Our Places

PISCO's research extends more than 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) along the west coast of North America, within the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. This marine ecosystem is dynamic and diverse, spanning the coastal land-sea interface and further offshore areas from southern British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico. This highly productive ecosystem is fueled by seasonal upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water. Our research is conducted within 10 miles (16 km) of shore and focuses on three important components of the marine ecosystem: Coastal OceanKelp Forests and Rocky Shores

cape perpetual image


The coastal ocean is one of the most important and dynamic regions of the world. It is a critical habitat for more than 90% of all marine organisms. These organisms are strongly affected by physical conditions, including winds, waves, rivers, as well as the topography of the sea floor and the shape of the coastline. In addition to physical conditions, these ecosystems are also heavily affected by a variety of human activities, such as coastal development, pollution, commercial and recreational harvesting of marine resources, and a changing global climate. Read more...

NPS kelp forest image


Kelp forests are some of the most unique and ecologically diverse ecosystems that are found in the nearshore coastal waters. They grow predominantly on the Pacific Coast, from Alaska and Canada to the waters of Baja California. Kelp forests need rocky coastlines where their holdfasts can take anchor and cool, nutrient rich water to grow. Kelp forests are homes to a huge variety of endangered and commercially important species such as abalone, rockfish and sea otter. Read more....

rocky intertidal image


Rocky shores lie at the interface between the land and the sea, exposing organisms here to alternating terrestrial and marine habitats in rhythm with the tidal cycle. When the tide is in, plants and animals are bathed by seawater that exposes them to predators, moderates temperatures, delivers food, transports propagules, and imposes large hydrodynamic forces. When the tide is out, the same rocky-shore species are subjected to terrestrial predators, desiccation, temperature extremes, intense solar radiation, and occasional dousing by freshwater.  Read more...