Kelp Forest Sampling Protocols

PISCO's monitoring approach is based primarily on SCUBA diver surveys that quantify the density and abundance of the macroalgae, invertebrates and fishes that constitute kelp forest communities. This approach allows us to characterize and quantify ecosystem attributes such as biodiversity, community structure, and population abundance and size structure of ecologically and economically important species.  

Central to the success and value of the expansive scale of this monitoring program are partnerships with other organizations and the development of survey designs, sampling protocols and training methods that are standardized across PISCO institutions and partners. The monitoring work is one way that PISCO directly informs management and policy. In addition to ecosystem monitoring, PISCO contributes to marine protected area design by targeted studies about ecological interactions, population connectivity, and other research themes.

Below are detailed protocols and training materials for conducting kelp forest surveys.

  • These protocols are specific to each campus (UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara) collecting the data, reflecting regional differences in most abundant organisms. Data collected use similar, complementary methods.
  • Data collection protocols are further modified for other regions such as Northern California and Oregon to reflect species in those regions and accommodate sampling in waters with more frequent low visibility.
  • Season-to-season, additional modifications are made to fulfill the need to collect additional data on specific species of interest- such as, sea star recruitment, health of sea stars, urchin abundance and health, and invasive species.

Contact us if you are interested in using these protocols for your research so we can help you match your needs with best suite of protocols.  


Fish Surveys

UC Santa Cruz Training Presentations

Fish methods overview

Fish Identification

YOY fish guide

Perch YOY 2016

UC Santa Cruz Datasheets


Fish sizing


UC Santa Barbara Training Presentations

Fish methods overview

Fish Identification 

UC Santa Barbara Datasheets