Marine Biology

Marine biology

The Marine Biology Area has been remarkably successful in training research scientists. Over half the M.S. graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs. Most of the others are employed in marine biology. Certain faculty members within the area are currently well funded. Classes take full advantage of our proximity to a diversity of environs, including rocky intertidal, sand and mudflat communities, and kelp forest habitats. Classes often go on boat trips. A highlight of the program is the Marine Biology Semester in which students spent a whole semester on Catalina Island fulfilling a large proprotion of their program requirements.

Larry Allen - ecology, behavior, and biogeography of fishes

Larry AllenProfessor and Chair
Ph.D. University of Southern California
Phone: 818-677-3356
Fax: 818-677-2034 
Office: Chaparral Hall 5101

I have extensive experience working on the community ecology of California coastal marine fishes particularly those that occur in the bays, estuaries and harbors of Southern California. In addition, recent efforts have dealt with fish assemblages in kelp bed and rock reefs in Southern California. Past research has also included investigations into biogeography of bay/estuarine and coastal marine fishes. My experience in the field of systematics has centered on the development and classification of clingfishes (Gobiesociformes) and wreckfishes (Polyprionidae). Currently, my students and I are investigating life history, ecology, population genetics, and recruitment mechanisms of several important commercial species of fishes including giant sea bass, soupfin sharks, white seabass, California halibut, kelp bass, barred sand bass, and spotted sand bass.

Robert Carpenter - physiological ecology of marine algae

Robert CarpenterProfessor
Ph.D. University of Georgia
Phone: 818-677-3256
Fax: 818-677-2034 
Office: Magnolia Hall 4110

My research interests are focused on the ecology of marine benthic communities. Specifically, I am interested in the coupling between physical aspects of the environment (primarily light and water flow) and the physiology of algae and algal communities, and in interactions between herbivores and algae, and how these processes cascade upward to the community level. One current research project is examining the role of hydrodynamics in controlling the rates of metabolism of coral reef algal communities in Hawaii and Moorea, French Polynesia. My students and I take a combined laboratory and field approach to test hypotheses about mass-transfer limitation of reef algae across spatial scales. We use a variety of sophisticated instrumentation to measure water flow at a variety of spatial scales and estimate rates of organismal metabolism in flumes. We have addressed similar questions in kelp forest environments at Santa Catalina Island. Another major research thrust is associated with the NSF LTER coral reef site in Moorea. As one of four PIs on this project, I am involved in quantifying long-term changes in coral reef community structure and function. Additionally, we are interested in how coral reef metabolism is driven by both large- and small-scale hydrodynamic processes and how this also might influence distributions and abundances of reef organisms and trophic dynamics. My most recent research focus has been on the effects of ocean acidification on coral reef calcifying organisms and communities. We are addressing these effects on organismal physiology, ecological interactions, and at the whole reef scale in Moorea. While my interests are focused on coral reefs and other algal-dominated marine communities, several students in my laboratory have conducted research on benthic invertebrates living in intertidal, kelp forest, and coral reef environments.

Steve Dudgeon - marine benthic ecology, life histories, and clonal organisms

Steve DudgeonProfessor
Ph.D. University of Maine
Phone: 818-677-7322
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4105

My research interests lie in two areas. One is the different levels of integration exhibited among individual organisms aggregated in a group, clone or colony and how this variation impacts both, their population ecology, and the evolution of their life histories. The second is the scale- and context-dependence of ecological processes in community development. I study both benthic marine invertebrates and seaweeds for three reasons: (1) both taxa are easily manipulated in field and laboratory experiments; (2) interactions between these taxa are often central features of community organization; (3) a great diversity of unitary and clonal lifestyles (often in a single lineage) coexist in one ecosystem.

Peter Edmunds - physiological and conservation ecology of corals

Peter EdmundsProfessor
Ph.D. Glasgow University
Phone: 818-677-2502
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4113

Research in my lab focuses on the physiological ecology of tropical reef corals and I work at the organismic, population, and community levels.  My research program is structured into two thematic areas.  

