Dr. Richard (Rick) Pieper is a Biological Oceanographer who has worked mainly on the heterogeneous distribution of plankton and nekton in relation to physical oceanographic structure and variability. He has worked in most of the worlds oceans, with an emphasis on the pelagic, near-shore waters off California. Measurements taken at fine scales were used to map mesoscale patterns. Dr. Pieper retired as director of the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) and from an administrative position at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in 2008. He retired from the University of Southern California (USC) in 1997 where he was a Research Professor and Adjunct Professor. He is presently an Adjunct Professor at Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC) where he teaches environmental science. Dr. Pieper has a deep interest in climate change, water quality and other ocean issues. He continues to participate in forums, workshops and courses at the Aquarium of the Pacific (AOP) in Long Beach, where he is a board member for the Marine Conservation Research Institute (MCRI).
Dr. Pieper left SCMI in a strong organizational and fiscal position after ten years of service. SCMI is a consortium laboratory made up of seven local California State University campuses that form the Ocean Studies Institute (OSI), the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES), Occidental College, and UCLA. One of his first responsibilities was to understand and manage the finances at SCMI. Under his leadership, the organization turned around a fiscal deficit and operated each fiscal year in the black. SCMI paid special attention to providing maintenance support for two research vessels, and upgraded their technical abilities and physical plant. The organization continued marine monitoring activities and its interests in the marine environment. SCMI’s primary focus was to support consortium member research and education. During his last three years as director, he and Dr. Geraldine Knatz (then executive director of the Port of Los Angeles) initiated a plan to develop most of City Dock #1 in the Port into a marine research and education complex. SCMI would move to the mainland and be a keystone part of this new center. Now in the development phase, this proposed 28-acre marine research facility is called Alta Sea.
Dr. Pieper’s research interests in biological oceanography at USC encompassed much of the field, although most of his work was in zooplankton and micronekton ecology. This includes 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. His interests include the entire oceanic system, including fisheries, marine birds, long-term environmental changes, and environmental studies.
Along with conventional sampling and measurement techniques, Dr. Pieper and his colleague, Dr. Van Holliday (Tracor Inc., later BAE Systems) developed a suite of ultra-high-frequency acoustics (0.1-10 MHz) to both direct biological sampling and to obtain real-time, rapid estimates of zooplankton and micronekton abundance and distributions. This used a 21-frequency acoustic array to rapidly map (vertical profiling) the upper 100 meters of the water column from a ship to obtain spatial data. Research was also conducted on a mooring to measure temporal variations in zooplankton distributions (acoustically). Biological samples were taken with pumps and nets. In all cases, concurrent abiotic measures were taken of the oceanic environment. Satellite imagery was used to direct sampling and to understand large-scale surface features. Dr. Pieper’s early work was on euphausiids and utilized mid-range acoustics (frequencies from 50-200 kHz) to define structure, migration, and quantification.
Dr. Pieper has also conducted research on: a) laboratory feeding studies on zooplankton and ichthyoplankton, b) the interactions between feeding and the observed micronekton, zooplankton, and phytoplankton distributions, c) analyzing acoustical and zooplankton data from the Arabian Sea, d) a water column monitoring program in Marina del Rey (small-boat marina in Santa Monica Bay), e) red-tide monitoring off Southern California, f) the effects of dredging on grunion recruitment and survival, g) the fine-scale distributions of plankton in the San Juan Islands, h) the effects of seismic operations on ichthyoplankton survival , and i) the effects of disturbance and seismic energy on marine life.
Dr. Pieper has been an invited participant in numerous oceanographic, acoustics and sampling workshops. He was a periodic member of various GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics) Working Groups and participated in a number of the organization’s meetings. He participated in international meetings on Zooplankton Secondary Production (1994) and Plankton and Fishery Acoustics (1995).
Dr. Pieper has worked under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric 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 a wide 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. While at SCMI, he received NOAA funding through the California State University’s Center for Integrative Coastal Observation, Research, and Education (CICORE) for water quality monitoring off of Los Angeles.
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. Additionally, Dr. Pieper has taught an AAAS Chautauqua 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, human ecology (environmental science), marine biology, genetics, human anatomy and physiology, and general zoology at Marymount College, and environmental science at LATTC.
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 was a lifeguard at El Camino College from 1989 – 2012 and taught lifeguard training at Marymount College. He 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, the American Swim Coaches Association, and the Barbershop Harmony Society.