Seagrant program educates students on marine life

By Marc Anthony Martinez

ELAC and The University of California, Los Angeles collaborated for the SeaGrant Pathway program where students got a chance to learn about the ocean from field trips.

The past five weeks they have done something involving the ocean or marine biology and were able to network whenever they got a chance to.

 Students attended a statewide coastal clean-up day at Cabrillo Beach, visited the aquarium in Cabrillo Beach and watched the tide pool. Some students were allowed on an inflatable research vessel boat called the Zodiac where UCLA does their research, and lastly, they went on a bigger boat called the Yellowfin owned by the California State University system.

Associate professor in life science Jimmy Lee oversaw making all this happen with the help of Jeana Drake from UCLA. 

“I had this need, she had this resource and it was great. We were able to put it together.

We’re able to attract a lot of different students interested in the program, and they can contribute individual knowledge and skillset to the program,” Lee said.

The program is a way for ELAC students to do research with graduate students from UCLA if that was something they wanted to do. 

They were also able to go on the trips, learn about marine life and get on a boat if they had never experienced that. 

The first trip they went on was the California coastal clean-up that was statewide. Students went to Cabrillo Beach and picked up trash and recycled. In total, they picked up 300 pounds of waste, 50 pounds of that was trash and the rest was a big chunk of plywood that was the remains of a small boat that got stuck in the rocks. Some students also found lobster remains, which professor Lee kept for his classroom to show to his students.

 Students took advantage of cleaning up the beach to network with others who were there, and they collected samples for things they would want to do research on.

Audrey Luna, a psychology major student was part of the program for the summer, but couldn’t participate as much. She was able to come back to the program and was looking to take advantage of doing the research part of this program.

“I joined because of the research aspect, because with my field I haven’t done too much research,” Luna said. 

While they were picking up trash, soccer player Anco Veiga found a soccer ball between the rocks. He was able to take it out and showed a couple other students how to juggle the ball.

They picked up burnt pieces of wood left on the sand, bottles of beer and soda, plastic bags as well as anything that was harmful to the ocean and marine life.

“The ocean impacts our life and by getting to know a little bit about the ocean we understand things around us in our daily life,” Veiga said.

Profesor Lee said the turnout to clean the beach was good and students enjoyed it.

“We wanted to participate because it’s a group activity and obviously it helps keep our beaches clean,” Paola Soto-Arroyo said. 

Soto-Arroyo is a student at ELAC who is part of the research aspect with Moussa Matar and Drake.

Together they were looking into squid shell that’s flat to see what proteins it has.

 “They are trying to figure out what the proteins do, and some they have never seen before,” Drake said.

The students went back to Cabrillo Beach, this time to go to the aquarium and to see the tide pool.  Students walked around the aquarium and learned about marine life some more, they looked at objects like shark teeth under a microscope along with other things available to view. There was shark eggs, which take about a year to hatch. 

The aquarium had a demonstration of what an actual tide pool is and the things you could touch and not touch once you were out there. After the demonstration around midafternoon they walked down to the tide pool and looked at the sea life. 

Professor Randall Adsit talked about a rock that had the remains of a whale skull in it and the process that it took to become like that. 

“Professor Adsit gave a great overview of the tide pools and pointed out different things like the whale fossil that was in the tide pools and the ecology and geology of the environment itself,” Lee said.

One of the other things students from the SeaGrant program got to experience was to get on a research vessel called the Zodiac. It was a small boat, so they had to limit this to about six to eight students on the boat for a morning trip and afternoon trip. 

On the vessel, they went out to sea and dropped tanks that picked up water from different levels of the ocean and showed the effect of the sun and how the top layer would be hot, but the farther down you went the colder the water got. 

They also took samples of the water and put some on a slide and saw what the plankton and other living things would do under a microscope.

While out at sea the UCLA students on the trip who were piloting the boat spotted a couple of balloons floating in the water and maneuvered their way around the balloons to picked them up. They even picked up an Adidas sandal 

that was floating in the water. 

“It was the first trip I ever gone with SeaGrant. I grew up in Los Angeles my whole life and I didn’t know anything about marine life. I learned so much from that experience like thermal decline and phytoplankton. It just felt really enlightening, and it was an intimate experience,” Nguyen Tran said about her experience from on the Zodiac.

The last trip they had was on the Yellowfin, a boat that was bigger than the Zodiac and was able to take more students out. 

The Yellowfin had a troll system which is a lever with a tow line that allowed them to get sediments from the sea floor. 

“They looked at sediments and marine organisms that came from the bottom–students talked about seeing starfish and little baby octopus,” Lee said.

Students from different majors attended the events and some even thought about changing majors after attending. Dalia Alvarado is a student who attended because her son was interested in marine biology, so she wanted to learn more about marine life for him, but after those trips was thinking about maybe changing her major.

Students in the program decided what kind of research they wanted to do if they wanted to do any after going on those trips.

The SeaGrant program had different participation tiers like Grey Whale, where students would do a research project on their own with a graduate mentor from UCLA. 

Garibaldi was a group research project with other SeaGrant students and a graduate mentor. 

Purple Sea Urchin was one where students didn’t have to do a research project; they were just there to learn and have fun and would have to make a poster presentation of their experience.

The last tier was Sea Lion where students didn’t have to do any research or a poster; they were just there to learn and have fun and could come and go as they wished. 

Students also used this program to network with others in the program or with their graduate mentor if they had one, so that they can move forward in their prospective majors.

“If you want to network and branch out in the biology field or marine biology field, you should definitely join even if you’re not a marine biologist,” Soto-Arroyo said.

The SeaGrant program offered a variety of things for the students. They started working on these projects and will present what they found or what they did at a symposium in December.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *