The team studies the biology and chemistry of the ocean in relation to global change, and develops new systems and methods to make this type of research scalable. We utilize research vessels, moorings and autonomous vehicles to observe temporal variations in our local ecosystem in Monterey Bay and to determine what drives them. We have found that the ecosystems in Monterey Bay and the contiguous waters of the California Current System respond to large scale processes associated with climate variability and global change. As a result, many of our advances in methods and systems, developed in our natural laboratory in Monterey Bay, have broad applications.

The primary scientific questions we seek to answer are:

  1. What are the mean and fluctuating components of life in the sea on time scales ranging from seasons, years to decades?
  2. What are the physical, chemical and biological processes responsible for the mean and fluctuating components?
  3. What are the biological consequences of climate variability and global change?

The primary technological objectives are:

  1. Utilize developments in autonomous systems to decrease our reliance on expensive ships and enhance the collection of ecosystem information over time and space.
  2. Develop methods for observing the full gamut of life in the sea, that have the potential to be automated and can greatly increase the number of observations locally and globally.



Fiechter, J., J. Santora, F.P. Chavez, D. Northcott, and M. Messié, 2020. Krill hotspot formation and phenology in the California Current Ecosystem. Geophysical Research Letters, 47(13): 1–10.  

LaScala-Grunewald, D., N.H.N. Low, J.P. Barry, J.A. Brown, C. King, F.P. Chavez, and H.A. Ruhl. 2022. Building on a human-centred, iterative, and agile co-design strategy to facilitate the availability of deep ocean data. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2022 (fsac145): 1–5.

Messié, M., D.A. Sancho-Gallegos, J. Fiechter, J.A. Santora, and F.P. Chavez. 2022. Satellite-based Lagrangian Model reveals how upwelling and oceanic circulation shape krill hotspots in the California Current System. Frontiers in Marine Science, 9: 1–19.

Zhang, Y., B. Kieft, B.W. Hobson, B.Y. Raanan, S. Urmy, K.J. Pitz, C.M. Preston, B. Roman, K.J. Benoit-Bird, J.M. Birch, F.P. Chavez, and C.A. Scholin. 2021. Persistent sampling of vertically migrating biological layers by an autonomous underwater vehicle within the beam of a seabed-mounted echosounder. IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering, 46: 497–508.

Santora, J.A., I.D. Schroeder, S.J. Bograd, F.P. Chavez, M.A. Cimino, J. Fiechter, E.L. Hazen, M.T. Kavanaugh, M. Messié, R.R. Miller, K.M. Sakuma, W.J. Sydeman, B.K. Wells, and J.C. Field. 2021. Pelagic biodiversity, ecosystem function, and services: An integrated observing and modeling approach. Oceanography, 34: 16–37.