San Francisco Bay Area's only marine research center could lose funding, close

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
SF Bay's only marine research lab could lose funding, close
The Estuary and Ocean Science Center, San Francisco Bay Area's only marine research facility, is in danger of closing for good due to lack of funding.

TIBURON, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, a vital marine research facility is in danger of closing for good. The Estuary and Ocean Science Center operated by San Francisco State University, is the only one of its kind on the bay. With funding for the program in jeopardy, students and staff are getting creative about how to save it.

It's a place where water from the bay is piped in on-demand for research and tanks of eel grass are studied to help buffer sea-level rise.

"We take it out and plant it in the bay, we did about three acres of restoration last week," said Estuary and Ocean Science Center interim executive director, Katharyn Boyer.

Welcome to a mile-long stretch of Marin bayfront, known as the Estuary and Ocean Science Center in Tiburon, a 53-acre campus run by San Francisco State University. For the past 45 years, it's where researchers and students have studied the changing waters of the bay and Pacific.

"We study everything, most anything you can think of that affect estuary and ocean health - we're interested in water quality and the reintroduction of sea otters," said Boyer.

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Scientists say one of the largest patches of pollution on the planet has become a substitute environment for dozens of species.

Jivan Khakee is a graduate student, studying reefs and invasive species and oysters.

"It's important because we care about oysters, they're threatening San Francisco Bay," said Khakee.

But the center and its 15-resident faculty are at risk of losing its operating funding from the university. The historic site, once a Navy facility from the 1940s, could close its doors for good.

"We are really on a timeline, where we need to develop a school and operational plan, that means basically self-support sustainability," Boyer added.

Boyer says she needs to come up with $2 million per year to run the operation and keep the lights on, and that means getting creative about fundraising and repurposing historic buildings on site.

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Part of the fundraising effort could be used to renovate Navy barracks into affordable housing for grad students, teachers and first responders who can't afford to live in Marin

"I'm confident in her ability to find funding sources," said Khakee.

Many are optimistic money can be raised. The alternative would mean lost research and some students not pursuing careers in ocean science.

"Not having the facility would mean lack of training, lack of support for state and Federal agencies," said Boyer.

Boyer and her colleagues are working on a financial proposal which they plan to show university officials this month. A final decision is expected this summer.

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