Course description

Kelp forest ecosystems are among the most productive and species rich ecosystems on Earth. Because of their biodiversity, productivity and close proximity to shore, they support a variety of ecosystem services, including commercial and recreational fisheries, recreation, carbon sequestration and protection of shorelines. Since Darwin’s first encounter and exuberant description of kelp forests, ecologists have long been attracted to these ecosystems and research in kelp forests has generated insights of broad ecological importance.

Kelp Forest Ecology (BIOE 161 and 161/L) is an intensive 10-unit course that introduces students to kelp forest ecosystems, how science has contributed to our understanding of these ecosystems, and how to conduct ecological research underwater. BIOE 161 and BIOE 161/L must be taken concurrently. The course integrates lectures (BIOE 161) and fieldwork (BIOE 161/L) to provide students with both the knowledge and skills to conduct independent ecological field research. Students apply the scientific method (i.e. hypothesis testing) to explore biotic and abiotic processes that influence the distribution, abundance and interactions among kelp forest algae, invertebrates and fishes. Students conduct 2-3 class projects, including sampling, analysis and writing project reports in scientific format. The course culminates with a directed independent research project and a class presentation of that work. Lab practicum includes taxonomic identification of the common algae, invertebrates and fishes that inhabit central California kelp forests. BIOE 161 and 161L each meet one full morning each week.

Enrollment restricted to juniors and seniors and limited to 30. Prerequisite(s): by permission code from instructors only; BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, BIOE 20C and BIOE 75 (or the equivalent AAUS Scientific Diving certification). Note that several SCUBA courses and a physical exam are prerequisites to BIOE 75.  Visit to learn about the schedule of these courses and the physical exam options. BIOE 107, BIOE 108, BIOE 120/L, BIOE 122/L are recommended.


Tentative Syllabus Fall 2013

Where: Long Marine Lab – Seymour Marine Discovery Teaching lab (By the blue whale skeleton )
When:  Tuesdays, Thursdays – 8:00-12:00
Diving is usually at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, 6:15 am to 1:30 pm.


Mark Carr         LML-COH 254-A (; 459-3958
Office Hours: By appointment and Wed 4-6:00

Pete Raimondi  LML-COH 254-B (; 459-5674)   Office Hours: By appointment

TAs Office Hours: By appointment :

Jessie Hanaway EMS D580; 805 433 3368

Rodrigo Beas   LML-COH 255; 459-5783

Principal course goals

1. Introduce students to the existing knowledge, hypotheses, and disputes   regarding the abiotic and biotic processes that determine the structure and dynamics of kelp forest ecosystems
2. Familiarize students with critical reading of primary published literature in kelp forest ecology
3. Introduce students to sampling designs and methods commonly used for ecological research underwater
4. Teach students how to identify the common macroalgae, macroinvertebrates and fishes that inhabit central California kelp forests
5. Teach students how to write scientific papers
6. Provide students with experience in doing ecological research of their own, including: formulating questions, collecting and analyzing ecological data, writing scientific reports, and giving and receiving critical feedback
7. Provide students with experience in verablly presenting their independent research projects

Course Prerequisites

1. Biology 20A, 20B, and 20C or equivalent (1 yr Introductory Biology)

2. Bioe 75 (Scientific Diving) or the equivalent AAUS Scientific Diving certification is a prerequisite. Note that several SCUBA courses are prerequisites to Bioe75.  Visit to learn about the schedule of these courses.

3. Physical examinations:  Participation in this course requires a physical examination. SCUBA divers may elect to have the UCSC/AAUS physical exam or the NOAA SCUBA physical exam.  To participate in diving activities sanctioned by NOAA (e.g., on a NOAA research vessel or supervised by a NOAA staff), the NOAA SCUBA physical exam is required. Visit to learn about the two exams.

Recommended courses

Invertebrate Zoology (Bio 136)
Principles of Ecology (Bio 150 or ES 24)
Marine Ecology (Bio 160)
Fish Biology (Bio 137)
Marine Botany (Bio 170)
Introduction to Biostatistics (Engr 5 or 7)

Criteria for grades and evaluations

The lecture (161) and field (161L) portions of this course are thoroughly integrated. Consequently you will receive a single written evaluation or grade for both sections. This will be based on the following approximate breakdown of activities in the class:

Written field reports 30 %

Mid-term examination 25 %

Participation in reading discussion 10 %

Independent project planning and execution 15 %

Independent project oral & written report 20 %


Required textbook:

Strunk, W. and E.B. White. 1979. The Elements of Style, 3rd Edition. Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, Massachusetts

Required identification guides:

  • Gotschall, D.W. 1994. Guide to Marine Invertebrates – Alaska to Baja California. .Sea Challengers, Inc. Monterey, California.
  • Mondragon, J. and J. Mondragon. 2003. Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast: Common Marine Algae from Alaska to Baja California. Sea Challengers, Inc. Monterey, California.

and either

  • Gotschall, D.W. 2001. Pacific Coast Inshore Fishes.Fourth Edition (revised).  Sea Challengers, Inc. Monterey, California.


  • Humann, P. 1996. Coastal fish identification: California to Alaska. New World Publications, Inc.


  • Eschmeyer, W.N. and E.S. Herald. 1983. A Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes, North America. Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Tentative schedule