Su Sponaugle

I am a marine ecologist interested in the physical and biological processes underlying the recruitment dynamics of marine organisms. Most marine fishes have a complex life cycle whereby demersal adults produce pelagic eggs and larvae that spend weeks to months in the water column before recruiting to the adult population. The vast size of the ocean combined with the tiny size of eggs and larvae make it challenging to study how these early stages survive and return to join the adult population, yet this return is critical to population replenishment. As a result, we have relatively little understanding of which larvae survive to make it back to nearshore populations.

We approach these issues from both sides of the problem: through the collection and detailed analysis of larvae in the pelagic realm as well as measuring the success of new recruits. Our interdisciplinary efforts are aimed at linking larvae to successful juveniles to better quantify critical processes affecting population replenishment and connectivity. Recently, our research has shifted from tropical coral reef fishes to marine fishes off the U.S. west coast, in the northern California Current. Bob Cowen and I have merged our labs to bring our tools together to more carefully address the secret life of larval fishes in the plankton.

For a current copy of Su Sponaugle’s CV, please contact her.

Phone: 541- 867- 0314


Robert Cowen

I am a biological oceanographer whose research centers on the ecology and life history of fishes, particularly the early life history of fishes. We have worked extensively on the biological and physical oceanographic processes affecting the retention and transport of larval fishes at sea, in terms of examining larval dynamics, population replenishment, and connectivity. Our research also includes specific aspects of the ecology of larval fishes including vertical migration, growth, survival, and feeding. Besides larval ecology, I have worked on the reproductive and population biology of hermaphroditic (sex-changing) fishes, as well as community ecology of kelp bed systems.

Several years ago we developed a new ichthyoplankton sampling technology (ISIIS) to quantify the fine-scale distributions and dynamics of plankton. This is proving to be an exciting way to peer into the black box of larval fish ecology as well as to engage the public in citizen science outreach and engagement. We have deployed the ISIIS in a range of oceans and coastal ecosystems, although our current research projects are primarily along the west coast of the US. Combining our data from ISIIS together with age and growth information from individual fish larvae from Su Sponaugle’s group enables us to resolve to role of fine-scale biological and physical processes in contributing to the growth and survival of larval fishes in the plankton.

For a current copy of Bob Cowen’s CV, please contact him.

Phone: 541-867-0211