Collection Data

Page Contents: Section | Significance | Background | Location & Dates | Taxonomic Contents | Documentation | Description of Collection | Collection Inventory | Collection Assets

PULSE, Point Sal, Santa Barbara County

Section Responsible for Processing



PULSE is an acronym for “Pelagic-Benthic Coupling and the Carbon Cycle”, a study initiated by Dr. Ken Smith in 1989 while at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and continued after his move to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. This is a long-term study of one abyssal site. The primary goal of the project is to study changes over time in deep-sea communities as it relates to seasonal pulses of surface productivity and climate change.

PULSE is an ongoing, 20+-year, long-term, time-series research project at a deep-sea site off the coast of California. Station M (34infinity50’N, 123infinity00’W) lies in the eastern North Pacific about 200 kilometers off the coast of Point Conception and is subject to strong seasonal pulses of surface productivity (Smith et al., 1992). The seafloor at 4100 meters has very little topographic relief (less than 100 meters over 1,600 square kilometers) and is composed of silty-clay sediment with seasonal deposits of flocculent phytodetritus. Currents near the seafloor average 3.8 centimeters per second, can reach a maximum of 18.2 centimeters per second and flow to the south during periods of highest current speeds and towards the north and west during the periods of low current speeds (Beaulieu and Baldwin, 1998).
Time-lapse photography has revealed abundant evidence of bioturbation and other epifaunal activity at the site in the form of numerous trails, furrows, and mounds that can be centimeters to meters across (Smith et al., 1993). Recent research has shown that climate variation can affect levels of photosynthetic activity at the sea surface (Smith et al., 2001). Photosynthetic activity then affect the quantity and quality of particulate organic carbon (POC) flux to the seafloor (Smith et al., 1994). Amounts of POC flux can affect the size and abundance of benthic fauna (Ruhl and Smith, 2004) as well as macrofauna (Ruhl et al., 2008).


Dr. Smith and colleagues (primarily Ron Kaufmann, Lynn Lewis, Roberta Baldwin) donated specimens collected in early years of the PULSE program to the museum. Section collection managers interacted with Dr. Smith and colleagues individually so there isn’t a single unified record of the donations.

From Lindsey Groves 3Oct2014: “Malacology and Echinoderms received a lot of material early in the program in 1989 and less as collecting progressed.* Lindsey Groves has station data entered into Invert database. Cathy Groves (Echinoderms) has more information and received later PULSE cruise material after Malacology.”

Hans Kuck was the initial contact with Ken for crustaceans.* Don't know if Hans* or other curators were the initial museum contact.* Gordon Hendler may know more. They donated many lots of polychaetes plus the unsorted grunge from several dredges in return for help with identifications and teaching students how to identify them.”

Collection Location and Dates

All samples come from the vicinity of Smith’s Station M, centered at 34infinity50’N, 123infinity00’W; about 220 kilometers due west of Point Sal, central California, 4100 meters deep. Most material was donated from 1989-1991 although Polychaetes has samples through 1996. Samples were taken by otter trawl.

Taxonomic Contents

Polychaetes, Echinoderms, Crustacea, Molluscs, and miscellaneous phyla. Representatives of the major phyla are housed in the appropriate sections. Miscellaneous phyla specimens were sorted out of trawl cod-end grunge samples given to the Polychaete Section and remain with Polychaetes. 190 Crustacea lots curated and shelved taxonomically Nov 2015. Contents include: 17 lots Galatheoidea, 14 lots Pycnogonida, 21 lots Isopoda, 16 lots Mysidacea, 19 lots Copepoda, 24 lots Tanaidacea, 14 lots Phyllocarida, 16 lots Amphipoda, 24 lots Gnathophausia, 22 lots barnacles, 1 lot Ostracoda, 2 lots Caprellidae.


Ship’s blog and interviews with Dr. Smith and his colleagues during PULSE 53 (2007), PULSE 56 (2010), PULSE 58 (2011) and PULSE 62 (2013) can be found on the MBARI website at

Station data has been entered into the Malacology-Echinoderm database for their samples. Polychaete samples have full station information on jar labels. 11 November 2015 crustacean lots were not individually cataloged, but rather received MBPC16224 label to identify it as belonging to this collection.

Description of Collection

Wet preserved collection. Samples originally fixed in 10% formalin, later rinsed in fresh water and transferred into 70% ethanol. Uncertain if Crustacea specimens were ever transferred from formalin to ethanol until recurated November 2015 at which time MBPC16224 was added to each crustacean lot.

Collection Inventory

Molluscs, echinoderms, polychaetes, crustaceans.

Collection Assets

Date View or Retrieve File Information
11/24/2014 Retrieve [610.5 kB] Effect of the pelagic food supply on benthic plate sponge abundance and size in the abyssal NE Pacific
Amanda Kahn, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
Mentors: Ken L. Smith, Henry A. Ruhl Summer 2007
11/24/2014 Retrieve [288.5 kB] Booth, et al. 2008. Size–frequency dynamics of NE Pacific abyssal ophiuroids (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea). Marine Biology 154: 933-941.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [789.2 kB] Gooday, A. J. 2002. Biological Responses to Seasonally Varying Fluxes of Organic Matter to the Ocean Floor: A Review. Journal of Oceanography 58: 305-332.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [1224.8 kB] First observations of Onuphidae (Polychaeta) patch ecology on the abyssal seafloor
Claire Laguionie-Marchais, University of Southampton, UK
Mentors: Dr. Ken Smith, Dr. Christine Huffard Summer 2013
11/24/2014 Retrieve [171.8 kB] Ruhl, et al. 2004. Shifts in deep-sea community structure linked to climate and food supply. Science 305: 513.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [520.9 kB] Smith et al. Deep ocean community food supply and demand impacted by changing climate over 24 years in the abyssal northeast Pacific Ocean.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [2271.1 kB] Smith et al. 2009. Climate, carbon cycling, and deep-ocean ecosystems. PNAS 106 (46): 19211-19218.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [462.5 kB] Smith, K.L. and E.R.M. Druffel. 1998. Climate, carbon cycling, and deep-ocean ecosystems. Deep-Sea Research II 45: 573-586.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [2345.5 kB] Smith, et al. 1994. Coupling of near-bottom and benthic processes at abyssal depths in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Limnology and Oceanography 39(5): 1101-1118.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [2141.6 kB] Kuhnz, et al. 2014. Rapid changes and long-term cycles in the benthic megafaunal community observed over 24 years in the abyssal northeast Pacific. Progress in Oceanography 124: 1-11.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [1562.4 kB] Smith et al. 2014. Large salp bloom export from the upper ocean and benthic community response in the abyssal northeast Pacific: Day to week resolution. Limnology and Oceanography 59(3): 745-757.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [624.3 kB] Smith et al. 2013. Deep ocean communities impacted by changing climate over 24 y in the abyssal northeast Pacific Ocean. PNAS 110(49)19838-19841.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [2049.9 kB] Smith et al. 2001. Pelagic-benthic coupling in the abyssal eastern North Pacific: An 8-year time-series study of food supply and demand. Limnology and Oceanography 46(3): 543-556.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [405.0 kB] Beaulieu, S. E. 2001. Colonization of habitat islands in the deep sea: recruitment to glass sponge stalks. Deep-Sea Research I 48: 1121-1137.
11/24/2014 Retrieve [220.0 kB] Beaulieu, S. E. 2001. Life on glass houses: sponge stalk communities in the deep sea. Marine Biology 138: 803-817.

Curatorial Status (Click to view)