We collaborate with various research teams both internal to MBARI and external, integrating data from different disciplines (from physics to ecosystems), different instruments (from AUVs to satellites), and different regions (from Monterey Bay to the world) to study ecosystem processes and physical/biological interactions in the coastal and open oceans. We analyze data using statistical and machine learning techniques to investigate relationships between physics and biology in the ocean, and test them using simple mathematical models.

We are particularly interested in addressing which processes drive the spatio-temporal variability of biological communities throughout the water column, across the California Current system, and at smaller scales in Monterey Bay. These processes can be physical (such as coastal upwelling, advection by oceanic currents, large-scale climate variability) or biological (such as phytoplankton/zooplankton interactions).

Relationships are challenging to decipher because they are not always direct. For instance, biological populations do not only respond to today’s conditions but also depend on the history of events that occurred during their lifetime. Similarly, because plankton are displaced by currents, what we observe in one location may be the result of past conditions tens of kilometers away. We use simple models to disentangle these effects and uncover which processes drive biological communities, and the qualitative nature and quantitative functionality of that relationship.



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. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.835813

Messié, M., A. Petrenko, A.M. Doglioli, E. Martinez, and S. Alvain. 2022. Basin-scale biogeochemical and ecological impacts of islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Nature Geoscience, 15: 469–474. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-022-00957-8

Kavanaugh, M. T., T. Bell, D. Catlett, M.A. Cimino, S.C. Doney, W. Klajbor, M. Messié, E. Montes, F.E. Muller-Karger, D. Otis, J.A. Santora, I.D. Schroeder, J. Triñanes, and D.A. Siegel. 2021. Satellite remote sensing and the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON): Current science and future steps. Oceanography, 34: 62–79. https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2021.215

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. https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2021.212

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. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL088039