Kelp Us, We’re Graduating!

   This past Saturday, our team presented our final project to our peers, faculty, family, advisors, and clients. We were so lucky to have a huge turnout of supporters from The Bay Foundation, including the Executive Director Tom Ford, all excited to hear our results. In addition to receiving such great support from them, it was also extremely exciting to see our peers in the environmental science program present their results as well. We were able to hear about ebony conservation, sustainable aquaculture, corridor mapping, fire prevention, and so much more. I was so impressed with all my peers and am so proud to be graduating alongside them.


   4 years ago I never would have imagined that I would end up where I am now – but I wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way. Coming into UCLA as a humanities major, science was the last thing on my mind. But I couldn’t be more thankful for the year of turmoil and indecisiveness that helped me stumble into environmental science because without it, I would not have found my passion. For the past 9 months our team has been putting countless hours of work into this project. It has not only been a rewarding experience, but we have learned lessons and skills that we would not have learned in any classroom. It’s wasn’t always easy (in fact I would say most of the time it wasn’t easy), but it is an experience that we will never forget. 


The Last of the Field Days



Leaving bright and early at 7 in the morning, Kelli, Jeric, and Candace headed out to Marina del Rey for the last of our field days. This time, however, we were doing something a little different. Instead of spending the day at one location taking samples constantly, our goal was to gather surface pCO2 readings from many places. Though complications with the CO2 pro instrument pushed back our expedition by an hour, we eventually climbed aboard UCLA’s Zodiac, a research vessel. Lucia, our captain and UCLA graduate, steered us toward Palos Verdes Coast toward the first of eight sample coordinates. Once away from the shore, the Zodiac picked up speed, thrashing crisp winds in our faces and leaving behind trail of disturbed water. Cutting through the waves in leaps, the Zodiac speedily arrived at our site. The wrinkled silhouette of the sea surface indicated that it was covered with kelp canopy. The abundance of brown, translucent strands was a sight that stimulated mixed feelings: excitement that our water samples would surely be representative of chemical effects of kelp photosynthesis, but also bewilderment at the absence of kelp in our original study location only meters away.

Part way through the day, we met up with Kristen and some members of The Bay Foundation, who were gathering our normal data. Kelli hopped aboard for a couple hours to lend a hand as the rest of the team continued on the Zodiac. Once all the data was collected, we headed back to Marina del Rey. Ultimately the field day was a huge success!

Kids and Kelp

This past weekend we had the amazing opportunity to team up with The Palos Verdes Interpretive Center for their Kids to Parks Day event. The whole team headed out to Palos Verdes at about 8:30 in the morning, stopping once we got in the area to get coffee and enjoy the beautiful ocean view. There was not a cloud in the sky, and by 10am it was already 70 degrees. IMG_2580.JPGWe were welcomed into the Interpretive Center with big smiles and open arms. They had a whole room reserved just for us and our research! We got to work right away, setting up our slideshow, pamphlets, poster, and paper for the kids (and adults) to color on. In the room next to us, they set up a puppet show about the inter-tidal zone, while outside they set up an arts and crafts table to make 2D kelp forests. As the event progressed, we were lucky to be able to spend time with some really interesting kids and their parents. We met both UCLA and USC alums (one mom had trained her 4 year old to say “Go Trojans.”) who were interested in our project.

After the event finished, we packed up our supplies, got lunch as a team, and headed down the road to go freediving. We arrived at Christmas Tree cove, parked the car, and descended down to the beach. The trail was incredibly steep and we all tried not to slip while simultaneously attempting to take pictures of the view. Once we reached a good location, Ariel and Kelli donned their wetsuits and headed into the water. They swam out towards the kelp, getting pictures and video as they went. Once everyone was dried off and packed up, we headed back up the trail- but not before we took a video of the 4 of us doing a UCLA 8-clap. Such a fun day out in PV!

Baby Kelp

What is better than baby kelp? Full grown kelp! Normally, kelp goes through different growing season due to different factors that vary throughout the year. This year, our kelp is growing in later than expected- so we have baby kelp! Although it is growing quickly, it is still less than a meter in height. We are postponing our aerial imagery outing with Professor Cavanaugh but still continuing on with our work with the AOS Zodiac. We hope to get out into the field this upcoming weekend to test out the CO2 Pro instrument!

On a different note, we are extremely excited to be joining the Palos Verdes Interpretive Center for their Kids for Parks Day on Saturday, May 20th. We will have a table and the opportunity to teach kids about the ocean!

Team Member of the Week: Kelli Wright


I am a senior Environmental Science student with a passion for sustainability. My love for the ocean definitely stems from growing up in San Diego, California. I spent many summers beach camping with my family where we would spend entire days in the water. I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors and try to hike as often as I can! While at UCLA, I have worked on various projects to promote green spaces and renewable energy on campus. I look forward to applying my experience to this project and discover more about the kelp forest ecosystem in the Santa Monica Bay!

Crepes and Baguettes

Field day #2 was a huge success: not only was the weather beautiful, but we also saw a couple pods of dolphins. Oh, and the science went well too!


