The Tiburon Branch of the Marine Invasions Lab - Conducting World-class research on the US West Coast Since 2000

Tiburon Lab, Summer 2015

We are a small team of researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Marine Invasions Research Lab. We study patterns and processes of marine invasions over broad spatial and temporal scales. Our primary focus is the detection and monitoring of marine invasions in California waters.

Our laboratory is housed at San Francisco State University's marine research and teaching facility, the Romberg Tiburon Center (RTC). SERC's collaboration with RTC has been a great resource for our lab and is fostering new relationships with students and staff many of who will become tomorrow's marine biologists.

Our Research

SERC diver Lina Ceballos carries sampling equipment (quadrats and a slate) to be used in outer coast surveys (Photo: Michelle Marraffini)
SERC researcher Dr. Haizea Jimenez works with a summer intern to process soft sediment samples aboard RTC's boat the Questuary. (Photo: Michelle Marraffini)
A large reproductive adult Undaria pinnatifida found under floating docks. Eradication efforts use volunteers and divers to remove the adults from docks. (Photo: Chela Zabin)
Green crabs collected from Seadrift Lagoon. After years of eradication the population may be rebounding and number more than 400,000. (Photo: Christopher Brown)
SERC diver, Gail Ashton, takes sample of a fouled hull. (Photo: SERC)

Community Ecology

Settlement panels have been deployed in San Francisco Bay on a quarterly or annual basis since 2000 as part of an international effort to understand and document patterns of invasion in marine coastal waters. Recent studies have paired settlement plate monitoring with plankton tows, soft sediment samples, and outer coast surveys to get a more complete picture of non-native species in California bays and near-shore environments.

Eradication of Invasive Species

These efforts target many invasive species including the Japanese Mudsnail (Batillaria attramentaria) and the colonial tunicate Didemnum vexillum. Most recently we have been working with UC Davis to monitor and eradicate a local population of the non-native European Green Crab near Stinson Beach, CA. Read more about this project and how you can help on the project's webpage.

Hull Fouling as an Invasion Vector

Scientific divers conduct in-water hull surveys of commercial ships and recreational vessels in West Coast ports and beyond to assess the extent of fouling. The divers then collect samples for biological analyses. Read more about our work under cargo and cruise ships in the Smithsonian Magazine and here.

Native Oyster Demographics and Restoration

Our lab collaborates with a number of other agencies and research facilities to investigate native Olympia oyster (Ostrea conchaphila) demographics along California’s shorelines. Many experiments are taking place to look at the influence of non-native species, environmental factors, and climate change on the recruitment and mortality of native oysters in San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough.

Citizen Science

We have a citizen science network to monitor for target non-native species in Alaska and California. Participants include scientists from local state and federal agencies, concerned citizens, school groups and native Alaskan groups. When one of the targeted species or a new unknown species is found, participants submit photographs through a website (Plate Watch, Green Crab Watch, and Kelp Watch) and/or mail preserved specimens to the lab for confirmation or identification. If you wish to participate in any SI Citizen Science program please contact Allison Cawood at for more information.

For more information regarding our west coast research and laboratory, please contact:
Dr. Andrew Chang, Program Leader
(415) 435-7128