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Session 3: Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (Virtual)

April 20, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


The Blue + Green 2023 series is a 4 part series taking place in person and virtually in celebrating of Earth Day beginning Thursday April 13, 2023 and concluding on Saturday April 29, 2023.

You are registering to attend: Session 3: Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (Virtual)

The goal of the project is to shine a spotlight on emerging aquaculture sector in our economy. Aquaculture and the supporting technologies bring together all the key ingredients – future growth opportunities that support our coastal ecosystems, the economy, jobs, and our communities. This webinar hybrid series reimagines partnerships between business, government, universities, and communities through regenerative ocean research, exploration, and equity-based economic development.

This event is an effort to engage the Los Angeles and Santa Monica area potential student population about the benefits of aquaculture, and especially Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA). Santa Monica College is in the process of launching a new sustainable aquaculture certificate, launching by 2024, which aims to develop the workforce in parallel with the expanding industry sector in California. This panel will have a dual purpose of both attracting potential students to this program and engaging and educating community members about the merits of aquaculture expansion in the state of California. Adequate social license around aquaculture is one of the keys to a successful Blue Economy in our state.


Dr. Nathan Churches, Santa Monica College Aquaculture Faculty Lead; Holdfast Aquaculture, Chief Science Officer; lecturer faculty, SFSU and College of San Mateo

Nathan received his Ph.D. from USC’s department of molecular biology in 2019, where he studied population genetics and genomics pertaining to sustainable aquaculture. During his Ph.D., Nathan spent several years at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, where he built an experimental hatchery and mock-commercial longline to study shellfish and seaweed. Among other projects, he has demonstrated that there is a genetic basis to metallo-toxicity response in shellfish, that Pacific oysters rapidly alter their microbiome in response to changes in diet, and that balancing selection plays a large role in bivalve larval communities.

In 2018, Nathan co-founded Holdfast Aquaculture with colleagues from USC and the California aquaculture industry, with a goal of developing a real academia-industry and data driven sustainable aquaculture company. At Holdfast Aquaculture, Nathan is the Chief Science Officer, where he oversees various research and development projects. Some notable efforts at Holdfast include the commercialization of new native California shellfish for the industry, and breeding ocean-acidification resistant lines of shellfish to support the industry for the climate-change era. Nathan is also working in education, as a lecturer faculty at San Francisco State University and at the College of San Mateo, and at Santa Monica College as the Aquaculture Faculty Lead. At Santa Monica College, Nathan is co-developing a certificate program which will ready participants for entry into the expanding Southern California aquaculture industry; an expected launch date for the new aquaculture certificate program is spring semester of 2024.

Ferris KawarSustainability Project Manager, Santa Monica College. For the past 20 years Ferris has been using his degree in Marketing and his experience working at an ad agency to promote environmental awareness instead of product consumption. As a behavioral change professional, Ferris has found himself teaching sustainability workshops, producing climate-related media, researching, and published green business guides to LA, SF and NYC, and serving as Recycling Specialist for the City of Burbank. Ferris is currently the Sustainability Project Manager for Santa Monica College where he gets to work with students, faculty and staff to keep the institution’s sustainability leadership position strong among the community colleges in California.


Mark Drawbridge, M.Sc.; Hubbs/SeaWorld Research Institute, Senior Research Institute and Director of the Sustainable Seafood Program

Mark is currently a Senior Research Scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) in San Diego, where he has been employed since 1989. Mark also serves as the Director of the Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Program, which is focused on developing techniques for growing marine finfish for ocean replenishment and farming. The HSWRI aquaculture research program supports approximately 20 full-time staff, two research hatcheries in San Diego, and acclimation cage facilities throughout southern California coastal waters. Species currently being investigated for farming include white seabass, striped bass, California yellowtail, and California halibut.

Mr. Drawbridge graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania in 1985 with a B.A. degree in biology and from San Diego State University in 1990 with an M.Sc. degree in Marine Ecology. In addition to his direct responsibilities at HSWRI, Mark is a current board member and past-president of the California Aquaculture Association; an associate faculty member at the University of San Diego; a member of the Western Regional Aquaculture Center’s technical research committee; and a member of California’s Aquaculture Development Committee.

Dr. Kevin Johnson; Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension Specialist, CalPoly San Luis Obispo

Dr. Kevin Johnson graduated from CSUMB in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While at CSUMB, Kevin became a UROC and CSU Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Scholar. As an undergraduate, he also received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue his doctoral degree at UC Santa Barbara in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.

For his doctoral thesis, Kevin conducted research in Antarctica investigating the effects of acidification and ocean warming on pteropods, a free floating marine snail. Upon completing his Ph.D. degree, Kevin received a NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work at Louisiana State University on the molecular mechanisms of adaptation in the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to environmental stressors.

Kevin was recently appointed as the new California Sea Grant and Cal Poly Aquaculture Specialist and Research Scientist where he will join a team of specialists who work with coastal communities, businesses, and policymakers to provide science-based information in an effort to support the state’s environment and economy. As an aquaculture specialist, Kevin will conduct research and outreach on aquaculture communities in central California. In addition to this role, he will also serve as a research scientist at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; where he will teach courses, mentor students, and collaborate on research initiatives with Cal Poly faculty and aquaculture practitioners throughout the central California region.

Dr. Rafael Cuevas Uribe; Professor, Cal Poly Humboldt Department of Fisheries Biology

Dr. Rafael Cuevas Uribe holds a B.S. Biology, 2003, from Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico M.S. Aquaculture/Aquatic Science, 2006, Kentucky State University Ph.D. Wildlife and Fisheries, 2011, Louisiana State University Postdoctoral Research, 2011-2014, Kentucky State University: reservoir ranching and reclaimed water for aquaculture.

Rafael’s research interests are in reclaimed water aquaculture and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems, preservation of germplasm resources for aquatic species, aquaculture genetics, and reproductive biology, including artificial spawning, cell transplantation, and ploidy and sex manipulation methods. Rafael leads one of the state of California’s longest running and most successful higher education aquaculture programs, at Cal Poly Humboldt, and has developed one of California’s most recent in-water infrastructures for studying native Californian seaweed cultivation. At the Cal Poly Humboldt Telonicher Marine Labs, Rafael hosts a series of research projects, including investigating nutrient dynamics in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture systems, and understanding hatchery techniques for developing new finfish and seaweeds for on-land and in-water commercialization. Rafael’s students have gone onto successful careers in aquaculture and in higher education, and his aquaculture curricula at Cal Poly Humboldt is one of the state’s exemplary programs in the field of collegiate aquaculture education.



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