Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies

Image: Ripples on water

SF State's bayside marine and estuarine research facility.

Publications, Conferences, and Awards



Sixteen students celebrate graduation at Romberg Tiburon Center

A record 16 students, including 13 who completed their Master's degrees at RTC and 3 who completed their bachelor's degree with research conducted at RTC, celebrated their graduation in a ceremony at the Bay Conference Center on May 24. Congratulations to all!


Graduate student and ARCS Scholar Alma Ceja presented her research at annual Award Luncheon

ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientist) advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding students pursuing advanced degrees in science, engineering and medical research at our nation’s leading research universities. The Northern California chapter awarded scholars at six universities, including San Francisco State as the only non PhD-granting university, attesting to the high caliber of our Master's students. 4/24/17


Graduate students show off their research at SFSU showcase

The Graduate Research and Creative Works Showcase is an annual exhibition of the diverse work of SF State’s innovated and talented graduate students. 4/20/17


New research on lupine seed density, dispersal, and consumption by graduate student Melissa Patten and colleagues 3/26/17


Graduate student Rachel Weinberg (Cohen lab) won a $1740 Libbie H. Hyman Memorial Scholarship to attend the Taxonomy and Biology of Tunicates summer course at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Bocas Research Station in Panama. Rachel's research focuses on the biology of colonial tunicates in the family Didemnidae, with emphasis on the invasive species Didemnum vexillum. 2/27/17



RTC scientists and students share their research at several conferences, win awards

RTC students presented research posters at the Western Society of Naturalists Meeting in Monterey November 10-13; RTC scientists and students presented research talks and posters at the Biennial Bay-Delta Conference in Sacramento November 15-17, and graduate student Ryan Hartnett won a best poster award for an early career scientist at PICES, the North Pacific Marine Science Annual Meeting for "Developing marine food web models to evaluate blue whale, Cassin's auklet and salmon responses to long- and short-term changes in oceanography in the California Current." 11/21/16


Graduate student Alma Ceja receives prestigious ARCS Scholarship

Alma is the latest in a long line of RTC Master's students who have received the ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) Scholarship to help further her research and pursue an advanced degree in STEM. Usually awarded to PhD students, ARCS awards to SF State Master's students illustrate the high caliber of the university's graduate research. 9/28/16


Emeritus Professor Roger Bland, colleagues publish Ocean Beach wave study

Waves on San Francisco's Ocean Beach are observed with a marine radar system mounted on a high retaining wall south of the SF Zoo. These waves cause rapid erosion of beaches and cliffs near San Francisco. Variation in the water depth causes bending of wave fronts and can lead to variation in the intensity of wave action along the shoreline. Mapping of the wave crests has revealed a focusing of wave fronts by an underwater sand bar, producing an erosion "hot spot" which has already caused the collapse of part of the Great Highway. Future research could be focused on the formation of rip current patterns, with the possibility of establishing a rip-current "early warning system." Smit, P. B., R. Bland, T. T. Janssen, and B. Laughlin, Remote sensing of nearshore wave interference, Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 121, 3409–3421. 6/23/16


RTC graduate returns from NOAA research cruise

Recent graduate Tricia Lee just returned from the NOAA Ship Reuben Laskerafter several days measuring nutrients and primary productivity in the Gulf of the Farallones as part of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science CenterRockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Cruise. She also found time to watch whales, planktonic crab larvae, and beautiful sunsets! See her photos on our Facebook page. 6/1/2016


Recent graduate publishes Master's research as first author

On May 24, recent graduate Laurel Ballanti (Hines Lab) published her master's research "Tree species classification using hyperspectral imagery: A comparison of two classifiers" in the scientific journal Remote Sensing. Ballanti's research was conducted in Muir Woods National Monument and Mt. Tamalpais State Park, and could be useful for managing their forest ecosystems. 5/24/16


RTC graduate student presents research at recent Ocean Climate Summit

On May 17, graduate student Karen Backe (Hines Lab) presented her research poster "Understanding coastal habitat dynamics by analysis of harbor seal habitat use" (pdf, 994kb) at the 2016 Ocean Climate Summit in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Her research included a long-term data set collected by a dedicated citizen scientist featured in this recent article in The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. 5/23/16


Presentations and Publications and Awards, Oh My! The distribution and abundance of recent RTC scientist and student accomplishments.

