New extension specialist brings aquaculture expertise to Monterey

Farmed fish swim in a tank. Credit: Moss Landing Marine Laboratory
March 07, 2018
Media Contact— Katherine Leitzell / kleitzell@ucsd.edu / (858) 246-1661


Luke Gardner has joined California Sea Grant as an Aquaculture Specialist with its extension program. Gardner will be based in Moss Landing at the California State University’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML).

Gardner will join a team of extension specialists who work with coastal communities, businesses, and policymakers throughout California, conducting research and outreach on areas of coastal and marine concern. Because these experts are based in their communities, they can conduct research and outreach that directly solves problems at the local level, while working as a team to understand and respond to issues that affect the whole state.

As an expert in aquaculture—the farming of fish, seaweed, and other aquatic organisms—Gardner will develop collaborations with other researchers, organizations, industries, and educators to conduct integrated research, education, and outreach projects.  His projects will involve and promote greater interactions between MLML, other academic marine aquaculture programs, and California’s aquaculture community.

“We are delighted to have Luke on board. With his broad and extensive background in aquaculture, and experience working with industry, he was a natural fit for the position,” says California Sea Grant Director Jim Eckman.

“Luke comes to us with a track record of using science to solve problems. His past work with academic institutions and industry to fill research gaps, and his interest in working with communities to address local questions about aquaculture, will help California grow as a leader in aquaculture science and policy,” adds California Sea Grant Extension Director Lisa Schiavinato.

Originally from Australia, where he earned a PhD in aquaculture, Gardner has worked as a research scientist at Stanford University since 2009. He has conducted research on economically important marine species such as bluefin tuna and pearl oysters, using molecular and genetic methods to better understand the impacts of growing these animals in captivity.

In his new position, Gardner aims to help develop California’s aquaculture in a safe and sustainable way by leveraging the state’s cutting-edge technologies and expertise to help address and solve industry and community concerns.

“I’m really excited to start this position as I believe aquaculture has great potential in California and I want to help ensure its development best suits the needs of the Californian people,” says Gardner.

Aquaculture, or farming of fish and other marine organisms for food or energy, is not yet a large industry in California. NOAA estimates that more than 80% of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, with about half of that coming from aquaculture.

The growing aquaculture industry in the US has the potential to bring a greater variety of locally sourced, sustainably farmed seafood options to the state. Monterey Bay in particular is home to a number of small shellfish farmers growing abalone and oysters. Gardner will work closely with these practitioners as well as with researchers at MLML who are working to promote the development of a sustainable aquaculture industry for the state.

“Dr. Gardner’s appointment to the Sea Grant Extension Specialist position and his residency at MLML validates the importance of the aquaculture industry to the citizens of California, and the important role academics and research play in developing the industry in a sustainable fashion. We are thrilled to have Luke joining our program,” says Michael Graham, a professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

About California Sea Grant

NOAA’s California Sea Grant College Program funds marine research, education and outreach throughout California. Our headquarters is at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego; we are one of 33 Sea Grant programs in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.