Aquaculture for the Economy and Ecosystem

Third Annual Webinar Series focused on Aquaculture


The Blue + Green 2023 series is a 4 part series taking place in person and virtually in celebrating of Earth Day beginning Thursday April 13, 2023 and concluding on Saturday April 29, 2023. The goal of the project is to shine a spotlight on emerging aquaculture sector in our economy. 

Aquaculture and the supporting technologies bring together all the key ingredients – future growth opportunities that support our coastal ecosystems, the economy, jobs, and our communities.  This webinar series reimagines partnerships between business, government, universities, and communities through regenerative ocean research, exploration, and equity-based economic development.


Meredith Brooks– Strategic Grants and Special Projects Manager, Consultant AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

Dorothy Cardenas – Program and Community Outreach Coordinator, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

Ferris Kawar – Sustainability Project Manager, Santa Monica College

Michael H. Kelly – Executive Director, The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs

Jenny C. Krusoe – Founding Executive Director, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles

Janet E. Kübler, Ph.D. – Biology Department, California State University Northridge

Natale A. Zappia, Ph.D. – Director, Institute for Sustainability, Associate Professor, Department of History, California State University, Northridge


AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles is dedicated to accelerating scientific collaboration, advancing an emerging blue economy through business innovation and job creation, and inspiring the next generation, all for a more sustainable, just, and equitable world.

Founded in 2008, the Institute for Sustainability works with stakeholders across campus to integrate sustainability into all aspects of the university from operations and infrastructure to outreach, education, and research. The Institute serves all the colleges of the university, working to increase interdisciplinary and cross-functional communication, education, and research on sustainability.

The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs (The L.A. Coalition) is an independent, bipartisan membership organization, established in 2009, to bring together leaders from the region’s business, labor, academic and nonprofit communities to advance sound policy initiatives that will help to responsibly grow the economy and create quality jobs throughout the L.A. region.

Santa Monica College is a two-year community college accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. It opened in 1929 with just 153 students and has now grown to a thriving campus with more than 32,000 students and offerings in more than 100 fields of study. SMC is the leader among the state’s 116 community colleges in transferring students to the University of California, University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University, and other four-year campuses.


Session 1: Aquaculture to Restore!

Recorded Thursday, April 13, 2023


Janet Kübler, PhD

Janet Kübler, PhD has been studying the biology of seaweeds for more than three decades, since she first snorkeled in the kelp forests of the pacific northwest. She is an expert on the effects of changing climate on seaweeds and is currently working to develop aquaculture of seaweed species that will be resilient to climate change. She lives in Southern California.

California Seaweed Festival


Leslie Booher Co-Founder of Sunken Seaweed

Leslie Booher, a Californian through and through, Leslie loves every inch of her home state’s coastline, and has dedicated a good chunk of her life to ensuring its health. While studying Marine Biology at Humboldt State University, she was able to do research on the rugged North Coast, where she fell in love with the tide pools, seaweed, and fellow researcher, Torre Polizzi. When she’s not on the farm, Leslie enjoys running, watching B-horror movies, and hunting for thrift store treasures.

Aaron Eger, Founder and Program Director of Kelp Forest Alliance

Aaron is the Founder and Program Director of the Kelp Forest Alliance, a global community of practice and a research driven not for profit. By bringing data and people together, Aaron works to provide real solutions to wicked problems in our oceans. Through his work, he was the lead author on the first ever kelp restoration guidebook, created the KFA web platform to track global restoration efforts, and facilitated the creation of the Kelp Forest Challenge, a global mission to protect and restore 4 million hectares of kelp forests by 2040. His work spans marine ecology, economics, science communication and practice and he is always happy to chat kelp so please reach out.

Nancy Caruso, Founder of Get Inspired

Nancy Caruso inspired an army of ocean-lovers to jump in and get inspired to restore ocean ecosystems. She and her team of volunteer ocean advocates have rebuilt a decimated kelp forest in Orange county from the ground up, and they’re not stopping there she is also growing green abalone, white seabass, and Pismo clams for restoration. A shining example of one person who saw a problem, and cared enough to take it on, Caruso’s eyes light up as she describes her efforts. Caruso attributes her success to the volunteers that have supported, bolstered and brought life to her vision.

