Los Angeles Urban
Ocean Expedition

Partners & Participants

Partner Organizations

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

Aquarium of the Pacific

Braid Theory

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

California Science Center

City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation

Ocean Exploration Trust / E/V Nautilus

Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County

Smithsonian Institution

Southern California Coastal Water Research Project

USC Sea Grant

Western Association of Marine Labs

Contact Us

Regina Wetzer — rwetzer@nhm.org

Dean Pentcheff — pentcheff@nhm.org

Jenessa Wall — jwall@nhm.org

Where: AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

When: 19 August – 2 September, 2019

In late 2019, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) led a two week long expedition to the urban ocean waters of the Los Angeles region to dramatically improve our knowledge of Southern California marine biodiversity. This program brought together the best taxonomists and local collectors in an internationally-recognized intensive methodology to collect, live-identify, curate, and DNA barcode as many species as possible. The focus is on the southern Palos Verdes peninsula shelf and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This was also a wonderful opportunity for the public to take a peek into a major marine research program being carried out at the coast of a major urban center.

What happened?

Project headquarters were at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, which provides dockside facilities and a venue for a “pop-up lab”. During the expedition, research ships brought in fresh samples, divers returned with live specimens, and a team of leading taxonomists assembled for the event sorted, identified, and sampled specimens for genetic analysis, all day, every day. The expedition was managed by NHMLAC staff, accompanied by a broad range of collaborators and partners.

Participating taxonomists

Appy, RalphCabrillo Marine Aquariumfish parasites
Bemis, AmandaFL Mus. Nat. Hist.generalist
Bik, HollyUC Riversidenematodes and meiofauna
Boren, ChristineL.A. County Sanitationpolychaetes
Cadien, DonCity of L.A. Sanitationgeneralist
Cash, CurtisCity of L.A. Sanitationfish
Cummings, BrittanyFL Mus. Nat. Hist.peracarids
Dijkstra, JenniferU New Hampshiretunicates
Eernisse, DougCSU Fullertonchitons, molluscs, general inverts
Furlong, BillL.A. County Sanitationpolychaetes
Goddard, JeffUCSBgeneralist
Haggin, Brent L.A. County Sanitationpolychaetes
Harris, LeslieNHMLApolychaetes
Hendy, AustinNHMLAmolluscs
Jensen, GregU Washingtoncrustacea, generalist
Kane, ToniaUCLAgeneralist
Lambert, GretchenFriday Harbor Labstunicates
Larsen, CodyCity of L.A. Sanitationcrustacea, other phyla
Lee, NorbertL.A. County Sanitationpolychaetes
Lyon, GregCity of L.A. Sanitationpolychaetes, other phyla
McCuller, Megan NC Mus. Nat. Sci.bryozoa
Moore, EveFL Mus. Nat. Hist.generalist
Morris, KimoSanta Ana Collegegeneralist
Nydam, MarieCenter College, KY / Soka Univ.tunicates
Oderlin, ErinCity of L.A. Sanitationpolychaetes, other phyla
Omura, KathyNHMLAgeneralist
Passarelli, JulieCabrillo Marine Aquariumfish parasites
Paulay, GustavFL Mus. Nat. Hist.holothuroids, generalist
Phillips, TonyDancing Coyote Environmentalgeneralist
Power, BillL.A. County Sanitationmolluscs, generalist
Slapcinski, JohnFL Mus. Nat. Hist.molluscs
Smolenski, JenniferCity of L.A. Sanitationpolychaetes, other phyla
Turner, Tom LeeUCSBsponges
Varney, RebeccaU of Alabamaaplacophorans, other phyla
Wall, AdamNHMLAisopods, decapods
Wall, JenessaNHMLAgeneralist
Wetzer, ReginaNHMLAisopods
Whelpley, JessicaFL Mus. Nat. Hist.holothuroids, generalist
Wiedrick, ShawnNHMLAmolluscs

Why is this important?

This expedition is part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s “Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean” (DISCO). That program is a multi-year project developing molecular genetic tools to explore biodiversity. Working with numerous collaborators, DISCO is testing and refining the use of “environmental DNA” (eDNA) as a biodiversity exploration tool. Part of that work involves taking eDNA samples (like a cup of seawater) and analyzing them for the DNA sequences of nearby organisms, permitting radically quicker and cheaper ways of surveying local diversity. Another part of the DISCO program is creating the “genetic barcode” library of reference sequences that permits full interpretation of the eDNA samples.

The L.A. Urban Ocean Expedition will contribute thousands of reference specimens to accelerate constructing the DNA “barcode” library for the Southern California ocean, as well as providing an opportunity for further eDNA studies.

In future years, we plan to connect with other partners to expand coverage to the Channel Islands, already known to have distinctly different marine communities from the mainland coast.