Archived CalCOFI Samples

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pelagic Invertebrate Collection (PIC) has approximately 77,000 samples from the CalCOFI program. These samples include material collected by 1-m/Bongo, Calvet/Pairovet, and Neuston/Manta nets.

The PIC houses both the formaldehyde- and ethanol-preserved Bongo samples. There are also approximately 2,000 samples archived in the PIC from the PRPOOS net collecting on CalCOFI quarterly cruises on behalf of CCE-LTER. Additionally, the cephalopod paralarva and planktonic spiny lobster phyllosoma sorted reference specimens from the CalCOFI 1-m/Bongo samples are eventually housed in PIC.

Historically, the PIC has given tours to as many as five hundred students, teachers, researchers, and professors on an annual basis, where the CalCOFI time series, its many uses, and value are highlighted. The PIC regularly supports public displays at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and a number of UCSD lab courses.

The CalCOFI samples and data have been utilized for many graduate student dissertations. They have advanced research related to organismal ecology, biogeography, population dynamics, biodiversity, and evolution in this region, increasing our ability to address the impacts of climate change and climate variability on the pelagic food web. Many studies have focused on key organisms like euphausiids, copepods, pelagic tunicates, planktonic rhizaria (large protists), and the ‘synthetic plankton’ – suspended microplastics.

These long term records, and resulting forecasting tools, are helping to understand oceanographic phenomena like the impacts of ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and harmful algal blooms on the pelagic community. Extensive studies have documented the effects of ENSO, Warm Anomalies, multi-decadal ocean variations, and secular ocean changes on the California Current pelagic Ecosystem.

Use of the SIO-CalCOFI archived samples: All plankton samples, once accessioned into the SIO Pelagic Invertebrate Collection, are the property of the SIO PIC and governed by PIC policies concerning storage, loans, usage, etc. Any requests to borrow, examine, or utilize samples or specimens are, by SIO policy, at the sole discretion of the faculty Curator of the SIO PIC. So any inquiries about CalCOFI samples (or any other samples we hold in the PIC) should be referred directly to the faculty Curator (Moira Décima; Mark Ohman).

Photo: Jim Wilkinson
Photo: Angela Klemmedson

Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) Ichthyoplankton Collection

The Southwest Fisheries Science Center ichthyoplankton collection includes all of the larval fish samples and species that have been collected by CalCOFI since the late 1940s. These samples provide fisheries-independent measures of past population fluctuations, which are used by scientists and resource managers to evaluate present population trends and their causes and projections. Preservation of samples also allows for retrospective analyses. For example, the species identities of many larvae were unknown at the beginning of CalCOFI, and the older samples are currently being reassessed to bring taxonomy to current standards. In addition, modern analytical tools such as stable isotope analysis and DNA metabarcoding are being applied to stored samples. All inquiries related to the SWFSC ichthyoplankton collection should be directed to

Photo: Angela Klemmedson