|Bodega Head @ Bodega Bay, California|
Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) is an off campus research laboratory operated by UC Davis and is part of the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute. Located in Bodega Bay, California, BML is a leading research and education facility providing space for research of coastal and shoreline biological communities that can inform solutions to complex environmental challenges. The lab is perched on the iconic bluffs of Bodega Head and is located within the 362-acre Bodega Marine Reserve. BML's location provides a unique study system, as the lab and reserve sit at the epicenter of one of only four coastal upwelling regions in the world.
Opened in 1966, the lab has been managed by UC Davis since 1984. The facility's main buildings house 65 laboratories and offices for resident and visiting scientists, students and support staff members. The lab also includes classrooms, lecture hall, public education spaces, library, computer facilities, residence halls and conference rooms. Large indoor and outdoor public aquariums and displays provide marine education to visitors, while wet labs and seawater aquariums provide controlled environments for the study of marine and estuarine organisms. Support buildings include research greenhouses and facilities for marine algal culture. A central service facility includes buildings for diving operations support and for housing small boats, vehicles, sampling gear and equipment.
The lab offers hands-on research classes for undergraduate students over the summer, and offers short-term housing for both undergraduate and graduate researchers. Typically, BML offers two different course options for summer session 1; one is focused on coastal marine ecology, and students are taught about common marine invertebrates and ecological concepts in addition to performing their own research project. The second course is focused on toxicology, and students learn and perform research projects aimed at investigating the effects of different chemicals on marine invertebrate development. During summer session 2, BML offers more classes and students can choose to take any of the classes offered in any combination they desire. BML also oversees scuba diving programs geared toward research divers, but open to any UC Davis student who can pass the swim test. All scuba diving is controlled by the UCD Diving Control Board. In addition, BML offers boating safety courses that allow researchers to conduct their work in the safest manner possible.
Bodega Marine Lab's faculty members specialize in six main areas of study: Climate Change, Coastal Oceanography, Conservation and Restoration, Ecology and Evolution, Ocean Health, and Physiology. More information about current research being conducted in each of these programs can be found on the Bodega Marine Laboratory website.
White Abalone Restoration
One major project that researchers at the Bodega Marine Lab are currently working on is the White Abalone Recovery Program. This program was launched in an effort to restore the wild populations of white abalone, which now exist at less than 1% of their historical estimated populations in the United States due to intense overfishing. White abalone function as grazers in ecosystems and can work to increase biodiversity in kelp forests by competing with urchins that otherwise may grow to population sizes that are out of control. However, because white abalone individuals are so sparse in the wild, natural reproductive processes have been unsuccessful in restoring the populations to higher numbers. This is why researchers at BML have put together a recovery plan that involves population monitoring, captive breeding, research, and population restoration. The White Abalone Restoration program celebrated a landmark moment in 2019, when captive-raised white abalone were placed into the ocean for the first time, marking a major milestone in the recovery of this species.
The BOAR Group consists of researchers from the Sanford, Hill, and Gaylord Labs at BML. The group uses many different research methods to study the effects of climate change-induced ocean acidification and related stressors on marine organisms and ecosystems. Ocean acidification refers to the process by which around 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activities is absorbed into the ocean, changing the ocean water’s chemistry to make it more acidic.
Kelp forests along the Northern California coast are extremely important, both ecologically and economically. Kelp forests support a huge abundance of biodiversity and multiple large commercial fisheries. However, when urchin populations are left unchecked, kelp forests can be completely mowed down by urchins that feed on the coral, resulting in a new ecosystem called an “urchin barren” that sustains far less biodiversity than kelp forests. UC Davis BML researchers are working on methods to restore the vital kelp forests
Volunteer opportunities are often available for students interested in spending time out on the coast. Scuba certification isn't required, but certainly helps.
BML also operates a web cam where you can keep an eye on the ocean!