Session 2: Building a Sustainable Workforce in the Emerging Blue Economy

Recorded Tuesday, April 18, 2023


Michael H. Kelly

Michael H. Kelly currently serves as the Executive Director of The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs, which brings together business and civic leaders to advance initiatives that will stimulate the development of economic growth, quality jobs, housing, and a skilled workforce. He also serves as the interim director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. Prior to working with the Coalition, Mr. Kelly has worked in several high-level positions, both in the private sector with The Boeing Company and with California Governor’s Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He currently serves on the Committee for Greater LA, the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission Advisory Board, founding chair of the Philanthropic Foundation for California State University, Dominguez Hills, and an advisory board member for WorkingNation. Michael received an Economics Degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a master’s in public administration from the University of Southern California. Michael is married to Mia Kelly and is the proud father of three daughters.


Samantha C. Leigh, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at California State University Dominguez Hills. She is an animal physiologist interested in how organisms acquire energy based on their specified feeding mechanisms and digestive strategies. Her research uses a blend of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology to answer biological questions about performance, primarily in marine animals. Her bonnethead shark research was highlighted by National Geographic as one of, “The most fascinating shark discoveries of the past decade”. Further, she enjoys pairing her research with various community outreach endeavors.

COAST Summer Student Internship Program partners with federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations and industry to provide paid summer internships for continuing CSU undergraduate and graduate students. Interns work side-by-side with professionals on current scientific research, policy, and resource management projects throughout California. The program provides excellent opportunities to gain valuable experience and learn technical skills while working with experts in fisheries, marine ecology, policy and marine technology.

Ely S. Fournier is the Director of Economic Vitality at Strength Based Community Change (SBCC) located in Wilmington, California. Ely has been on staff as well as a consultant at SBCC for the past 15 yrs. serving in a leadership capacity by strategically building new community projects and rebuilding existing programs. As a community activist and youth development designer, Ely has created art programs like the Urban Arts Crew and Co-created with residents iHeart Wilmington, a movement of community residents changing their community through Acts of kindness and civic pride. Growing up as a Pastor`s kid and serving in a Wilmington Community church for most of his life, he understands the different layers of community engagement, community empowerment and partnership from a leadership perspective but also a cultural one. Serving as director in the Economic Vitality Department and under the leadership of his executive director, Ely is launching and leading co- created ventures to address systemic inequality in access to economic opportunities and improve economic equality for people of color and low-income communities. Ely also Co-facilitates SBCC`s Fatherhood program “Thriving Dads” engaging Dads from a strengths-based perspective that sees Fathers as capable caretakers with knowledge, know-how and positive and unseen contributions as Parents.

Rick Aguayo is the Program Manager for the Career Pathways Program at Strength Based Community Change (SBCC) Rick is cultivating a broader network in workforce development for Los Angeles County with a primary focus in the local communities throughout the South Bay. With a B.S. In Biology from California State University, Long Beach and currently pursuing a Master’s in Environmental Science from California State University, Dominguez Hills his focus is on developing new paths to bridge together our local communities and innovative industries.

SBCC’s Heart of the Harbor Community Farm made possible through the generosity of Marathon Petroleum Foundation and their appreciation for the community. Through this contribution SBCC is able to provide accessible, sustainable, and healthy food for residents throughout our local communities. Marathon Petroleum Foundation has also allowed us to create a place for families to enjoy outdoor entertainment through the Outdoor Amphitheater and continuously partnering with the organization by volunteering to create an amazing outdoor space.

Session 3: Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture

Recorded Thursday, April 20, 2023


Dr. Nathan Churches

Dr. Nathan Churches, Santa Monica College Aquaculture Faculty Lead; Holdfast Aquaculture, Chief Science Officer; lecturer faculty, SFSU and College of San Mateo

Nathan received his Ph.D. from USC’s department of molecular biology in 2019, where he studied population genetics and genomics pertaining to sustainable aquaculture. During his Ph.D., Nathan spent several years at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, where he built an experimental hatchery and mock-commercial longline to study shellfish and seaweed. Among other projects, he has demonstrated that there is a genetic basis to metallo-toxicity response in shellfish, that Pacific oysters rapidly alter their microbiome in response to changes in diet, and that balancing selection plays a large role in bivalve larval communities.

