Science Hub

Expanding science-based understanding of the ocean, AltaSea will convene and support the world’s best marine scientists in an urban ocean-related research facility that develops creative and cross-disciplinary solutions.

About Science at AltaSea

The Science Hub at AltaSea will provide a home for top scientists to conduct breakthrough ocean-related research. A collaborative approach among scientists from academic institutions and businesses will create efficiencies and generate innovative solutions. AltaSea will ensure that connections are made and partnerships are facilitated within the Science Hub. Together, we will work to build the scientific foundation for a more sustainable future for the ocean.


Initial Areas of Focus

  • Promoting sustainable aquaculture to feed future generations and reduce the pressure on wild fisheries
  • Developing technology for remote monitoring, sensing and ocean exploration

Challenges for Future Focus

  • Ocean acidification
  • Hypoxia
  • Nutrient runoff
  • Harmful algal blooms
  • Declining fisheries
  • Urbanization
  • Loss of coastal wetlands
  • Other challenges

At A Glance

60,000 SF

Cutting-Edge Research Facility

4,100 ft

Waterfront Dock and Wharf Space

30 ft deep

Draft Berths to Accommodate Large Research Vessels

Current Scientific Programs

Southern California Marine
Institute Partnership

The anchor tenant of the Science Hub is the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI), consortium represents a strategic alliance of 22 major universities, colleges and foundations.  The Southern California Marine Institute is committed to providing marine expertise and hands-on experience to students at all levels, to achieve the highest and most efficacious level of research, to monitor the marine environment and to increase public awareness.

These scientists collaborate to study marine environments and increase public awareness of humanity’s impact on ocean ecosystems. Building on what scientists at SCMI are already researching, collaboration at the Science Hub will further catalyze and advance discoveries and solutions to global sustainability issues. As the core partner at the Science Hub, SCMI brings a comprehensive program of commercial and academic interests that will work in concert to deliver AltaSea’s vision of a world-class urban marine research and innovation center. The process of discovery also spurs the need for state-of-the-art technology to map the ocean, monitor trends and document how changes in the ocean affect wildlife.

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SCMI Scientists Conduct Research in the Following Areas

  • Ocean acidification
  • Pollution and marine plastics
  • Climate change and sea level rise
  • Ocean exploration, robotics and remote sensing
  • Food security, aquaculture, overfishing and loss of key species
  • Coastal resources and habitat loss

Smart Tag Technology Program

In June 2015, AltaSea, in conjunction with two members of SCMI – the University of Southern California (USC) and California State University at Long Beach (CSULB) – launched a pilot project to enhance current shark monitoring devices. By leveraging a coast-wide acoustic telemetry network and developing new smart tag technology, this project will track both migratory information of large marine predators, as well as other critical ambient environmental factors such as ocean pH and sea temperature.

As our coastlines develop, it is critical to understand how top predators use Southern California’s coastal regions and whether they will be impacted by increased human activity. By tagging and tracking the movements of marine predators, such as sharks and large gamefishes using advanced technologies, great strides have been made in determining how these iconic organisms are faring in our coastal waters. However, this understanding is limited to a few species. There is a critical need to expand this knowledge through new programs that address additional species such as the giant black seabass.

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Environmental Sampling Processor

AltaSea helped fund the Environmental Sampling Processor, run by the University of Southern California, Catalina Sea Ranch and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Processor develops technologies for rapid detection of water quality and harmful algal blooms along the Southern California coastline. The deep environmental Sample Processor (ESP) is an automated genetics lab, that can operate as deep as 4,000 meters (almost 2.5 miles).

Algal blooms in the ocean occur when conditions enable algae to grow quickly and form dense populations.  Occasionally, these blooms are problematic when the bloomed species are toxic, and their toxins enter the marine food web.  At other times, the eventual death and decay of the bloom can cause severe oxygen depletion in the water that can be harmful to other oxygen-breathing sea life. These blooms can disrupt coastal ecosystems, threaten human health, and impede recreational activity. Because of the associated impacts, such events are known as Harmful Algal Blooms or HABS.


Until now, HAB observations have been conducted manually by sampling off docks or boats, and analyzing the water in a laboratory.  A new instrument under development at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) provides a promising pathway for rapid detection of HABS as they evolve in the ocean.  The Environmental Sampling Processor, or ESP is an ocean probe designed to remotely measure and understand ocean biology and chemistry in near-real time. It uses advanced molecular probes to collect samples and detect algal species in the water, much faster than traditional microscopic analyses. This same technology may also eventually be appropriate for space exploration, i.e. to collect and analyze samples from distant oceans on other planets and return information.

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Bringing together scientists, researchers, and innovators

Our collaboration with AltaSea is truly going to redefine the role of a marine laboratory. A cutting edge marine facility that is integrated with our partners in the community, the port and industry is a worldwide game changer.

Daniel Pondella, Ph.D.
Director, SCMI and Biology Chair, Occidental College

The best way for students to get the skills they need to lead happy and productive adult lives in a world with more and more technology and increasing environmental challenges is to include science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education intertwined into all levels of school curricula."

Mike Schaadt
Director, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

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