Campus: CSU Fullerton -- April 25, 2003

Cal State Fullerton Marine Biologist Nominated to Federal Advisory Committee


Steven N. Murray, a veteran Cal State Fullerton marine biologist whose research interests include human impacts on coastal marine ecosystems, has been nominated to the newly created National Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee.

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans notified Murray of his nomination. The professor of biological science is one of two Californians awaiting confirmation of their appointments to the 30-member committee. More than 350 nominations were considered.

The committee reports to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and provides advice and recommendations to the secretaries of commerce and the interior on marine protected areas.

“It is a real honor to be considered for this very important and timely advisory committee,” said Murray. “Our coastal ocean ecosystems are changing due to natural ocean cycles and to increasing pressure from human activities. Marine protected areas are important management tools with the potential to protect ecosystem structure and functioning.”

The committee is composed of scientists, members of the academic community, commercial and recreational fishermen, resource users and managers and environmentalists. Members, who serve for two- or three-year terms, will receive official notification following background checks. Their first meeting is planned for June in Washington, D.C.

“The appointment is quite an honor for Murray, the Department of Biological Sciences and Cal State Fullerton to have him considered so highly from all potential candidates in California,” said Gene Jones, chair and professor of biological sciences. “His selection to this very significant committee shows his high standing among his peers.”

Commerce Secretary Evans noted the importance of the committee’s role: “We look forward to strong leadership from these individuals in helping us determine how best to continue our efforts to balance conservation needs with commercial and recreational interests as we move forward to protect the marine environment for present and future generations.”

The committee is supported by the NOAA National Marine Protected Areas Center, which is charged with providing federal, state, territorial, tribal and local governments with the information, technologies, training and strategies to coordinate federal activities related to marine-protected areas.

A Cal State Fullerton faculty member since 1971, Murray has long been interested in the ecology of rocky shore plants and animals and how the activities of humans have affected these organisms. To support his studies, he has obtained three instructional and 15 research grants worth more than $1.62 million since 1994.

Murray’s research has been supported by the University of Southern California Sea Grant and by Minerals Management Service. His recent studies deal with examining long-term changes in marine shore populations and communities, including how best to detect these changes using scientific sampling procedures.

“These projects have had strong applications, and our findings have been useful to Orange County, the Marine Institute at Dana Point, state parks and the city of Newport Beach,” said Murray. “Our results have contributed to efforts to improve coastal management, and particularly how to look at rocky intertidal marine-protected areas and how best to manage them.”

Another Murray project involves Caulerpa taxifolia, an invasive, green feather-like seaweed native to Australia, also known as killer algae. This plant was introduced into the Mediterranean Sea a few years ago. It spread rapidly and created major changes in Mediterranean marine communities.

This plant and other species of Caulerpa have become favorites of salt-water aquarium enthusiasts. Caulerpa taxifolia eventually found its way into waters near San Diego and in Huntington Harbour, where local residents presumably emptied it into the sea from their aquariums. Murray and his students have determined how many species of Caulerpa besides C. taxifolia are being sold locally and are investigating which of these, if introduced, might be capable of establishing populations in Southern California waters.

Two years ago, Murray’s research was used to support a bill in the legislature that banned the sale of several species of Caulerpa, including the killer algae, in California.

“I am pleased to offer my expertise as a coastal marine scientist to assist the federal government in its efforts to improve the management of our coastal seas,” said Murray. “I am hopeful this advisory panel will be able to make an unbiased and scientifically sound assessment of the role that marine protected areas can play in such a process.”

Media Contacts: Steven N. Murray at (714) 278-7291 or smurray@fullerton.edu
Dave Reid, Public Affairs, at (714) 278-4855 or dreid@fullerton.edu


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