Tackling Complex Challenges on California’s Coastline

Eric Sanford with students observing a tidal pool
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Eric Sanford

Location: Bodega Bay

Impact: Preserving marine life

The California coastline is Eric Sanford’s classroom. The evolution and ecology professor teaches students at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, a world-class institution for research and education in coastal and marine sciences located in Bodega Bay, Calif.

Bodega Marine Laboratory houses a vibrant team of researchers in ecology, evolution, oceanography, physiology and ecotoxicology who work collaboratively to address the complex challenges that face our oceans. In particular, Sanford and his students’ research focuses on understanding how global environmental change affects populations of oysters, mussels, sea urchins and other species along the California coast.

“By understanding these influences, we can plan more effectively for the sustainable management of California’s marine resources,” says Sanford.

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to live in residence at the laboratory for one or more quarters, where they gain invaluable hands-on experience designing and conducting independent research projects under their professors’ mentorship. Graduate students in Sanford’s laboratory are conducting interdisciplinary studies of how changing ocean temperature and chemistry affect marine life.

“I want to inspire my students to be curious and creative interdisciplinary thinkers,” says Sanford. “I also hope they take away a lifelong interest in exploring and sustaining our natural world.”

Two University of California faculty, Cadet Hand and Ralph Smith, helped establish Bodega Marine Laboratory almost 50 years ago. Sanford is deeply grateful to them and their belief in the value of marine stations and field courses.

 “I’m passionate about the rich marine life of the California coast,” says Sanford. “For me, the opportunity to further our understanding of the oceans while training the next generation of scientists who will lead these efforts is a dream come true.”