Ecological Monitoring

Understanding long-term changes to the Gulf of California

Multi-decadal studies of marine ecosystems involve measuring salinity, oxygen levels, and water temperature at different depths in the oceanic water-column – consistently over time. While this work may not sound exciting, these environmental properties affect all marine creatures. Tracking changes underwater is critically important to revealing the long-term impacts of climate change in our oceans.

Given the importance of these studies and their chronic lack of funding, we are glad to support the work of Dr. William Gilly of Stanford University. Dr. Gilly is conducting long-term ecological monitoring of the Gulf of California. At certain times of the year, Dr. Gilly can be found aboard National Geographic Sea Bird. While aboard, Dr. Gilly interacts with guests as well, offering educational talks about the Gulf of California and its marine wildlife, explaining diverse planktonic organisms with a projection-microscope, and leading explorations of the rocky intertidal zone.

Dr. Gilly has partners working elsewhere in the region on this project, collecting data throughout the year and on periodic research cruises. With this collection of information, he analyzes changes in the water’s oxygen levels, temperature, and other properties and reports his findings. For example, Dr. Gilly has discovered a significant increase in water temperature at depths to 300 feet over much of the Gulf of California since 2010.

“This change appears to be leading to major ecological impacts in the Sea of Cortez,” says Dr. Gilly, “especially on Humboldt squid, a food source for sperm whales and other marine mammals. Squid react rapidly and dramatically to changes in their environment, and provide insight into how food-webs and ecosystems may be affected in this time of change.”

The Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund aims to protect the last wild places in the ocean while facilitating conservation, research, education, and community development programs in the places we explore. If you would like to learn more about projects supported by the LEX-NG Fund worldwide, please contact the Fund by email. To support our work by making a contribution to the LEX-NG Fund, click here.

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