First, I study the ecology and long-term dynamics of coral reefs to identify temporal trends and provide an ecological context within which mechanistic research can be designed. Over the last 30 years, most of my ecological research has taken place on the shallow reefs along the south coast of St. John, US Virgin Islands (, and on the coral reefs around Moorea, French Polynesia ( In St. John, the coral reefs are protected within the VI National Park and Biosphere Reserve and I work closely with biologists and resource managers associated with the Virgin Islands National Park to study long-term changes in coral reef communities, and test hypotheses that shed light on the processes driving these changes. In 2013, I began a new project in collaboration with Dr. Howard Lasker (U of Buffalo) to evaluate how the octocoral communities have changed in concert with changes affecting stony corals and macroalgae. In Moorea, I serve as a co-PI on the Moorea Coral Reef LTER which has the objective of quantifying long-term changes in coral communities within a multidisciplinary context created by the large team of scientists associated with the project. My research in Moorea provide a rich context describing the dynamics of coral reefs that are strongly affected by routine physical forces (e.g., storm waves), and periodic disturbances such as the recent outbreak of the crown of the thorns seastar, Acanthaster planci, that decimated these reefs by 2010, and cyclones, like one that hit Moorea in 2010. Remarkably, the outer reefs have staged a phenomenal recovery from both of these events, and by 2016, areas of the outer reef had > 50% coral cover.

Second, I study the biology of individual corals to better understand their basic functionality and establish mechanistic links between organism performance and community dynamics. My work in this area continues to be strongly influenced by the patterns emerging from my time-series research, but recent studies have focused on evaluating the response of corals to ocean acidification (increasing seawater pCO2) and climate change (rising seawater temperature). I share funding with Robert Carpenter ( to study the effects of these agents on reef corals and coral reefs in Moorea, and to this end, we have been conducting a program of experimentation utilizing common gardens, shore-based mesocosms and flumes, and in water incubations using field-deployable flumes.

Kerry Nickols - bio-physical interactions, coastal ecology

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. University of California, Davis


Phone: 818-677-6147

Fax: 818-677-2034

Office: Magnolia Hall 4200


My research integrates ecology and oceanography to study how physical processes and anthropogenic stressors impact coastal marine populations and ecosystems. By building a mechanistic understanding of interactions between physical processes and marine organisms we can predict trajectories of populations and ecosystems useful for management of coastal resources and adaptive management of Marine Protected Areas. Most of my research focuses on nearshore systems in California but I also have experience in tropical and polar systems. A main focus of research in my lab is on bio-physical interactions in kelp forests as the kelp itself alters the physical environment and therefore can impact water motion and mixing thereby influencing processes from larval dispersal to biogeochemical cycles. Other aspects of my lab’s research program include population connectivity of coastal marine organisms, predicting responses of fished species to Marine Protected Areas and adaptive management, and responses of zooplankton communities to changes in ocean conditions. 

Nyssa Silbiger - quantitative ecology, coastal marine ecosystems, and global change biology


Assistant Professor

Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa
Phone: 818-677-4427
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4109A

In my research program, I use a diverse set of laboratory, field, and quantitative techniques to understand the impact of climate stressors on organisms, communities, and ecosystem processes in the context of natural variability. The main foci of my research are: 1) assessing the impacts of anthropogenic stressors (temperature, ocean acidification [OA], and eutrophication) on organismal to ecosystem processes, 2) quantifying how interactions between climate stressors and natural variability drive communities interactions and ecosystems processes across multiple spatial scales, and 3) characterizing feedbacks between global climate change stressors and ecosystem functioning. To date, I have worked mostly in coastal ecosystems including coral reefs and temperate rocky shores. Examples of a few ongoing research projects include: investigating drivers of coral reef accretion and bioerosion processes using natural gradients and manipulative lab experiments, assessing the role of temperate seaweeds as “ecological buffers” for ocean acidification along the US West Coast, and the scaling of individual to ecosystem responses to nutrient stress on Hawaiian coral reefs.   

For more information about my lab please see my website:


Mark Steele - ecology of fishes

Mark SteeleProfessor
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara
Phone: 818-677-4270
Fax: 818-677-2034
Office: Magnolia Hall 4100

The main goal of my research is to elucidate the causes of variation in abundance of organisms that live in open populations in order to understand and predict their dynamics and spatial patterns. I place particular emphasis on evaluating the relative importance of the various processes that determine patterns of abundance, population dynamics, and community structure. I have worked on reef fishes in temperate (southern California), subtropical (Gulf of California, Mexico), and tropical (Bahamas) systems, and also on estuarine fishes in southern California. A major focus of research in my lab is testing for equivalence of yield in biomass and reproductive output of reef fishes between artificial and natural reefs in Southern California. Other aspects of my lab's research program include: population dynamics and community structure of non-exploited reef fishes; density dependence in commercially-exploited reef fishes and implications for fisheries management using marine protected areas; and the ecology of estuarine fishes, particularly as related to wetland restoration projects.


Mia Adreani
Chris Chabot
Michael Franklin
Janet Kübler
Casey terHorst