Los Angeles Urban
Ocean Expedition 2019

Partners & Participants

Partner Organizations

AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

Aquarium of the Pacific

Braid Theory

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

California Science Center

City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation

Ocean Exploration Trust / E/V Nautilus

Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County

Smithsonian Institution

Southern California Coastal Water Research Project

USC Sea Grant

Western Association of Marine Labs


Ralph Appy, Holly Bik, Don Cadien, Curtis Cash, Jennifer Dijkstra, Doug Ernisse, Jeff Goddard, Brent Haggin, Leslie Harris, Austin Hendy, Greg Jensen, Tonia Kane, Kevin Kocot, Gretchen Lambert, Greg Lyon, Megan McCuller, Kathy Ann Miller, Kimo Morris, Kathy Omura, Julie Passarelli, Gustav Paulay, Bill Power, Jennifer Smolenski, Tom Lee Turner, Adam Wall, Jenessa Wall, Regina Wetzer, Shawn Wiedrick (and others)

Contact Us

Regina Wetzer — rwetzer@nhm.org

Dean Pentcheff — pentcheff@nhm.org

Jenessa Wall — jwall@nhm.org

Where: AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

When: 19 August – 2 September, 2019

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) will lead a two week long expedition to the urban ocean waters of the Los Angeles region to dramatically improve our knowledge of Southern California marine biodiversity. This program will bring together the best taxonomists and local collectors in an internationally-recognized intensive methodology to collect, live-identify, curate, and DNA barcode as many species as possible. The focus is on the southern Palos Verdes peninsula shelf and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This will also be a wonderful opportunity for the public to take a peek into a major marine research program being carried out at the coast of a major urban center.

What will be happening?

Project headquarters will be at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, which provides dockside facilities and a venue for a “pop-up lab”. During the expedition, research ships will be collecting fresh samples, divers will be returning with live specimens, and a team of leading taxonomists assembled for the event will be sorting, identifying, and sampling specimens for genetic analysis, all day, every day. The expedition will be managed by NHMLAC staff, accompanied by a broad range of collaborators and partners.

Why is this important?

This expedition is part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s “Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean” (DISCO). That program is a multi-year project developing molecular genetic tools to explore biodiversity. Working with numerous collaborators, DISCO is testing and refining the use of “environmental DNA” (eDNA) as a biodiversity exploration tool. Part of that work involves taking eDNA samples (like a cup of seawater) and analyzing them for the DNA sequences of nearby organisms, permitting radically quicker and cheaper ways of surveying local diversity. Another part of the DISCO program is creating the genetic “barcode” library of reference sequences that permits full interpretation of the eDNA samples.

The L.A. Urban Ocean Expedition 2019 will contribute thousands of reference specimens to accelerate constructing the DNA “barcode” library for the Southern California ocean, as well as providing an opportunity for further eDNA studies. In future years, we plan to connect with other partners to expand coverage to the Channel Islands, already known to have distinctly different marine communities from the mainland coast.

How can I participate?

Along with our partners, we are putting together multiple opportunities to come see the operation and participate during (and after) the expedition. Check back here for more details as we schedule the activities.