In the last month, 14 different RTC scientists, graduate and undergraduate students: gave 10 different oral and poster presentations at four different scientific meetings from SF State to Vancouver, Canada and Hobart, Tasmania; published (co-authored) a new research paper on geographic variation in mussels; won awards for poster presentations; received a paid internship at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary; and won travel awards to present their research at upcoming conferences in Texas and Minnesota. Read the details of who, what, where and when here. 5/11/16


RTC Alum publishes Masters research and cover photo in journal

Beth Sheets, formerly of Dr. Sarah Cohen's laboratory, published her research on the spread of a tropical colonial tunicate in the scientific journal, Ecology & Evolution: "Investigating the widespread introduction of a tropical marine fouling species." Her research used genetic markers to trace the spread and diversity of the tunicate, Botrylloides nigrum. In addition, her photo, taken at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, was chosen as the cover for the April issue. Beth is now a research technician in Dr. Steven Palumbi's laboratory at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station. 4/18/16


RTC scientists publish "Predation impact of Acartiella sinensis, an introduced predatory copepod in the San Francisco Estuary, USA"

Research technician Anne Slaughter is the lead author with research technician Toni Ignoffo and Senior Research Scientist Dr. Wim Kimmerer. The first study to quantify predation by A. sinensis, they found that impact on other copepod species was high relative to their population growth potential in a low productivity zone of the estuary. This predation impact, in addition to grazing impact from the introduced clam Potamocorbula amurensis, further limits food availability for declining fish populations such as delta smelt. Marine Ecology Progress Series 547:60, 4/7/16


RTC graduate student Jeyna Perez received funding for sea star research

Perez, of Dr. Sarah Cohen's laboratory, received a $1000 Richard & Megumi Strathmann Fellowship to conduct sea star research and attend a marine biodiversity course at the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island. 3/15/16


Sarah Cohen gave invited talk at Sea Star Wasting Summit

Dr. Sarah Cohen presented "Stars: Where are They Now? Spatial and Temporal Variation in Population Structure in Direct Developing Sea Stars" at the Sea Star Wasting Summit in Seattle, Washington on January 14. February 2, 2106


RTC Research presented at Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting

Several presentations were given by RTC researchers, including four undergraduate interns, at SICB's annual national meeting held in Portland, Oregon January 4-7.

NSF EDEN undergraduate fellow Berta Colom (Cohen Lab), graduate student Joseph Spaulding, postdoctoral researcher Vanessa Miller-Sims and Dr. Sarah Cohen presented a poster: High Fusion Rates among Sibling Botryllus schlosseri recruits (abstract)

Graduate student Lindsay Faye (Stillman Lab) presented a poster: Physiological Responses of Phyllaplysia taylori to Future Climate Change Scenarios (abstract)

Summer undergraduate researcher Kayley You Mak (Stillman Lab) presented a poster: Body size does not influence thermal tolerance in the intertidal porcelain crab Petrolisthes cinctipes (abstract)

Summer undergraduate researcher Emily King (Stillman Lab) presented a poster: Do interspecies interactions trigger the cellular stress response in porcelain crabs? (abstract)

Summer ndergraduate researcher Kirsten Boyer (Stillman Lab) presented a poster: Impacts of crowding on physiological stress in the intertidal porcelain crab Petrolisthes cinctipes (abstract)

Summer undergraduate researcher Caleb Shaw (Cohen Lab) presented a poster: Performance variation in Leptasterias spp. among populations and habitats (abstract)

Postdoctoral researcher Alex Gunderson (Stillman Lab) gave an oral presentation: A conceptual framework for understanding thermal constraints on ectotherm activity (abstract) January 7, 2016



Students receive CSU COAST research awards

Marine biology undergraduate researchers Bridget Hansen (Cochlan Lab) and Rachel Weinberg (Cohen Lab) received CSU COAST (Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology) Undergraduate Research Support scholarships, two of five awarded to SF State. Graduate students Alison Fisher (Carpenter Lab), Melissa Patten (Boyer Lab) and KeChaunte Johnson (Cohen Lab) received COAST Graduate Research Awards. These awards support students interested in pursuing marine-related careers and provide them with the opportunity to obtain the skills necessary to join a highly skilled, technologically advanced workforce while promoting and supporting CSU faculty research. December 22, 2015


