Student Opportunities

Photo of Mike and Chelsea.
Teaching students in the field.
Photo of Sean and Griffin.

Undergraduate student opportunities

Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science REU: Opportunities for CSUMB and non-CSUMB students to participate in summer research with the Marine Landscape Ecology Lab are available through the Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science REU. Visit the REU site for the opportunities available to conduct independent research within our lab group. A summer stipend, room and board are provided by the program. Application deadline is February 16, 2018. For additional information please email:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Dungeness Crab Monitoring: We are currently looking for 4- 5 undergraduates to assist with a long term collaborative study with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that examines spatial variation in Dungeness crab larval recruitment. Student assistants will gain experience in field sampling techniques as well as lab based experience in invertebrate larvae identification. The majority of this work will be split between Moss Landing Harbor and the main CSUMB campus. Student assistants should be available from February 27-May 01, 2018. For additional details email Ms. Aileen San at or Dr. Corey Garza at

NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Fellowship: Beginning Spring 2018 funding will be available for CSUMB undergraduate students to participate as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Undergraduate Fellowship Progams. Students will be be funded to conduct research related to coastal resiliency, coastal technology and place based conservation. This year we are recruiting for projects focused on squid ecology and the impact of sea star wasting disease on coastal communities. Two years of stipend and research support will be provided. Application deadline February 05, 2018. Project options are listed below. Begin the application process at this link. For additional information contact Dr. Corey Garza at

Feeding Ecology of Market Squid: In the California Current Ecosystem (CCE) the distribution, abundance and growth of market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) is thought to be largely driven by El Niño Southern Oscillation cycles, however the ecological factors that drive the observed boom and bust population dynamics have yet to be fully understood. Field studies suggest that there is a positive correlation between the abundance of juvenile market squid and the coastal krill Thysanoessa spinifera. This project, in conjunction with NMFS, is using stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N) to evaluated the extent that squid in high abundance years (such as 2013) are more dependent on coastal food webs relative to lower productivity years (such as 2015) in which they are likely to be more reliant on offshore resources (e.g., Euphausia pacifica). These results complement ongoing NMFS efforts examining market squid distribution, abundance, growth and trophic ecology (stomach contents). The student will conduct lab work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and work with scientists from CSUMB, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center (Santa Cruz and San Diego, where they will intern in the summers), Idaho State University and University of Delaware. Students will gain experience in fisheries ecology, stable isotope analysis and GIS modeling.

Spiny Lobster use of intertidal habitat in MPAs: In this study we propose to use a long term data set on intertidal habitat composition and demography of spiny lobster in the Santa Catalina Island MPA. This set of data is unique in that it contains information on intertidal habit composition and demographic information for spiny lobsters in the years preceding the establishment of the MPA, the year the MPA was established and in the years following the establishment of the MPA. Our project can provide researchers and managers with strong quantitative information on the impact of the Catalina MPA on key demographic features of in populations of spiny lobster. This project will also provide insight into the importance of incorporating intertidal habitat into the design of MPAs that target spiny lobsters Southern California. Students participating in this project will gain experience in fisheries ecology, stable isotope analysis and GIS modeling.

Impacts of Sea Star Wasting Disease: Over the few years declines in populations of the sea star Pisaster ochraceus have been observed across the West Coast of the U.S. A viral outbreak has been suggested as the key driver of this decline. As a keystone predator these declines in sea star populations have the potential to cause shifts in the composition of intertidal communities ranging from California to Alaska. As part of a collaborative project that includes institutions such as Oregon State University, UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University and UC Irvine our group is examining potential shifts in community composition within intertidal communities on the West Coast. Students participating in this project will get experience in community ecology, invertebrate biology, GIS and drone technologies.

Graduate student opportunities

Prospective Graduate Students: The deadline for applying to the graduate program in Marine Science at Moss Landing Marine Labs or in Environmental Science at CSUMB is February 01 of each year. As a rule, Dr. Garza will not accept a student into the lab who he has not met in person or by phone beforehand. If you are considering applying for graduate studies in the lab, please plan on contacting Dr. Garza by email or phone and, if possible, taking a visit to campus sometime during the Fall semester. This will help you in deciding if the lab and graduate program at CSUMB are a suitable fit for your educational goals.

Because research in the lab focuses on the analysis of spatial pattern and process in marine systems, students in the lab regularly use GIS and statistics in their research. Students conducting research in the lab will be expected to become proficient in each of these two areas. For students interested in working in the lab, we recommend they have a strong quantitative background (e.g. statistics), experience working with computers, coursework in ecology and some research experience.

Students in the lab primarily study the ecology of marine invertebrates. However, in the past, students have conducted research on the foraging ecology of shorebirds and, studies looking at the landscape genetics of black surfperch in Monterey Bay. In general, we are more interested in studying interesting research topics as opposed to a particular organism or system. Please visit the projects section of the lab page for examples of previous and current projects.

Research funding is always in flux, some projects currently have funding for graduate work while others don't. Please contact Dr. Garza at 831-582-3024 or for information on funded graduate research opportunities currently available in the lab. We are always happy to speak with students interested in conducting graduate studies at CSUMB and look forward to speaking with you.