Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Discovery Lecture Series

Friday, October 4, 2019
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Sex and Kelp and Science Ed Ė Confessions of a Kelp Addict

By Dr. Chuck Kopczak, California Science Center

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is simultaneously the primary ecosystem engineer of its eponymous marine forests, and an intellectually addictive species for those pre-disposed to such addictions. In the Northern Hemisphere, forests of giant kelp are unique to the Pacific coast of North America. The species requires a basic formula of high light, ample nutrients, appropriate water motion, and a rocky bottom to exist. Given these basic requirements, giant kelp can create extensive forests that provide homes for hundreds of species. Growth rate measurements of juvenile giant kelp sporophytes indicate that kelp forests adapt to local conditions of nutrient availability, forming distinct populations or ecotypes. Giant kelp also seems to be able to adjust the rate of nutrient uptake in response to periods of nutrient depletion, or excess. The addiction to giant kelp developed through attempts to understand how the species responds to seasonal changes in nutrient and light availability resulted in an overwhelming compulsion to help the public understand more about this unique treasure found off of our coast.

Dr. Chuck Kopczak received his bachelorís degree in Marine Biology and masterís degree in biology from the California State University at Long Beach, and his doctorate in Biology from the University of Southern California. His research work focused on the transport of organic material on rocky reefs and coral reefs, and the ecology of southern California kelp forests. Following this academic experience, he moved into informal science education by designing and developing the UCLA Ocean Discovery Center at the Santa Monica Pier with its live animal and interactive exhibits to educate the public about the marine life and health of Santa Monica Bay. After a brief return to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, he joined the California Science Center to curate the development of the 50,000 square foot Ecosystems gallery. Not content with his previous academic training, he returned to Cal State Long Beach to complete a Master of Science Education, specializing in informal science education. His research examined the experience of families visiting touch tanks at aquariums in California and Oregon. As the Curator of Life Sciences at the California Science Center he oversees both Ecosystems, and the World of Life gallery. He also actively collaborates with the faculty of the California Science Center's on-site charter elementary school, providing field-based experiences in marine and terrestrial ecology.

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