In 2018, Nathan co-founded Holdfast Aquaculture with colleagues from USC and the California aquaculture industry, with a goal of developing a real academia-industry and data driven sustainable aquaculture company. At Holdfast Aquaculture, Nathan is the Chief Science Officer, where he oversees various research and development projects. Some notable efforts at Holdfast include the commercialization of new native California shellfish for the industry, and breeding ocean-acidification resistant lines of shellfish to support the industry for the climate-change era. Nathan is also working in education, as a lecturer faculty at San Francisco State University and at the College of San Mateo, and at Santa Monica College as the Aquaculture Faculty Lead. At Santa Monica College, Nathan is co-developing a certificate program which will ready participants for entry into the expanding Southern California aquaculture industry; an expected launch date for the new aquaculture certificate program is spring semester of 2024.


Mark A. Drawbridge, M.S., Senior Research Scientist and Director of Sustainable Seafood Program at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

Mark is currently a Senior Research Scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) in San Diego, where he has been employed since 1989. Mark also serves as the Director of the Institute’s Sustainable Seafood Program, which is focused on developing techniques for growing marine finfish for ocean replenishment and farming. The HSWRI aquaculture research program supports approximately 20 full-time staff, two research hatcheries in San Diego, and acclimation cage facilities throughout southern California coastal waters. Species currently being investigated for farming include white seabass, striped bass, California yellowtail, and California halibut.

Mr. Drawbridge graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania in 1985 with a B.A. degree in biology and from San Diego State University in 1990 with an M.Sc. degree in Marine Ecology. In addition to his direct responsibilities at HSWRI, Mark is a current board member and past-president of the California Aquaculture Association; an associate faculty member at the University of San Diego; a member of the Western Regional Aquaculture Center’s technical research committee; and a member of California’s Aquaculture Development Committee.

Dr. Kevin Marquez Johnson, California Sea Grant Aquaculture Extension Specialist at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Dr. Kevin Johnson graduated from CSUMB in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While at CSUMB, Kevin became a UROC and CSU Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Scholar. As an undergraduate, he also received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue his doctoral degree at UC Santa Barbara in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.

For his doctoral thesis, Kevin conducted research in Antarctica investigating the effects of acidification and ocean warming on pteropods, a free floating marine snail. Upon completing his Ph.D. degree, Kevin received a NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to work at Louisiana State University on the molecular mechanisms of adaptation in the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to environmental stressors.

Kevin was recently appointed as the new California Sea Grant and Cal Poly Aquaculture Specialist and Research Scientist where he will join a team of specialists who work with coastal communities, businesses, and policymakers to provide science-based information in an effort to support the state’s environment and economy. As an aquaculture specialist, Kevin will conduct research and outreach on aquaculture communities in central California. In addition to this role, he will also serve as a research scientist at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; where he will teach courses, mentor students, and collaborate on research initiatives with Cal Poly faculty and aquaculture practitioners throughout the central California region.

Dr. Rafael Cuevas Uribe; Professor, Cal Poly Humboldt Department of Fisheries Biology

Dr. Rafael Cuevas Uribe holds a B.S. Biology, 2003, from Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico M.S. Aquaculture/Aquatic Science, 2006, Kentucky State University Ph.D. Wildlife and Fisheries, 2011, Louisiana State University Postdoctoral Research, 2011-2014, Kentucky State University: reservoir ranching and reclaimed water for aquaculture.

Rafael’s research interests are in reclaimed water aquaculture and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems, preservation of germplasm resources for aquatic species, aquaculture genetics, and reproductive biology, including artificial spawning, cell transplantation, and ploidy and sex manipulation methods. Rafael leads one of the state of California’s longest running and most successful higher education aquaculture programs, at Cal Poly Humboldt, and has developed one of California’s most recent in-water infrastructures for studying native Californian seaweed cultivation. At the Cal Poly Humboldt Telonicher Marine Labs, Rafael hosts a series of research projects, including investigating nutrient dynamics in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture systems, and understanding hatchery techniques for developing new finfish and seaweeds for on-land and in-water commercialization. Rafael’s students have gone onto successful careers in aquaculture and in higher education, and his aquaculture curricula at Cal Poly Humboldt is one of the state’s exemplary programs in the field of collegiate aquaculture education.