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Dr. Richard Pieper

Dr. Richard Pieper has served as the director of the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) since July 1998. SCMI is a consortium laboratory made up of the seven local California State Universities that make up the Ocean Studies Institute (OSI), the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES) and Occidental College. One of his first jobs was to understand and manage the finances at SCMI. The organization has since operated each fiscal year in the black and turned around a fiscal deficit. SCMI has paid special attention to providing maintenance support for the two research vessels, and upgraded their technical abilities and physical plant. The organization has continued marine monitoring activities and its interests in the marine environment. SCMI’s primary focus will continue to be support for university research and education, focused on that of consortium members. In addition, Dr. Pieper hopes to further develop cooperative interactions within the various marine programs in Southern California, and particularly in the Los Angeles and Long Beach coastal and harbor regions.

Dr. Pieper’s research interests in biological oceanography encompass much of the field, although most of his work has been in zooplankton and micronekton ecology. These include the measurement and understanding of various temporal and spatial scales of biological interactions in the sea, and the interactions of the biological structure with physical oceanographic structure and variability. Recently he has become more involved with the entire oceanic system, including fisheries, marine birds, long-term environmental changes, and environmental studies. SCMI received National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding through the California State University’s Center for Integrative Coastal Observation, Research, and Education (CICORE) program to put two environmental monitoring buoys off of Los Angeles.

Along with conventional sampling and measurement techniques, Dr. Pieper has been using high-frequency acoustics to both direct biological sampling and to obtain real-time, rapid estimates of zooplankton and micronekton abundance and distributions. Early work on euphausiids utilized mid-range acoustics (frequencies from 50-200 kHz) to define structure, migration, and quantification. More recent work has involved the development of ultra-high-frequency (0.1-10 MHz) acoustic sensors to detect and quantify the distribution and abundance of the smaller zooplankton. This later work involves the use of a 21-frequency array to enable rapid mapping of the upper 100 meters of the water column. Past research has also included developing and using a mooring to measure temporal variations in zooplankton distributions (acoustically) as well as various abiotic measures of the oceanic environment. Satellite imagery has also been used to direct sampling and to understand large-scale surface features.

Dr. Pieper has also conducted laboratory feeding studies on zooplankton and ichthyoplankton, and is interested in the interactions between feeding and the observed micronekton, zooplankton, and phytoplankton distributions. Recent work has included analyzing acoustical and zooplankton data from the Arabian Sea, working on a water column monitoring program in Marina del Rey (a small-boat marina in Santa Monica Bay), a red-tide monitoring off Southern California, and analysis of the effects of dredging on grunion recruitment and survival. Present work involves the measurement and analyses of the fine-scale distributions of plankton in the San Juan Islands.

Dr. Pieper’s additional interests and studies have included the effects of seismic operations on ichthyoplankton survival. He has completed a review of the effects of disturbance and seismic energy on marine life, and submitted recommendations to the State of Washington for reviewing seismic-operations permits. He has also participated in various workshops relative to fish dispersal and seismic activity.

Dr. Pieper has been an invited participant in numerous oceanographic, acoustics and sampling workshops. He has also been a periodic member of various GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics) Working Groups and has participated in a number of the organization’s meetings. He has also participated in international meetings on Zooplankton Secondary Production (1994) and Plankton and Fishery Acoustics (1995).

In the above work, Dr. Pieper has worked under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NOAA, and the National Sea Grant Program. He has substantial shipboard experience on research vessels off of southern California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Hawaii, British Columbia (Canada), England, Ireland and Costa Rica, and in the Indian Ocean. He has used variety of sampling gear, including high- and low-frequency acoustics, seismic air guns, satellite imagery, CTDs, midwater trawls, otter trawls, pumps, box cores, dredges, fluorometers, laboratory instruments, and microcomputers.

Dr. Pieper has taught undergraduate classes in marine biology, ecology, oceanography, man and the environment, and the oceans and man. Graduate teaching experience at USC includes classes on biological oceanography, plankton ecology, and tropical marine biology; seminars taught include Plankton Patchiness, Marine Ecology, and Modern Techniques in Oceanography. He has also taught an AAAS Chataqua short course for college teachers on Ocean Variability and Fisheries, and has given numerous talks to professional, high school, and civic groups. More recently he has taught classes in Principles of Biology, Ecology of Humans (Environmental Science), Marine Biology, Genetics, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and General Zoology at Marymount College. He also recently taught a graduate seminar in Biological Heterogeneity in Pelagic Systems at USC.

As board member and officer of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, Dr. Pieper was involved in running the society and in expanding the overall scope of the organization. Major emphases were in solidifying the financial base of the organization, strengthening the publications, developing a high school research training program, and the formation of a Junior Academy for secondary school students. He then served as president-elect, president, and past president of the National Association of Academies of Science (1987-1990). In 1989 he served on the national selection committee for Presidential Awards for Excellence in high school science and math teaching.

As supervisor of technical support at USC’s Marine Facility, Dr. Pieper oversaw marine technicians and aided other scientists in shipboard operations and technical support. He was a member of the steering group that developed a Technical Support Committee within UNOLS (University National Oceanographic Laboratory System) to coordinate technical aspects of research at sea.

Dr. Pieper was trained and certified in SCUBA at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also holds a NAUI certification and was a certified diver at USC. He was a Red Cross certified sailing instructor and taught sailing classes in Santa Barbara for both the University and the Red Cross. He is presently a Red Cross-certified Community First Aid and Safety Instructor, Lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor and Lifeguard Training Instructor. He has been a lifeguard at El Camino College since 1989, and teaches Lifeguard Training at Marymount College. He has also taught Boy Scouts Lifeguarding at the Cabrillo Beach Youth Waterfront Sports Center.

Dr. Pieper is a member of the Oceanographic Society, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, and the American Swim Coaches Association.

Last updated October 19 2011