CGRASS (Z. pacifica)

We are a volunteer group of students, faculty, and staff from Scripps Institution of Oceanography who study a seagrass habitat (Zostera pacifica) in La Jolla, California.

Our Mission:

1) To provide all students an accessible, safe opportunity to practice underwater science.

2) To cultivate an appreciation of local natural history through scuba diving.

Our Motivation:

Overcoming the environmental challenges of the 21st century will require cross-disciplinary scientists with a firm sense of place. Unfortunately, the scientific community has become increasingly specialized, and most students today are never given the opportunity to immerse themselves in our underwater world.

To address this problem, we have established an open, long-term field project for students of all disciplines, regardless of their experience level. This provides students with a first-hand view of our local underwater ecosystem and experience with the techniques used to study it.

What we do:

We perform three surveys of the seagrass each season; each focused on a particular process we believe important to the structure and health of the habitat. Through this, we have established a baseline understanding of the habitat, and are uncovering the processes that control its health and stability.

The surveys include:

1) Seagrass – We measure seagrass height, density, growth and flower abundance each season. Through repeated measurements we are observing seasonal variation in growth, and the habitat’s resilience to disturbance.

2) Fishes and Invertebrates – We perform fish and invertebrate surveys each season, during both day and night. We’ve gained important insights into the value of seagrass as a nursery habitat for many animals.

3) Sand dollars – Sand dollars (Dendraster sp.) are numerically dominant on the sand plain adjacent to the seagrass. We are recording abundance and size structure of the Dendraster, as well as studying interactions between Dendraster and the seagrass.