One Shell of a Research Project

At the end of the Cal Poly Pier is a lab full of marine life — and student researchers.

A student researcher in a mask stands in front of aquarium tanks in a marine biology lab
By Gabby Ferreira

A lab at the end of the Cal Poly Pier provides an invaluable Learn by Doing experience for students interested in the Central Coast’s marine environment.

Among other projects, a team of researchers is using the lab to come up with clear-cut processes that can be used to reproduce Pismo clams for aquaculture farming or — one day long in the future — for restoration projects along California beaches.

Kevin Johnson, a California Sea Grant aquaculture extension specialist at Cal Poly and co-lead on the project, said the students have helped the whole team improve by contributing their input and points of view.

“Everyone we’ve had out here has been here not just to work hard, but to really come out with a focus on trying to understand what they’re doing,” he said. “You get the benefit of the students’ brains thinking about the problem and asking you, ‘Have you thought about this?’ and you go, ‘No, I hadn’t. That’s a great idea!’”

Photo above: Third-year biological sciences major Sara Goel checks a needle being used to inject the clams with serotonin in the lab at the Cal Poly Pier. Photo by Joe Johnston.