Building Ocean Stewardship Through WILDCOAST’s MPA Floating Laboratories


Last week students from Mar Vista’s Poseidon Academy program boarded the  fishing vessel Sea Watch out of Seaforth Sportfishing Marina in Mission Bay and participated in WILDCOAST’s Floating Laboratory Project. Once aboard, students split into three research groups and began sampling water quality, plankton, and fish abundance and distribution.

Under the guidance of WILDCOAST staff and volunteers, students used modern sampling techniques to measure various water parameters to determine water quality, executed plankton collection using towable nets, dropped GoPro video cameras on fishing rods to observe fish assemblage and dissected squid. When the three-hour sampling cruise was complete, each student research group presented their methods, findings, and the importance of their data, all of which was collected inside the South La Jolla MPA (marine protected area), to the other groups. They used the collected data to contribute to ongoing baseline monitoring efforts in California’s statewide network of MPAs.

During the floating laboratory, students in the water quality group used a Van Dorn bottle to sample temperature, salinity, and pH at multiple depth increments and graphed the observed change at varying levels of the water column. The plankton group towed a plankton net for seven minutes to collect tiny organisms and then used dissection microscopes to examine and identify the organisms they collected. The fish group use recorded data from the GoPro to identify a juvenile yellowtail! Due to turbid water conditions the fish group was not able to identify many of the fish species that swam through frame, however, each student in the fish group was able to dissect a squid in an interactive and hands-on outdoor dissection.

The students saw first-hand how rising atmospheric CO2 levels affect ocean water chemistry, how a drop of water can contain the basis for all marine life, and how fieldwork can be complicated in adverse weather conditions. They also learned about the importance of MPAs and their positive impact on the marine ecosystem. Few people are ever afforded the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a marine biologist in the field. These students from the Mar Vista Poseidon Academy now know how exciting and important working to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife can be… and they were able to participate from a unique first person experience!


Photo Credit: Krissel Rivas/WILDCOAST