Committed to Community: Building a Broader and Stronger Research Family through Long-Term Monitoring of California’s Iconic Intertidal Foundation Species

Project Number
Project Date Range
Focus Area(s)
Education, Training and Public Information, Healthy Coastal Ecosystems


Foundation species build habitats that benefit other organisms — such as reefs — and are vital to healthy ecosystems. Many important marine systems are reliant on foundation species that are sensitive to warming temperatures, and climate change presents an increasing threat. 

Two molluscan foundation species are already declining in Southern California: the California mussel (Mytilus californianus) and the Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida). Both species can form dense beds that support a diverse ecosystem, and both are popular targets for human consumption. 

This project will support four undergraduate trainees in the Burnaford and Zacherl labs at California State University Fullerton. Trainees in the Burnaford lab will participate in long-term monitoring of M. californianus through the Multi-agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe). Trainees in the Zacherl lab will continue oyster monitoring that started in Southern California in 2005. Under the guidance of academic scientists and graduate students, undergraduate trainees will contribute to ongoing research focused on four potential factors in the decline — as well as the potential restoration success — of M. californianus and O. lurida: sedimentation, thermal stress, threats from non-indigenous species, and collection/harvesting. 

With data on what contributes to declines and successes in these two important foundation species, managers in Southern California and beyond can create more effective conservation and restoration strategies. This project will help provide that information while also facilitating mentorship for undergraduate students. 

Principal Investigators
Jennifer Burnaford
California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton)
Co-principal Investigators
Danielle Zacherl
California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton)
William Hoese
California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton)

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