Theme B- Biological Systems Research

The population dynamics and physiological ecology of marine ecosystems is a complex research question, which involves finely tuned long-term observation programs. Process oriented research at the system and individual level lead to the fundamental understanding of the physiology and life cycle dynamics of important species.

This theme area includes the following four thrust areas:

Fisheries research analyzes long term trends of ecosystems where fisheries are concentrated using data bases such as the four-decade-old CalCOFI program, examines the schooling and behavior of selected species, develops new methods of stock assessment, and forecasts and investigates the effects of fishing activities on the environment. Food chain dynamics is of particular interest in the success of larval populations. Basic studies on the physiology and behavior of such species as sharks are of particular interest. Paleo-oceanographic techniques for the reconstruction of past distributions and abundances are necessary to help decipher the natural variability of the selected commercially important species.

Marine ecosystem monitoring and forecasting examines the distribution and abundance of organisms at all levels of the food chain in relation to their environment, primarily the physical and chemical structure. Ocean currents as transport routes, episodic events as introduction mechanisms, migration routes and impact of climate change on species distributions is featured. Patchiness in the vertical as well as in the horizontal due to mesoscale and small-scale structure is a research topic.

Protected species dynamics focuses upon the refinement of acoustic sensing and tagging methods, the study of population dynamics, habitat utilization, foraging habitats, and diving physiology of marine mammals. In addition, the impact of anthropogenic sound on the migration routes and behavior of these mammals is a study area necessitated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the increase of anthropogenic activity such as shipping, drilling and general development of the near shore zone.

Protected areas and reef systems ecology seeks to do research aimed at protecting marine habitats from anthropogenic change. Reef habitats in particular may harbor clues to past changes in climate in their physical structure. These sensitive systems harbor a diverse community and can represent a historical record of past climate events. In many cases, these habitats are threatened and in need of mitigation.