Monique Messié


Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

7700 Sandholdt Road

Moss Landing, CA 95039

Phone: (831) 775-1836


My research combines satellite products, model outputs and in situ data to study ecosystem processes, from physics to top predators and carbon export with a stronger focus on phytoplankton. I currently work with several MBARI research groups (Chavez, Haddock, Robison, Smith). Topics include physical and biological variability at regional and global scales, response to climate and ocean change, links with higher trophic levels, bioluminescence in the upper ocean, and connections between surface, midwater and benthic communities.

Curriculum Vitae
Publications: Google Scholar profile, ResearchGate profile

Current and past research projects

Large-scale climate variability and impacts on biology

  • Global modes of climate variability defined from sea surface temperatures (1910-2009) and related to regional modes such as ENSO or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (Messié & Chavez 2011). See the Global Modes webpage that includes plots and up-to-date global indices (updated monthly).
  • Global-scale modes of variability in physical and biological variables (1993-2010), that capture synchronous variations associated with ENSO (first mode, Messié & Chavez 2012), and with ENSO Modoki and the NPGO (second mode, Messié & Chavez 2013).
  • For a review of marine primary production in relation to climate variability and change, see Chavez, Messié & Pennington 2011.

Nitrate supply and primary production in Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS)

  • Nitrate supply calculations from satellite winds and in situ nitrate climatologies (Messié et al. 2009, updated in Messié & Chavez 2015). See the Nsupply webpage for a description of the method and to download data products.
  • Seasonal regulation of primary production in EBUS based on nitrate supply and proxies for iron, light, temperature and physical export (Messié & Chavez 2015). This study showed that primary production regulation is highly variable in space and time and across systems.
  • Zooplankton hotspots in EBUS, based on plankton growth/grazing equations initialized with nitrate supply and combined with surface currents (Messié & Chavez 2017).
  • For a comparison of the four major EBUS (California, NW Africa, Peru and Benguela), see Chavez & Messié 2009.

Physical-biological interactions in the western tropical Pacific

  • Seasonal cycle of satellite chlorophyll and its drivers, found to be primarily changes in horizontal advection and local upwelling (Messié & Radenac 2006).
  • Model analysis of a dramatic bloom observed during the 1997-98 El Niño / La Niña transition, which was shown to be generated by an island mass effect (Gilbert Islands, Republic of Kiribati) (Messié et al. 2006). A similar bloom was observed during the 2009-10 El Niño / La Niña transition (Gierach, Messié et al. 2013).
  • Description of a persistent oligotrophic zone found within the warm pool (Radenac, Messié et al. 2013). Such low chlorophyll values can be explained by a deep nutricline, the presence of a barrier layer and the remoteness of nutrient-rich areas.
  • For a review of phytoplankton dynamics in the western tropical Pacific (seasonal variability, 1997-98 Kiribati bloom and westerly winds impacts), see PhD dissertation 2006 (in French).

Participation in modeling studies

  • Forecasting Anchovy and Sardine Transitions (FAST)
  • Salmon Applied Forecasting, Assessment and Research Initiative (SAFARI, see also Santora et al. 2013 for an evaluation of modeled zooplankton)
  • Salmon Ecosystem Simulation and Management Evaluation (SESAME)

Biodiversity and ecosystems functioning

  • Monterey Bay Marine Biodiversity Observing Network (MBON)
  • Bioluminescence and phytoplankton/zooplankton interactions
  • Integrated MBARI time series
  • Phytoplankton taxa proxies from satellite and autonomous sensors
  • Impact of environmental conditions on sharks distribution and diving behavior.

Global modes of sea surface temperature

A century-long EOF analysis of global sea surface temperature (SST) identified modes associated with regional climate phenomena. Plots and time series are updated monthly.

Recent publications (last 5 years)

(Full publications list: see Google Scholar)


Messié, M., and F. P. Chavez (2017). Nutrient supply, surface currents and plankton dynamics predict zooplankton hotspots in coastal upwelling systems. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, in press.


Current MBARI projects

Biological Oceanography, Biodiversity and biooptics (bioluminescence), Integrated time series, CANON.

Testing the waters by taking to the air

Aerial platforms such as UAVs, or drones, as they are more commonly known, are making headway into scientific applications due to the variety of remote sensing capabilities they offer.

Biological Oceanography Group

One of the longest-standing projects of the Biological Oceanography Group is the Monterey Bay Time Series. Research ships and moorings have collected detailed datasets of temperature, salinity, oxygen, CO2, phytoplankton and other changing variables since 1989.
biological pump

Interdisciplinary field experiments

MBARI’s Controlled, Agile, and Novel Observing Network (CANON) Initiative is an interdisciplinary effort that utilizes smart, autonomous devices designed to cooperate with each other to collect oceanographic information.