Marine Science at the Seashore

Photo By: Robert Campbell, 2008

Why is Marine Research Impactful at the Seashore?


Point Reyes National Seashore is one of only 10 national seashores in the National Park Service (NPS) system and the only national seashore on the west coast. Surrounded almost entirely by the Pacific Ocean, Tomales Bay, and Drakes Estero, water and marine life play a key role in the climate and ecosystems of Point Reyes. The intact coastal, estuarine, wetland, marsh, and riparian ecosystems of the Seashore make it a superb location for long-term monitoring, and studies that measure change in environmental conditions.

Over the last seven years Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), in partnership with the NPS, has funded 30+ internship opportunities for early-career scientists to get hands-on experience while contributing to research and conservation projects. These studies and internships become an increasingly important and sobering task in the face of anthropogenic climate change.

Birds flying above Tomales Bay shore
Photo By: Carlos Porrata

Tomales Bay Marine Station

Sacramento Landing, California

The 15-mile-long Tomales Bay is a unique marine-coastal estuary and a designated Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Unlike many Pacific coast estuaries, approximately 90% of the Tomales Bay’s surface area is subtidal, thus becoming a remarkable habitat for a variety of waterbirds. Because the surrounding watershed has limited human development, the bay supports special status species, including red-legged frogs and tidewater gobies.

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Since the late 1990s, the Tomales Bay Marine Station (TBMS) at Sacramento Landing has supported scientific research of marine and terrestrial areas via workspace, housing, and boat access. From the effects of climate change on native oysters to the population ecology of white sharks, the countless researchers, students, and interns supported by the TMBS over the last 20 years have contributed greatly to the marine science field.

A recent expansion includes a wet lab and triples the amount of researcher space to enable more intensive study of marine life. This renovation also supports the next generation of scientists by exposing them to new marine environments and tools, challenging them with real world research questions, and introducing them to potential career paths with national parks.

Support Marine Science at the Seashore

“Why Black Abalone?”

Listen & Learn

The endangered black abalone live in the intertidal zone off the coasts of California and Baja California. Their history is intricately connected to human history. They went from one of the most ubiquitous species in Southern California tidepools to critically endangered in just a few years. Researchers and policymakers have worked tirelessly for the past 30 years to develop innovative strategies and collaborative rescue efforts to recover them. In this two-part podcast series, host Theodora Mautz interviews a variety of scientists and changemakers to discover the challenging yet optimistic recovery trajectory of black abalone.

2021 Neubacher Marine Science Fund Grantees

Researchers and scientists at the Point Reyes Tomales Bay Marine Station (TBMS) contribute to the knowledge basis of marine ecosystems and processes, and influence policy-makers both locally and nationwide to pass legislation to protect critical species, ecosystems, and locations. The Neubacher Marine Science Fund was established in 2013 from individual donors, including an anonymous $100,000 gift. The fund now provides grants to researchers each year by providing housing opportunities, research and internship positions, and access to workspace and past Park Service datasets. The 2021 Neubacher grantees—studying Dungeness crabs and river otters—exemplify the values and goals both of the park and of TBMS. Their projects show the value of our investment in science and research.

Black Abalone

Black Abalone Monitoring & Research

Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), has hired two researchers to confirm the presence, location, and sizes of previously found black abalone within Golden Gate Recreation Area (GOGA) and Point Reyes National Seashore (PORE). They will complete transects and timed surveys replicating 2014/2019 survey methods. Survey sites include Chimney Rock, Muir Beach Overlook, Muir Beach South, and Slide Ranch. Fieldwork is just beginning and will likely continue seasonally into July 2022.

Northern River Otter, Point Reyes National Seashore
Photo By: Carlos Porrata

River Otter Ecology Project

Recovering river otter populations at eight to eleven sites within Point Reyes National Seashore since 2012. Monitoring has included more than a dozen trained, long-term volunteers, more than 100 High School students, and many hundreds of community scientist contributors who report otter sightings and photos through the Otter Spotter program. These studies have offered insights into population demographics, health issues, movements, prey species, and behavior. With the support from the Neubacher Fund during 2017, River Otter Ecology Project completed a prey species study.

Dungeness crab

Dungeness Crab Vulnerability

Dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister) tend to preferably settle and develop in estuaries, like Tomales Bay, where they grow faster than conspecifics on the open coast. Researchers are using spatially scaled survey designs to directly fill the gap in ecological knowledge for California’s most valuable fishery and local function of seagrass beds. Biologists are researching the distribution of crabs within Tomales Bay to understand how global change stressors impact species distribution and habitat use, which is crucial as conditions transform due to the effects of global change.

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Past Neubacher Marine Science Fund Grantees (2013 – 2020)

Does Epigenetic Variation Help Pisaster Ochraceus (Ochre Sea Star) Survive During Mass Mortality? (2019) Lauren Scheibelhut (Post-Doc), UC Davis

Reconstructing Coho Salmon (Oncorhycnhus Kisutch) Provenance and Use of Tomales Bay Via Microchemical Analyses of Salmon Otoliths: A Pilot Study (2019) Rachael Ryan (Ph.D. Student), UC Berkeley

Physiological and Behavioral Responses of Northern Elephant Seals to Global Change (2019) Ellen Lam (Ph.D. Student), UC Berkeley

Understanding the Consequences of Burrowing Crabs for Plant Community Composition and Restoration in Northern California (2019) Janet Walker (Ph.D. Student), UC Davis

Developing a Baseline Food Web of Coastal Ecosystems in Point Reyes National Seashore Prior to Top Predator Recovery (2019) Joseph Jackson (MS Student), Sonoma State University

The Eelgrass Filter: Effects of Habitat Structure and Predation on Non-native Species (2019) Benjamin Rubinoff (Ph.D. Student), UC Davis

Seasonal Food Habits of the North American River Otter (Lontra Canadensis) in Tomales Bay and Drakes Bay, California (2017) – River Otter Ecology Project and Marin Academy

Population Ecology of White Sharks (Carcharodon Carcharias) Off Central California (2017) Paul Kanive (Ph.D. Student), Montana State University

Rapid Large-Scale Eelgrass Monitoring Using High-Resolution Remote Sensing (2016) – Max C. N. Castorani (Post Doc), Tom W. Bell (Ph.D. Candidate), UC Santa Barbara

Local Adaptation and the Future of Kelp in Point Reyes National Seashore (2016) Jordan A. Hollarsmith (Ph.D. graduate student), Bodega Marine Lab, UC Davis

Restoration Genetics of the Endangered Tidewater Goby, Eucyclogobius Newberryi, in Support of Reintroduction and Recovery in and Around Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (2015) David Jacobs, Professor, UCLA, with two undergraduates

Understanding the Effects of Climate Change and Biological Invasions on Native Oysters in Tomales Bay (2014) Jason Sadowski (Ph.D. Candidate), UC Davis and Bodega Marine Laboratory

Seasonal Trends in Kelp-Herbivore Interactions at Point Reyes (2014) Nicholas Burnett, Dept. Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley

Does Tomales Bay Pacific Herring (Clupea Pallasii) Prefer Eelgrass (Zostera Marina) for Spawning? What Does Eelgrass Do for Pacific Herring and Do Predators Gain an Advantage When Eelgrass Populations are Diminished? (2014) Hali Rederer (MS Student), Sacramento State University

Self-Recruitment and Population Connectivity Along the Northern California Coast (2013) Erin Satterthwaite (Ph.D. Candidate), UC Davis and Bodega Marine Lab