Science Talk: KELP FOREST TO URCHIN BARREN

January 12, 2017

MAy 22, 2019

6:30 – 8:15 P.M.

PHASE SHIFT FROM KELP FOREST TO URCHIN BARREN ALONG CALIFORNIA’S NORTH COAST

338 N. Main St., Fort Bragg

Tristin McHugh, MS

North Coast Regional Manager

Reef Check California 

Tristin McHugh, began working for Reef Check California in March of 2018 and is based in Fort Bragg. Tristin received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Legal Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2013. Following graduation, she assisted and led a number of projects spanning the Pacific Northwest, and gained an appreciation for the divers and researchers involved in protecting such an invaluable resource through the collection of long-term data sets. In 2015, Tristin left Santa Cruz to pursue her Master’s in Biology degree at San Diego State University (SDSU), where she focused on how storm disturbances impact subtidal algal communities, and how the physiology of red algae structures community assemblages. In addition to her thesis, Tristin was a Divemaster and Boating Safety Officer for projects based along the Aleutian Archipelago where she studied the transition of kelp forests to urchin barrens. When not in the water, you can often find Tristin wandering the beach with her partner and biologist/Community Services Officer, Colin McHugh and their dog, Ed Ricketts.

Reef Check Foundation is a non-profit that trains thousands of volunteer citizen scientist divers, to survey the health of coral and rocky reef ecosystems, worldwide. In addition to providing a platform for divers to survey their local reefs, our training offers the public a rare window into underwater ecology, leading to a direct personal involvement in the preservation of the world’s oceans.

In the North Coast specifically, Reef Check has focused on expanding our knowledge of California’s most remote stretch of coastline. These efforts were propagated by rapid changes to the ecosystem, including the formation of a large “warm water blob” –an ocean heatwave lasting two years, widespread loss of bull kelp, loss of sea stars due to disease, and the decline of the red abalone populations due to starvation. Further, purple urchin populations skyrocketed.  To understand the changes happening on our stretch of coastline, Reef Check has been increasing the number of sites we visit, and the type of data we collect. Since 2007, citizen scientist SCUBA divers have been conducting surveys in the North Coast, and today we look forward to sharing our organization and survey results with you.