Spindrift November 9, 2023

MEETING President Shirley Lashmett began the meeting by asking Bob Wood to provide an invocation, which asked for enthusiasm for the Holiday Flag Program. George Lesley provided the Flag Salute.

ANNOUNCEMENTS – began with Dr. Bob announcing the Monday winner for District football, Ken Dufour, who is now “breaking even” with a second $50. Ed Romeo gave an impromptu report that he has seen president after president not check the micro-phone before uttering the first welcoming words. Should we not have a system for doing this? Chuck Seven promoted our Holiday Flag Program to get $75 for our unused flags from the Field of Honor. He is seeking volunteers to help present to numerous organizations who would love to hear about this opportunity.

Mike Gertner announced the Football winners for this week, beginning with Seymour Beek’s winning from Week 5. This week Mitch Mitchell in absentia won first place with 13 right, but Marj Davis won second place by having the closer total points, beating Ed Ro-meo, Shirley Lashmett and Garry TeWinkle.

PROGRAM – Our speaker was introduced by Ken DuFour. Steve Ranson is a marine biologist who studied salmon research history. Today he will be talking about the Kerckhoff laboratory now owned by CalTech. A marine scientist focused on biology issues, from the Pacific NW with graduate degrees. His research work had to do with salmon.

“I’m the new manager, Steve Ranson. You can see the building here I took over as manag-er about a year and a half ago. I took over for Pat Leahy, who had been there for 47 years, at the tail the end of his career. Research is stag-nant at the facility. Operated by Cal Tech, and since they never had a marine science lab, it’s a little odd that Caltech owns it. The provost has often floated around the idea that maybe “we should sell it.” However, we are one of the few, unless you go all the way down to Scripps or up to Santa Barbara…a dedicated marine re-search lab right on the coast. If anyone were to want to come in and build a new marine lab, it’s next to impossible nowadays with the red tape it takes to get anything like that permitted. So, we want to hold on to that and start lever-aging with research.

Let’s go back in time. This is a photo from the early 30’s. You can see the building, almost like what it was back then. It has a ramp that goes to the top of the bluff up to Ocean Blvd. The tide line will come right up to our seawall. There was that house that existed on the left, it was sold, and now we have an apartment build-ing next door. In 1929 they were also able to get Caltech to take a donation… I believe it was $50,000 from William Kerckhoff in 1929.

You’ve got a little bit of background on me. I’m the current manager of the Marine Lab…again, my background is on restoration. I kind of fell into this job because I’m a marine scien-tist by trade. It just kind of happened that I went to Marine Labs, and I will show you a little bit of what we’re doing.

Our Director at Caltech is Victoria Orphan. She’s a microbiologist…she does a lot of cool work dealing with microbes and environment…she just wrapped up a trip…they’ve been com-peting on the Submarine Alvin…a bunch of scientists going out and looking at vents. Some of you may have heard of hydrothermal vents…methane…and we’re just realizing how many of them are out there with an insane amount of bacteria, There’s these oases of life and so eve-ry time we dive, there’s always countless new species that we find…just right off the coast here, every time they go out. So, that’s her kind of background.

But looking at just the Newport Harbor here there’s a lot of sea grass, all the way up Back Bay, just from development and other things. A lot of people kind of get frustrated with sea grass floating onto the beach, getting caught in the boat props. We’re going on into active re-search. We have tanks right now here in the lab…and what we’re doing is we’re basically pulling sea grass. All the sea grass here is fed-erally and state protected from the development around here. A lot of the sea grass is not actually a seaweed but an algae, more closely related to your lawn at your home. It’s a flowering plant, has nothing to do with the kelp. Microbes inside those roots that keep them pulling heavy metals.

Sea grass does what people really don’t understand, so we’re trying to figure that out.

They’ve just designed their Southern Cali-fornia exhibit…they’re paying for a sea grass tank…we’re working with them analyzing sea grass health as it goes along. In aquaria almost no one knows the worldwide functions of live sea grass in a setting, so it’s like a really cool experiment…but also teaching to the younger audiences why sea grass is so important.

Another big thing in our 100 years isproximity to CDM HS, bringing in lots of summer
students. Starting in the summer, want to build their interest in marine science.

Some of our columns are cracking. roof tiles, fixtures, much needed sea water pumps since 1961. Corroded bolts. New plumbing in the building, funded by Caltech. Getting Caltech on board with full scale efforts to be as functional as possible. The name Kerckhoff may not stay.

We want private events too…we may want to host evening events as well. Q and A: What is it that changed Caltech’s Cracked columns interest in the lab? Previous director turned it into his personal club, cut off operations.

Are you hooked up at all with Parks and Recreations? Yes… When is your parking available? About 12 spaces, right here. We own all this parking, but parking is an issue. Shirley’s concluding remark: “Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.”

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Robert Wood

Robert Wood