March 22, 2004
Global Oceans Awards presented at Long Marine
Lab's Gourmet Dinner benefit
By Tim Stephens
The Friends of Long Marine Lab presented the first Global Oceans Awards
at the group's annual Gourmet Dinner benefit event on Sunday, March
"We believe students like these will play a crucial role
in promoting a better understanding and appreciation for the oceans
in the decades to come,"
education chair of the Friends of Long Marine Lab Board of Directors
The awards were a new addition to the annual dinner, which raises funds
for the education programs at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Congressman
Sam Farr made the award presentations at the gala event held at the
Bittersweet Bistro in Rio Del Mar.
The first Global Oceans Awards recognize two of the top students engaged
in ocean-related research projects at UCSC. Veronica Vigilant, a third-year
graduate student in ocean sciences, is studying domoic acid, a neurotoxin
produced by certain marine algae, and how it affects marine life in
Monterey Bay. Morgan Bond, a first-year graduate student in ecology
and evolutionary biology, is studying the growth and survival of steelhead
trout on the Central California Coast.
"We believe students like these will play a crucial role in promoting
a better understanding and appreciation for the oceans in the decades
to come," said Richard Beal, education chair of the Friends of
Long Marine Lab Board of Directors.
The Gourmet Dinner has long been one of the group's most popular fundraising
events. It was hosted this year by the proprietors of the Bittersweet
Bistro, chef Thomas Vinolus and his wife Elizabeth. The dinner featured
a five-course feast paired with fine wines from award-winning California
Beal said that when the Friends of Long Marine Lab Board of Directors
discussed making an award ceremony part of the annual fundraising dinner,
they decided to honor young scientists at the start of their careers,
and to have the awards presented to them by someone noted for lifetime
achievements in marine conservation. The group chose Congressman Farr,
who was instrumental in the establishment of the Monterey Bay National
Marine Sanctuary and has been a reliable champion of ocean conservation
efforts, to be the first presenter of the Global Oceans Awards.
Vigilant and Bond had the top-ranked proposals among the 14 students
who received research support from the Friends of Long Marine Lab Student
Research Awards this year. These awards provided nearly $10,000 in total
funding for undergraduate and graduate student research projects in
the marine sciences.
Vigilant is working with Mary Silver, professor of ocean sciences, who
has been studying the domoic acid toxin and the algae that produce it
since the early 1990s.
Blooms of the toxin-producing algae occur periodically in Monterey
Bay and have been linked to poisonings of sea lions and seabirds. Previous
research has shown how the toxin moves through the food web in surface
waters, accumulating in sardines and anchovies that feed on the algae,
and eventually poisoning animals that eat those fish. Vigilant is investigating
whether the toxin also moves into deep waters offshore, where other
organisms might be affected.
Bond is working with Mark Carr, professor of ecology and evolutionary
biology, and Bruce MacFarlane, a researcher at the National Marine Fisheries
Service lab in Santa Cruz, to study the steelhead that spawn in Scott
Creek north of Santa Cruz. This and other coastal steelhead populations
in California are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species
Act. Bond's research focuses on the juvenile fish as they move downstream
and make the transition from the freshwater habitat where they hatched
to the ocean where they will grow to adulthood. In particular, he is
interested in the factors that influence the growth rates of the juveniles
and their subsequent survival in the ocean.
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