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Marine Lab

Founders Hall

What is the Concordia Marine Lab?

The Marine Lab was founded in 2014 to serve three main purposes by providing a valuable resource for Educational Outreach, Undergraduate Classes, and Student and Faculty Research. The Marine Lab facility consists of a ~2,000 gallon recirculating seawater system that includes a dozen various aquaria ranging from 50 to 400 gallons each and is home to over 50 species of temperate marine organisms (mostly local species) ranging from jelly-fish to sharks. The Marine Lab is directed by Dr. Sean Bignami, who holds a PhD in Marine Biology and Fisheries, is an Associate Professor of Biology, and the Biology Department Chair. The lab is primarily operated by student volunteers and supported by a combination of University and Departmental funding, external grants, and individual donations.

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Approximately 20,000 Community Members Served!

The Marine Lab offers educational mobile touch-tank and marine science lessons free of charge to public schools and free community events, or to tuition/fee-driven institutions/events with a modest donation requested. We also offer on-site educational programs for groups visiting Concordia University Irvine. Lessons are differentiated for any audience age/grade and are aligned with the Principles of Ocean Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards.

The goal of the Concordia Marine Lab Outreach Program is to improve the Ocean Literacy of students, teachers, and the general public in Orange County. The Outreach Program has received support from California SeaGrant, the California Coastal Commission, Orange County Community Foundation, Concordia Alumni Association, Concordia Biology Department, and those served by our programs. Since the beginning of 2016, these programs have served approximately 20,000 community members!

How to book a mobile touch tank or on-campus outreach event?

Schools, organizations, or individuals that wish to request an outreach event should submit the following Outreach Event Request Form to [email protected] at least three weeks prior to the desired event date. If you pass this deadline, you may inquire via email to see if we can accommodate an event on short notice.

Request Form

Prior to events on the Concordia campus, all participating adults and children are asked to complete liability waivers.

Holding seastars


The Concordia Marine Lab helps support a variety of classes for Concordia students, including Introduction to Biology, Marine Biology, Physical Oceanography, Zoology, Ocean Science, and Research in Biology. Classes have the opportunity to learn using live marine organisms in the classroom, the Marine Lab, and the field. Students also have the opportunity to participate in outreach events or volunteer in the Marine Lab themselves.


The Concordia Marine Lab supports marine science research conducted by students and faculty, including class-related and independent projects ranging from microbiology to aquaculture science.

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Pismo Clam Ecology & Aquaculture

For more than 6 years, Concordia University Marine Lab has been conducting research on the population status and ecology of the Pismo clam (Tivela stultorum), a native species unique to California and Baja California. Recently, California SeaGrant awarded the CUI Marine Lab and collaborators, Holdfast Aquaculture and Get Inspired, Inc., a two-year grant to fund the development of Pismo clam aquaculture as a source of sustainably-raised seafood. Read more about our Pismo clam projects here

Photo: Pismo clams are located on local sandy beaches. These clams are approximately 2 years old, but Pismo clams get much larger and can live for well over a decade!


Our students and faculty have extended their Pismo clam research to investigate a number of questions about this species' ecology, behavior, physiology, and potential for aquaculture. This research has produced a peer reviewed scientific article, been presented at symposia, is featured in the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife Pismo clam Enhanced Status Report, and has been reported in the media. Follow the links below to see some of the student and faculty presentations about this research:

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Abalone Aquaculture and Restoration

The Marine Lab collaborates with to advance green abalone population restoration efforts. Our aquaculture science research is helping improve the captive production of juveniles for eventual release to the wild.

Photo: Juvenile green abalone like these will be raised at the Concordia Marine Lab and eventually be released to the wild in an effort to restore local populations.

Two students doing research at Shaw's Cove

Intertidal Community Monitoring

We are happy to work with Oregon State University and many other institutions in a collaborative effort to determine how the rocky intertidal community is responding to the recent decline of predatory sea stars as a result of sea star wasting disease. Our faculty and students study two long-term monitoring sites in Orange County.

Photo: Hannah ('20) and Caden ('20) survey a mussel bed community at daybreak as part of ongoing sea star wasting disease research.

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Student Research

The Marine Lab hosts a variety of student research projects throughout the year, both in the field and lab. We are proud to support our students as they aspire to explore the natural world!

More Information

Visit the Lab

Open hours: no pre-scheduled open hours are offered at the moment, but please contact us to see if we can accommodate a visit.
Location: Founders Hall Room 100


Current and previous support has been provided by the California Sea Grant, California Coastal Commission Whale Tail grant program, the Orange County Community Foundation, the Concordia Alumni Association, and the donations of individuals.

Donations made to the Marine Lab help to support our ongoing animal collection and care, as well as the operation of our outreach program and research projects. Your support can be directed to the general budget or specific aspects of our programs.

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Support the Marine Lab

How to get involved

The Concordia Marine Lab operates primarily through the work of dedicated student volunteers from Concordia and other institutions. If you are interested in getting involved with the Marine Lab please contact us at [email protected]

Contact Us

Director: Dr. Sean Bignami, Associate Professor of Biology
[email protected]

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Donor Advised Fund (DAF)

Consider making your gift through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Learn more here.

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