RTC Students Recognized as CSU-LSAMP PROUD Scholars

Bridget Hansen (SF State, 2014 Research Experiences for Undergraduates Carpenter Lab & now National Institutes of Health Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Scholar in the Cochlan Lab), Alma Ceja (CSU East Bay, now grad student, Stillman Lab), Emily King (CSU Monterey Bay, 2015 REU, Stillman Lab), and Janet Garcia (CSU Channel Islands, 2013 REU, Cohen/Todgham Lab) were recognized as Louis B. Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program Recognizing Outstanding Undergraduate Distinction Scholars for their outstanding academic and science research achievements at their CSU undergraduate campuses. Read more here (pdf, 2.85 MB). December 21, 2015


RTC, SF State Students Present Research at Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference

Hines Lab grad student presented posters: "Estimating energy sequestration and outflow by the harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena" by Cara Gallagher, "Temporal Distribution Patterns of Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) with Tidal Exchange in San Francisco Bay," Laura Duffy, "Citizen science's role in filling data gaps: Whale watching operators of Northern California," and co-author on "Whale CITE: A Citizen Science Program for Whale Sightings Along the U.S. West Coast," Melissa Kent. Professor Ellen Hines gave an oral presentation, "Line transect estimates of Irrawaddy dolphin abundance along the eastern Gulf Coast of Thailand", and is co-author on "Individual variation and dietary overlap with fisheries in an endangered cetacean, the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris)", and "Size, challenges, and values of Marine Mammal Protected Areas in South and Southeast Asia." December 18, 2015


Two new publications from RTC scientists

A new paper from alumnus Caitlin Jensen sets the stage for further risk assessment of cetacean ship strikes outside the Bay.
Caitlin M. Jensen, Ellen Hines, Barbara A. Holzman, Thomas J. Moore, Jaime
Jahncke & Jessica V. Redfern (2015) Spatial and Temporal Variability in Shipping Traffic Off San Francisco, California, Coastal Management, 43:6, 575-588. December 8, 2015

Post-doctoral Researcher Alex Gunderson (Stillman Lab) published
"A conceptual framework for understanding thermal constraints on ectotherm activity with implications for predicting responses to global change" in Ecology Letters. December 9, 2015

RTC students receive scholarships

Graduate student Anastasia Ennis (Cohen Lab) received a CSUPERB (CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology) Travel Grant to attend the CERF meeting in Portland, Oregon. Graduate students Cara Gallagher (Hines Lab), Stephanie Saffouri and Crystal Weaver (Boyer Lab) received scholarships from the College of Science & Engineering. November 23, 2015


RTC Alum publishes Master's research

Evyan Borgnis (alumna of the Boyer Lab) published her master's thesis work in Estuaries and Coasts. Her new article is entitled "Salinity Tolerance and Competition Drive Distributions of Native and Invasive Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in the Upper San Francisco Estuary."  Evyan is now a project manager for Southern California restoration projects for the California Coastal Conservancy, based in Oakland. November 23, 2015

Graduate student Crystal Weaver awarded WISE Scholarship, wins haiku contest, starts crowdfunding

Crystal Weaver of the Boyer Wetlands Ecology Lab had an exciting couple of weeks! "The WISE scholarship selection committee noted that out of many excellent applicants, Crystal stood out for her clear sense of purpose, honesty and commitment to pursuing a career in applied ecology, and outstanding initiative in pursuing her research goals. She has a maturity and focus that is uncommon. Furthermore, she truly understands the larger context and impact of her project while developing tools and techniques that are cutting-edge in her field. This award will help her fund the final phase of her innovative research, which involves Next-Gen sequencing of microbial communities associated with eelgrass." Crystal also won a haiku contest at the recent CERF meeting in Portland, Oregon, and has mounted a crowdfunding campaign for her research. November 11, 2015


Pluses and minuses of ammonium and nitrate uptake and assimilation by phytoplankton and implications for productivity and community composition, with emphasis on nitrogen-enriched conditions

Drs. Wilkeron and Dugdale are co-authors on a new paper reviewing nitrogen metabolism and the contrasting metabolic pathways and regulation of ammonium and nitrate when these substrates are provided individually under equivalent growth conditions. Limnology & Oceanography, in press, 2015. October 9, 2015


Mortality estimates of stage-structured populations must include uncertainty in stage duration and relative abundance