Ariel and Kathleen began the day at 5:15am, waking up extra early to buy ice and then head down to Long Beach. When they arrived at the port, they met up with Kristen, Armand, and Parker. The dock and water was covered in a thick fog, which luckily burned off by mid morning. The crew packed up the boat and headed to the site, keeping their eyes peeled for marine life while they were at it.

When they arrived at the site, the real work began- after the first two rounds of sampling done by TBF staff, Kathleen and Ariel jumped right in with helping hands. The rest of the day flew by, as the team continuously cast the CTD, took water samples with the Niskin bottle, and performed chlorophyll filtrations. The surface water looked murky so it was especially interesting to see how the amount of particles collected on the filters changes and varied with depth and location. Parker and Armand kept things interesting as they continuously called the chlorophyll filters “crepes” and “baguettes.” Although the sampling was exhausting, the breaks in between casts were great opportunities to chat with Kristen, Parker, and Armand. Also (and most importantly) it was a great opportunity to snack on Kristen’s buffet of Trader Joe’s food.

Although things mostly went smoothly, the team still ran into some struggles. Occasionally the Niskin bottle had trouble closing when the messenger weight was sent down and one time the pumps for the chlorophyll filter broke. Luckily Kristen is very handy and resourceful and there were a good supply of zip ties to keep it all together. After a long day out on the water collecting samples, the team headed back to shore, unpacked the boat, and headed back to Westwood.


Thoughts on the day: Overall, it was a great field experience and can’t wait to see what the results show once the analysis is done!

Advice from Ariel: “Most memorable for me is my lovely sunburn on my ankles below my leggings and on my ears. Don’t forget sunscreen, kids!!!”

Science and Communication

This past week has been an exciting one! Earlier in the week, we were interviewed by a reporter from UCLA’s newspaper The Daily Bruin. Check out the article they wrote about us:

Our work with Kyle Cavanaugh and one of his students is looking to be very successful. We paired up with him and the UCLA Zodiac team in order to overlay aerial drone footage of the kelp forest with surface CO2 data. Right now, the Zodiac is doing research in the Gulf of Mexico. But when it returns, we will use the CO2 Pro that we helped install to go to our site and gather data. The photo below is shot of the instrument being installed.


This upcoming Tuesday we have another field day! We expect 2-3 member of our team to wake up bright and early to head down to the port to join members of TBF for a great day of day of data collection (and fun). Also, on May 5th we will be presenting on the preliminary results of our project. Not only will we get to share with our classmates all the great work we have been doing, but we will also have a chance to learn about the other projects that our fellow seniors have been working on. Finally, we are also excited to be taking part in UCLA’s Undergrad Research week, where we will present a poster with our research alongside many other UCLA students.

Our Team Member of the Week: Ariel Pezner

Ariel Headshot.jpg

I am an Environmental Science major with minors in Conservation Biology and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. Growing up in Los Angeles as well as traveling abroad have both contributed to my love of exploring the ocean. At UCLA and through various internships, I have been involved in oceanographic field and lab research, which has allowed me to develop a passion for marine science research. I will be applying my experience and my interest in ocean acidification research this Fall as I begin graduate school to earn my doctorate degree. I am excited to be a part of this project!

Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory (Part 2): Surf and Turf

“Today we spent all day on land learning about the ocean.”

After our eventful evening, we had a relaxing morning and met Kristen at the lab (which we were now very familiar with) at 10:30am. After showing us her office and lab space, we joined up with a group of UC Davis Marine Science students who were also at the lab for the day. We spent a bit of the morning walking around tide pools, learning about the different plants and animals that live there, and observing the ways that the waves interact with the rock. We then moved to the cliffs and learned about the system that pumps sea water in and out of the laboratory. We also discussed various uses for the facility and how students could get involved. It was really great to see younger students, even from a different school,  interested in marine science and excited to learn more. We then met up with one of the grad students, Connor, who showed us a variety of different marine science instruments and explained how they are used. We saw equipment worth thousands of dollars right beside equipment that could be purchased at a grocery store.

Up next, a lunch break! We headed into town with Kristen to try the new and exciting cuisine of Bodega Bay- this turned into us all grabbing sandwiches at a deli. When we returned to the lab, we continued on the tour, getting introduced to the various grad students working at the lab and their projects. We saw tanks of various marine creatures- urchins, algae, seagrass, mussels, and more. After the tour, we separated from the group and went with Kristen to work in the lab and run some water samples. The four of us worked together and switched off tasks so we could all get experience doing different things. Finally, when all the work was complete, we headed back to the dorms, tired and ready for dinner.

The next morning we packed up the car and headed out of Bodega. As soon as we got on the road, it started raining heavily. All we could think about was how Kristen had shared stories of not being able to leave town due to flooding of all the roads. Eventually, we made it out and started our journey back to LA. The whole trip was a great adventure- We got to spend a lot of quality time together as a group and also got to know Kristen better. We also strengthened our knowledge of our project and the lab work that goes into running our samples. It was so interesting to see the passion of all the people working at this lab and to learn about the various projects that are being conducted.