Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Research Vessels Train the Next Wave of Marine Biologists

By Stephanie Thara

Marine specialist showing CSULB students marine life during a demonstration cruise on R/V Yellowfin

To help meet the nation’s need for more professionals in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries, the CSU is committed to producing talented scientists by providing all the resources necessary to help students excel and thrive. Among these are research vessels that act as an outdoor classroom for students.

Each CSU campus has developed partnerships with other universities and local science-based organizations to generate funding for the purchase, maintenance or use of research vessels. These vessels help students increase their scientific knowledge and assist scientists in their research of how to further protect California’s coast.

The Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) —a consortium of 11 Southern California universities, including eight CSU campuses— houses and maintains R/V Yellowfin. The vessel enhances learning by providing an environment where students can be trained by marine experts. Through demonstration cruises, scholars from CSU campuses such as Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Pomona, San Bernardino and San Marcos are able to visualize what they read in textbooks and interact with marine life out on the ocean floor.

“Having the opportunity to take what I’ve learned in theory and apply it in a practical environment puts things in perspective,” said Christian Chavez, a Cal State Long Beach senior who participated in a demonstration cruise aboard R/V Yellowfin. “I get to be exposed to the actual environment of the species I’m learning about.”

During demonstration cruises, students participate in an “otter troll” where marine professionals captaining the boat release a net to temporarily capture various marine life on the ocean floor. The oceanic creatures are then brought onto the boat and the students can see, touch, examine and identify the different types of fishes.

CSULB students examine fish during demonstration cruise on R/V Yellowfin “This is a favorite of the students,” said Christine Prince, a teaching assistant at Cal State Long Beach who coordinates demonstration cruises for her marine biology students. “They can touch and measure the fish as opposed to looking at the fish behind glass panels at an aquarium.”

Whether it is an introductory marine biology class or a graduate student looking to conduct research for their thesis, these vessels enable scholars to gain the scientific, technical and analytical skills needed to evaluate and solve coastal problems. Additionally, working with students, faculty and professionals in a hands-on learning environment helps future scientists develop leadership qualities that are essential for creating and effectively implementing policy solutions.

Other research vessels available to CSU faculty, researchers and students include:

  • R/V Coral Sea – Humboldt State University’s marine research and teaching vessel.
  • R/V Questuary – used by San Francisco State for oceanographic research.
  • R/V Harold Heath, R/V VenTresca, and R/V MacGinitie – available to CSU Monterey Bay for seafloor mapping excursions.
  • R/V Fulmar – supports collaborative research for CSU East Bay, Monterey Bay, Humboldt, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.
  • R/V Point Sur, R/V John H. Martin, and R/V Sheila B. – available as multi-purpose research platforms to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories consortium campuses, including CSU East Bay, Fresno, Monterey Bay, Sacramento, San Francisco, San José and Stanislaus.