Habitat Ecology Team

Cowcod off Big CreekThe Habitat Ecology Team conducts research in direct response to the mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006, with a focus on deep-water California demersal communities. Our goal is to provide sound scientific information to ensure the sustainability of marine fisheries and the effective management of marine ecosystems, with objectives to:

  • improve stock assessments, especially of overfished rockfish species in complex habitats
  • characterize fish and habitat associations to improve EFH identification
  • contribute to MPA design & monitoring, and to Coast and Marine Spatial Planning
  • understand the significance of deep-sea coral habitats

We use a variety of survey tools and approaches to improve our assessments of demersal fishes, macro-invertebrates (including members of deep-water coral communities), and associated seafloor habitats in water depths from 20 to 900 meters off central and southern California. Habitat-specific distribution and densities of juvenile and adult life stages of numerous Pacific Coast demersal species have been determined from non-extractive, visual surveys conducted with remotely operated vehicles (ROV), manned submersibles, scuba, laser line scan, and towed cameras, coupled with seafloor maps of the continental shelf and upper slope off California. These surveys have resulted in habitat-specific assemblage analyses on multiple spatial scales; fishery-independent stock assessments; baseline monitoring of MPAs; documentation of marine debris on the seafloor; and are being used in the California-NOAA-USGS Seafloor Mapping Program.

Our research often is conducted in collaboration with academic partners from University of California Santa Barbara, University of California Cooperative Extension Sea Grant Program, Washington State University, Oregon State University, and Stanford Research Institute Intl., and with our colleagues from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and National Marine Sanctuaries.

Team members

Research activities


Recent publications


Deep-sea coral and sponge seminar series
Online seminar series about the role of deep-sea corals and sponges as habitat for managed species.

Deep-sea coral survey images
Images from an 11-day cruise using an AUV and cameras to survey deep-sea corals and habitats off northern California.

A guide to the rockfish, thornyheads, and scorpionfishes of the northeast Pacific
A new guide to the rockfishes of the northeast Pacific has been published.

Southern California coral and sponge community report
A characterization of the coral and sponge community on Piggy Bank seamount from a survey using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Deepsea Coral and Sponge Image Database
Images from 2010 surveys of deepsea corals and sponges off Southern California.

NMFS Habitat Assessment Improvement Plan (HAIP)
The first nationally coordinated plan to focus on marine fisheries habitat science.

Keepers of the Deep
Video about deep water marine debris research off the California coast.

Christmas tree coral images
Underwater images of a recently discovered species of black coral.

Pictures and videos

AUV retrieval Launching the Dual Deepworker sub Cowcod off Big Creek Entering the Delta submersible The Delta submersible returns

Last modified: 7/8/2015