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Scientists Explore "Urban Influence on Santa Monica Bay" during Southern California Academy of Sciences Meeting


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Core—photograph and analysis
Core data: Photograph of a core collected by USGS scientists near the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Outfall in Playa del Rey (on Santa Monica Bay), California. Graph based on preliminary radioisotope dating and toxicity studies shows that sediments near the outfall are decreasing in toxicity. This change correlates with improvements in sewage treatment.
The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the City of Los Angeles, and the U.S. Geological Survey co-chaired a day-long session of the Southern California Academy of Sciences during its meeting at the University of Southern California on May 19th and 20th. The title of our session, held the 19th, was "Understanding the Urban Influence on Santa Monica Bay."

Over the last 100 years, the Los Angeles region has seen dramatic changes in population size, land use, and waste-disposal practices. Corresponding changes have occurred in the coastal marine environment, but our understanding of the link between habitat change and urbanization is limited by the relatively short history of environmental monitoring. A record of these events is contained within the sediments of Santa Monica Bay, which reflect changes in sediment supply and contaminant influx over time. The Coastal & Marine Geology Program Los Angeles Shelf project uses analyses of sediment cores, in conjunction with studies of the regional geologic framework and measurements of modern processes, to gain insight into the geologic and oceanographic processes that influence the transport and distribution of sediments, nutrients, and contaminants.

Our session presented results from a multi-year study of Santa Monica Bay involving researchers from the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and its member agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, and academic institutions. Homa Lee, Brian Edwards, Jim Hein, Tom Lorenson, Mary McGann, Marlene Noble, Chris Sommerfield, and Florence Wong presented papers on topics including the geology of the region, shelf-break processes, mineralogy of the sediment, molecular markers such as hydrocarbons, and foram response to pollution. Cooperators from organizations such as the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, and the University of Southern California presented papers on geological, chemical, and biological aspects of the study.

Ours was one of 11 sessions at the meeting. Other sessions focused on topics such as coastal habitat restoration, the ecology of kelp beds, research at public aquariums, new and rare species observed during the last El Nio, and the Los Angeles River.

Those working on the Los Angeles Shelf project saw this meeting as an opportunity to present the results of their study to an audience directly involved with and impacted by the research. Results of the meeting will be useful to planners and policy makers in assessing efforts to reduce pollution and the impacts of future development on the health of Santa Monica Bay. Many of the papers presented at our session will be included in a special issue of Marine Environmental Research.


Related Web Sites
Los Angeles Shelf Pollution and Waste Disposal Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
State of California
Bureau of Sanitation
City of Los Angeles
Southern California Academy of Sciences

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