Plans call for City Dock 1, opened in 1913, to be converted into a nexus of laboratories and classrooms, fish hatcheries and berths for research vessels.

On a recent weekday morning, Daniel Pondella strode along a century-old stretch of concrete pylons and shabby warehouses in San Pedro.

As kelp swayed in the waves and terns circled overheard, Pondella recalled an elementary school field trip he took 40 years ago to this gritty wharf known as City Dock 1: “That was the day I decided to become a marine biologist.”

Now, Pondella is involved in transforming the wharf into a marine research center at the heart of the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest.

When City Dock 1 opened in 1913, it turned on a spigot for the Southern California economy through which $283 billion a year in international commerce now flows. Plans call for it to be converted into a nexus of laboratories and classrooms, fish hatcheries and berths for research vessels, which will explore the flows of Pacific currents, solutions to oceanic pollution and coastal erosion, and the rhythms of sea creatures from bacteria to 150-ton blue whales.

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