In which Senior Research Scientist Wim Kimmerer explored mortality estimation for stage-structured populations, building on previous work that applied vertical lifetable methods to populations of copepods. Journal of Plankton Research. Journal of Plankton Research  37 (5): 939-952. October 9, 2015


Contextualising the coupled socio-ecological conditions of marine megafauna bycatch

Dr. Ellen Hines is a co-author on a new paper on reducing bycatch of dolphins and turtles in SE Asia fisheries. Ocean and Coastal Management 116, November 2015: 449-465. October 9, 2015


SF Bay Living Shorelines Project wins Outstanding Environmental Project Award at State of the Estuary Conference

Today at the San Francisco Estuary Partnerships's biennial State of the Estuary conference, RTC-SF State Biology Professor and SF Bay Living Shorelines Project Lead Scientist Dr. Katharyn Boyer accepted an Outstanding Environmental Project Award on behalf of a diverse team of local, state, federal, university, business and non-profit partners, including dozens of RTC and SF State students and volunteers. The Living Shoreline Project is part of an innovative habitat restoration and climate change adaptation effort in San Francisco Bay. Read more about the project here. September 18, 2015


Sarah Cohen and colleagues receive COAST Rapid Response funding to study local sea star vulnerable to wasting disease

Dr. Sarah Cohen, RTC Alum Renate Eberl, and graduate student Laura Melroy will be involved. Dr. Cohen says, "we are quite excited about this work and the chance to get some rapid field data and sea star samples while the populations are still deeply constricted from the wasting disease. This will be great material to build on with additional genetic analysis by our team of two grads, undergrads, a community volunteer, and a postdoc." August 26, 2015


RTC graduate student Jamie Lee published in international journal

The harmful cyanobacterial Microcystis uses different forms of nitrogeneous nutrients in the Bay Delta, showing its preference for ammonium and the uptake kinetics for ammonium uptake likely give it a competitive edge in the Bay Delta. With more nutrients, more cyanoHABs of Microcystis are likely in the Bay Delta. Citation: Lee, Jamie, Alexander E. Parker, Frances P. Wilkerson, and Richard C. Dugdale. "Uptake and inhibition kinetics of nitrogen in Microcystis aeruginosa: Results from cultures and field assemblages collected in the San Francisco Bay Delta, CA." Harmful Algae 47 (2015): 126-140. June 23, 2015


More scholarships for RTC graduate students

Serena Sebilian received a Sally Cassanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar award, given to provide opportunities to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs. Crystal Weaver received a Marine Technology Society scholarship for tuition and a Northern California Botanists scholarship to help fund her research on the effects of sediments and their associated microbial communities in eelgrass (Zostera marina) restoration. June 23, 2015


RTC graduate student wins poster award at AAAS meeting

Laura Melroy of the Cohen Lab won 2nd Place in the Evolution, Organismal Biology and Biodiversity session at the AAAS Pacific Division Meeting for her poster entitled "Stars: Where Are They Now? Delineating Species Boundaries In Space and Time for the Leptasterias Genus". June 18, 2015


RTC Scientists well-represented at 2015 AAAS Pacific Division Meeting

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Pacific Division Meeting in June, Dr. Kathy Boyer and SF Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Director Mike Vasey, Dr. Sarah Cohen, Darragh Clancy, and Laura Melroy all presented talks in symposia or research posters. Also, RTC hosted a post-meeting field trip to explore the Tiburon Uplands and learn about the history and current research at the RTC site. June 18, 2015


RTC graduate student awarded prestigious ARCS Scholarship

Congratulations to Stephanie Saffouri of the Boyer Lab, for being awarded an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists scholarship! Usually given to PhD students, ARCS awards to SF State Master's students illustrate the high caliber of the university's graduate research. May 27, 2015


Director Karina Nielsen and colleagues published in new ecology e-book

Bottom-up and top-down interactions in coastal interface systems, In Trophic Ecology Bottom-up and Top-down Interactions across Aquatic and Terrestrial Systems Hanley, Torrance C. & Kimberly J. La Pierre (Eds). Cambridge University Press. May 27, 2015


RTC Graduate Student Awarded WISE Scholarship

Congratulations to Cara Gallagher of the Hines Lab, who received a $1,500 scholarship from SF State's Women in Science and Engineering program! The committee was "impressed that her application included a strong research proposal, as well as a long range vision of where her research will go." May 12, 2015


