may be a little long, but is a post I have been meaning to write for a while...

Over a decade ago, I started a collaboration with Ocean Discovery Institute (née "Aquatic Adventures"), with no real understanding of how it would transform my science and my life (as well as many others' lives). 

I had been working in Bahía de los Angeles for a few years, helping Drs. Gary Huxel and Paco Piñero to continue the work (and the legacy) of Dr. Gary Polis. But this was the first summer students from Hoover High School worked alongside scientists as part of the BAHIA program, an effort to empower underrepresented minority students through authentic science. 

One of the high school students who worked with me that first year was Anai Novoa. Petite even for a 9th grader, she was an enthusiastic and tireless field assistant. That's her on the far left in the picture below, pretending to attack me with a stick. Besides her love for arthropods, what stood out in Anai was her determination...she was a wrestler at Hoover High, wrestling against the boys. She was indefatigable when it came to climbing the islands and digging pitfall traps in 110° heat. And she always had questions - a seemingly limitless supply of questions about ecology, marine science, and natural history.


Anai ended up going to UCSB for her undergraduate degree, again showing her determination by overcoming a number of challenges along the way. Afterwards, Theresa and I were lucky enough to have her as our graduate student, where she just defended her (very interesting) thesis last week, where she compared historical datasets on wetland bivalves in southern and Baja California to her own present-day sampling (spoiler alert: fewer natives and more invasives!). 

So, in summary - Anai has gone from a resilient kid in City Heights to someone looking at PhD programs (along the way representing Ocean Discovery Institute at the White House for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring award). We could not be prouder!

fish sampling with my students

Last week, for our Biological Oceanography lab, we went out to the local marsh to do some fish sampling. Besides my joy at getting to play with hundreds of Fundulus and slogging through the marsh, I was also out there with a great cohort of grad students and some of the most enthusiastic undergrads I have had the pleasure of working with. 

Difficult to find much to complain about when one's vocation and avocation line up so perfectly.

From Boat to Throat: A Meeting with Pete Halmay, the Urchin King

The Sustainability LLC got an insider's view into our local fisheries, starting with a visit to the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in San Diego. There we were met by Peter "The Urchin King" Halmay, who spoke to us about the history of fishing in San Diego, the kelp beds and how they have changed through time, and what "sustainable" fishing means to a local fisherman. We got to see the local catch, meet with representatives from California Sea Grant, and learn about the history and biology of our local fishes.

Then we went to hang out on the grass and relax near the Midway, before going in to The Fish Market restaurant and perusing their seafood case, where we saw very little (or no) local fish, but lots of items from as far away as Iceland and Fiji. We then sat down for a nice lunch, and talked about fishing, fisheries, homecoming, football, and more while we enjoyed our lunch.

It was a great morning - learning, conversation, and food!

If you are interested in picking up some sustainable local seafood, I strongly suggest you check out the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market's Facebook page, and head down and support our local fishermen!

And now the "Aquatic Trifecta"

I take no credit (or blame!) for the name, but it is a great way to get our new students literally and figuratively immersed in their new surroundings. We spend time at the nexus of the San Diego River, Mission Bay, and the Pacific, and with help from USD's Outdoor Adventures, we enjoyed paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, volleyball, and even a quick seine for fishes (all of which were released unharmed). A great Sunday for the Sustainability LLC!

hiking mission trails regional park

Thanks to the efforts of the Ranger (Thanks Chris!) and knowledgable docents at MTRP, we had a great trip, where we learned a lot about indigenous uses of the land, natural history, and edible plants and animals of the chaparral. No time for a longer post, but some pictures of the event are below.

families and fishes

Lots of fun yesterday down at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market. Families got to sample (and learn how to make) some wonderful foods from local fishes; see and hold live local marine seafood (such as urchin and crabs); learn about the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve; play a "fishing for facts" game (very popular); and decorate their own reusable shopping bags with sea life stencils. It was a huge turnout and a perfect day for the event. My thanks to California Sea GrantTijuana River National Estuarine Research ReserveSlow Food Urban San DiegoSan Diego Fishermen’s Working GroupUniversity of San DiegoThe Port of San DiegoCollaborative Fisheries Research West & the Ocean Protection Council, volunteers from Ocean Discovery Institute, and the wonderful chefs who made this possible!

fish are not sticks!

A family dockside event

August 16, 2014 10am - 1 pm at the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market
(on the Fish Harbor Pier in San Diego Bay located between Ruocco Park and Seaport Village

Join us to celebrate San Diego's first open air fishermen's market and the people who will make it a success— our very own fishermen, aquafarmers and you, the seafood loving public. There will be kid-friendly tastings of San Diego-sourced seafood and fun educational activities. 

Space is limited, please RSVP at:

Brought to you by: California Sea Grant, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Slow Food Urban San Diego, San Diego Fishermen’s Working Group, University of San Diego, The Port of San Diego, and a grant from Collaborative Fisheries Research West & the Ocean Protection Council.

summer in the talley lab

another exciting summer underway (holy crap - 1/2 over!) here in the lab at University of San Diego. I am lucky to have my previous graduate students finishing up their work, another joining the lab (graduate webpage HERE), and three great undergrads in the lab, working on really interesting questions.

Alex Blanco is a McNair Scholar, continuing work in my lab, but his research is taking him in a new direction. Alex is working on an important but little-studied habitat in southern California wetlands - pools in the vegetated marsh. We are trying to better understand their distribution, and figure out if new technology (camera-equipped drones) can help us more cheaply and efficiently map these and other small-scale features in our wetlands. Of course, being Alex, he also pitches in around the lab, helping us with our other studies as well.

Yuri Bejarano also just joined the lab this summer, a transfer student from New York who is part of University of San Diego's Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) Program. Despite the name, the PURE program, under the direction of our (great) new Director of Undergraduate Research, Dr. Sonia Zárate, now also takes transfer students, and I was fortunate to have Yuri choose my lab. She is helping me work on Fundulus parvipinnis (shocking, I know!), and is helping us get a better handle on some of the basics - ontogenetic shifts in diet; length-weight relationships; and the stable isotope signatures of females and some of their component tissues (e.g., eggs vs muscle). She is a great addition to the lab, is an amazingly hard worker and bright student, and I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor!

Also in the lab this summer has been Quinn Montgomery. Quinn is on the crew team, was in my Physical Oceanography course, and is a delight to be around. He does not have a particular project he is focusing on (he has other plans for his capstone research), but has been invaluable in the field!

Of course, there has also been some great stuff going on with the Bahía de los Angeles research this summer - more on that soon!

from left to right - Quinn, Yuri, and Alex

from left to right - Quinn, Yuri, and Alex