History and Geographic Coverage

History of the Pelagic Invertebrate Collection

Our collection includes the unique CalCOFI zooplankton samples, an unparalleled time series study of a major ocean region (the California Current System) that is in its seventh decade. The CalCOFI samples, which number more than 84,000 whole plankton samples, represent the most comprehensive biological oceanographic sampling program in the world ocean. All CalCOFI samples are supplemented by physical and chemical data. The collection has excellent representation of open ocean zooplankton dating originally from the expeditionary era of the ocean sciences, and particularly from the oceanic Pacific, Indo-West Pacific, and Antarctic regions. The collection includes more than 1,700 midwater trawls and samples from over 975 oceanographic expeditions and numerous shorter cruises.

The collection of zooplankton samples began in 1903, the year of Scripps founding. The oldest specimens housed in this collection are samples collected by Calvin Esterly, a student of William Ritter, the first Director of the Institution. Systematic samplings of small areas of the California Current were carried out in the mid-1930s. Extensive, systematic, quantitative zooplankton sampling began in earnest in the post-WW II years. The rapidly expanding sampling in the 1940s and early 1950s by the Marine Life Research program in the California Current and a series of major open ocean expeditions led to an accumulation of valuable plankton samples. These samples were used by Prof. Martin W. Johnson and his students in their pioneering studies of Pacific zoogeography.

Abraham Fleminger, a distinguished copepod systematist and evolutionary biologist, assumed the title of Curator in 1966 and shepherded the continued rapid growth of the collection. Holdings grew to the point where they were maintained in two locations: the basement of Ritter Hall and Seaweed Canyon. Following the death of Dr. Fleminger in 1988, Edward Brinton served as Acting Curator until Mark Ohman was appointed Curator in 1991-2021. Dr. Moira Décima is currently appointed as Faculty Curator beginning in 2021. Annie Townsend served as the Collection Manager from 1991-2010. The Collection was consolidated and relocated to its present facilities in Vaughan Hall in 1999-2000, with financial support from the National Science Foundation. Linsey Sala currently serves as the Collection Manager.