Bodega Marine Reserve

Bodega Marine Reserve
Bodega Marine Reserve / Photo by Lobsang Wangdu

Bodega Marine Reserve (BMR) is the only marine area protected for research and education on California’s rugged north central coast. Offering a variety of habitats from rocky intertidal and subtidal areas to beaches, dunes, coastal prairie, coastal scrub, wetlands, seagrass, and mudflat habitats, it is a preeminent site for in-depth research on state and national environmental priorities, and an extraordinary training site for terrestrial, marine and coastal field biologists.

The diverse habitats of BMR support a wide variety of flora and fauna, including numerous migratory shorebirds, intertidal invertebrates, coastal bluff plants, and marine algae. Located on site, the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory (BML) provides cutting-edge research facilities and classrooms, conference facilities, boating and diving programs, oceanographic and meteorological data, and much more. Adjoining the reserve is Bodega Marine Life Refuge, established by the California Department of Fish and Game, which extends 300 meters (1,000 feet) offshore and protects important marine habitats, and Bodega Head State Marine Reserve, a no-take marine protected area.

Located 60 miles north of San Francisco, Bodega Marine Reserve supports marine and terrestrial research and education in an area of California unique for the strength of its coastal upwelling, strong influence of marine processes on coastal ecosystems, and diverse soils and geology within the San Andreas Fault zone. Researchers and classes also use BMR as a base to explore sites ranging from San Francisco Bay to Point Arena.

Field Courses

BMR hosts over 40 university classes each year on visits ranging from one-day field trips to semester-long residential classes. Class disciplines range from life sciences such as marine and terrestrial ecology, botany, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, and entomology, to boating and research diving, to arts and the humanities.

Research Topics

  • Climate change and ocean acidification
  • Coastal upwelling, nearshore oceanography and hydrodynamics
  • Estuaries and land runoff
  • Biodiversity and community ecology
  • Ecomechanics
  • Invasive species
  • Contaminants in marine and estuarine environments
  • Terrestrial ecology and evolution
  • Population genetics

Selected Research

  • Effects of environmental conditions and competition on carrion beetles
  • Bumble bee reproductive and diapause phenology
  • Communication in Artemisia douglasiana
  • Ocean acidification research
  • Plant-herbivore interactions in seagrass beds
  • Sea star recovery
  • Patterns of behavioral plasticity in snails

Educational Outreach

Through a mentorship program, high-school students learn field techniques and pursue individual projects. Thousands of local elementary school students visit annually on field trips. Undergraduate students can take field-based courses taught at Bodega Marine Laboratory that offer a multidisciplinary understanding of coastal systems through hands-on exploration of Bodega Marine Reserve and other sites in the area. Research and land management internships are available for junior college students.

Land Stewardship and Conservation

Management and conservation of coastal prairie, coastal bluff, dunes, and wetland habitats. Coastal prairie demonstration garden.

Special Research of National Significance

Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans • PISCO

Suzanne Olyarnik
Bodega Marine Lab/Reserve
University of California
P.O. Box 247
Bodega Bay, CA 94923-0247
Bodega Marine Reserve website

Bodega Head in Sonoma County, 113 km (70 mi.) north of San Francisco.

Laboratories; library; classrooms; office space; research vessels and equipment; 40-bed dormitory; 14-bed bunkhouse; 3 cottages/apartments for visiting scientists; lodge with 3 single- and 3 double-occupancy rooms plus shared kitchen.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Plant List
Climate data began in 1967; intense meteorological, oceanographic, biological, and photographic monitoring began in 1987; BML-staffed library includes hundreds of publications on reserve-based research.

Director, research coordinator, and reserve steward

221 hectares (545 acres); UC owns 326 acres but manages a total of 6,388 acres that includes Bodega Head State Marine Reserve

Terrestrial: 0 to 58 m (0 to 190 ft.)
Subtidal: 81 m (266 ft.) deep in Bodega Head Marine Reserve

86 cm (34 inches) per year, ranging from 33 to 185 cm (13 to 73 inches) over 32 years

September maximum: 18 ºC (64 ºF)
January minimum: 6 ºC (43 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data

Graduate students touring Bodega Marine Reserve during the 2014 Mathias Symposium.
Graduate students touring Bodega Marine Reserve during the 2014 Mathias Symposium. image credit
small, reddish-brown crab with blue spots and mouthparts on a green surface
The chocolate porcelain crab is one warm-water southern species now commonly seen around Bodega Bay in Northern California. Image credit: Jacqueline Sones
circular bell of a light pink jellyfish with dark maroon stripes radiating from its center lying on the sand; translucent white tentacles tipped with maroon are just visible beneath the bell
The purple striped jellyfish was one of the first warm-water species researchers at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory were surprised to see during the 2014-16 marine heatwave. Its new northern range limit expanded from Bodega Bay to Arcadia Beach, Oregon. Image credit: Jacqueline Sones