Coastal and Ocean Research

About 68 percent of California’s population resides in counties bordering the Pacific Ocean. Although these coastal counties account for just 22 percent of the state’s land area, they generate more than 80 percent of the state’s GDP. The intrinsic value of this coastal and marine ecology is immediately apparent, and the economic impact of the ocean economy is significant.

The CSU’s 23 campuses offer a variety of marine and coastal resources. Assets include eight marine facilities, seven operational SCUBA diving pr​ograms and seven marine research vessels at various locations along the Pacific coast. Additionally, there are six campus research centers and institutes dedicated to coastal and ocean research.


CSU centers and institutes provide vital marine research capabilities for the local regions they serve. For example, the Estuary and Ocean Science Center at San Francisco State is located on the shore of San Francisco Bay, and supports scientific study of the marine and coastal ecosystems nearby, enhances public engagement with marine science and develops solutions to the environmental problems confronting coastal communities. ​ 

In addition, Cal Maritime is one of the few federally approved ballast test water sites. The result of this work has a huge impact on the international maritime industry that is seeking ways to comply with global standards for handling ship ballast water.

The Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory at San Diego State is the sole CSU marine laboratory in Southern California, and is part of a “Coastal Zone Campus” on San Diego Bay that brings together federal, regional, and local entities, and nationally known scientists and experts in order to exchange information related to the coastal zone environment.

The Center for Coastal Marine Sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo operates as a marine research facility at the end of the 3,000-foot Cal Poly Pier and provides unrivaled access to the marine environment of the Centra​l Coast.

The Institute for Applied Marine Ecology at CSU Monterey Bay provides insight into the interaction between marine ecological systems and human activities. The institute operates a small boats program and a scientific diving program, and has a variety of resources ranging from lab and field equipment to geospatial resources and legacy data. There are research labs dedicated to ecosystem electronics, coastal ecology, environmental physiology, image analysis, marine landscape ecology, and biological oceanography.


Realizing that collaboration will be key to protecting California’s 840-mile coast, the CSU has several ongoing collaborative research efforts in the areas of coastal and ocean research. These are headed by the CSU’s three coastal and ocean multi-campus affinity groups: Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the Ocean Studies Institute and the CSU’s Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology. This coastal research triad promotes research and education that advance the knowledge of marine and coastal resources and the processes that affect them.