The Significance and Scope of Evolutionary Developmental Biology:  A Vision for the 21st Century (pdf, 192 kb)

Dr. Sarah Cohen is a co-author of this new paper. From the Summary: "Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) has undergone dramatic transformations since its emergence as a distinct discipline. We posit that the tools, concepts, and ways of thinking developed by evo-devo have profound potential to advance, integrate, and unify biological sciences as well as inform policy decisions and illuminate science education." Evolution & Development, Vol. 17, Issue 3, 198-219. May 12, 2015


Nutrient uptake and primary productivity in an urban estuary: using rate measurements to evaluate phytoplankton response to different hydrological and nutrient conditions

A study by RTC researchers looks at nutrients and phytoplankton prodution in the San Francisco Estuary with hopes of explaning low levels of chlorophyll. Aquatic Ecology. April 28, 2015


Are meta-ecosystems organized hierarchically? A model and test in rocky intertidal habitats (pdf, 8MB)

RTC Director Karina Nielsen and colleagues find that oceanographic conditions and ecological subsidies played significant roles in structuring local communities. Ecological Monographs 85(2), May 11, 2015


RTC Graduate student wins outstanding presentation award at recent ASLO meeting in Spain

Christy Fox, a graduate student mentored by Professor Tomoko Komada, was recognized for her outstanding student presentation, "Characterization of whole pore water dissolved organic matter in anoxic sediments by 1H NMR," at the Association for the Science of Limnology & Oceanography meeting in Granada, Spain. Only the top 7% of presentations win the award.


New NSF grant to study temperature stress awarded to RTC Scientists

The Stillman Lab has been awarded a new NSF grant with collaborator Brian Tsukimura at CSU Fresno to study how temperature stress experienced by one organism can be transmitted as a physiological stress to a second organism through altered behavioral interactions. April 3, 2015


Three-Dimensional Modeling of Hydrodynamics and Salinity in the San Francisco Estuary: An Evaluation of Model Accuracy, X2, and the Low–Salinity Zone

According to RTC Research Scientist Wim Kimmerer and his colleagues, their "analyses demonstrate that a well-calibrated 3-D hydrodynamic model is a valuable tool for investigating the salinity distributions in the estuary, and their influence on the distribution and abundance of physical habitat" for organisms. San Francisco Estuary & Watershed Science, 13(1). April 3, 2015


Graduate Students Present Research at International Conference

Allison Johnson gave a talk entitled: "Climate change effects on the San Francisco Estuary Delta phytoplankton community: the role of temperature and salinity tolerance on growth" and Tricia Lee presented a poster entitled: "Salinity and 'eco-type' constraints on benthic microbial Communities" at the 2015 Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Granada, Spain. February 27, 2015


Crowdfunding for Graduate Research

Graduate student Heather Richard raises over $3000 for her research on microplastics in the marine environment through crowdfunding. February 25, 2015


Genomics Are Transforming Our Understanding of Responses to Climate Change

Dr. Jonathon Stillman and postdoctoral researcher Eric Armstrong publish a paper discussing the value of next-generation sequencing, which is able to use fragmented or degraded pieces of DNA, in ecological studies. BioScience Advance Access doi: 10.1093/biosci/biu219. January 21, 2015


Two papers on San Francisco Bay wetlands recently published by RTC alumni

Jeff Lewis, formerly of Dr. Kathy Boyer's Wetlands Ecology Lab published "Grazer functional roles, induced defenses, and indirect interactions: Implications for eelgrass restoration in San Francisco Bay." Diversity 6: 751-770.

Gavin Archbald, also a graduate of Dr. Boyer's lab, published "Potential for spread of Algerian sea lavender (Limonium ramosissimum sbsp. provinciale) in tidal marshes."  Invasive Plant Science and Management 7:454-463.


RTC scientists and students presented their research at the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology's annual conference.

Dr. Jonathon Stillman and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Alex Gunderson presented research talks, and RTC graduate students Ann Holmes and Carley Turner, 2014 Research Experiences for Undergraduates student David Franklin, and UC Berkeley PhD candidate (mentored by Dr. Stillman) Eric Armstrong presented research posters at the SICB annual conference held in West Palm Beach, Florida January 3-7. January 8, 2015


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