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Marine Lab

Founders Hall

What is the CUI 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.

Student Spotlight

Noah Kolander '19

Spending his summers on dairy farms and horse ranches, Noah envisioned a career as a large animal veterinarian. However, on his first day at Concordia, his plans changed. He credits the Marine Lab for igniting his passion for marine biology and directing him towards an unexpected and exciting career path.

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Approximately 20,000 Community Members Served!

The goal of the CUI Marine Lab Outreach Program is to improve the Ocean Literacy of students, teachers, and the general public in Orange County. Ocean Literacy is defined by the Ocean Literacy Campaign as an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you, and your influence on the ocean. The Marine Lab offers no-cost educational mobile touch-tank and marine science lessons to public schools and free community events. We also offer these programs to tuition-driven institutions and events, but request a modest donation to support our outreach activities. We also offer on-site educational programs for groups visiting CUI, including lab tours for members of the community. Mobile touch tank programs and lessons are differentiated for any audience age/grade, can be customized to fit into individual classroom curricula, and are aligned with the Principles of Ocean Literacy and Next Generation Science Standards. The Outreach Program has received support from the California Coastal Commission, Orange County Community Foundation, CUI Alumni Association, CUI 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 CUI campus, all participating adults and children are asked to complete liability waivers.

Holding seastars


The CUI 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.

Research Projects

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

Pismo Clam Ecology

Since 2017, we have been working to assess the population status of the Pismo clam (Tivela stultorum), a native species unique to California and Baja California. Our students and faculty have also extended this research to investigate a number of questions about this species' ecology, behavior, physiology, and potential for aquaculture. The project has been reported in the media, and our data has been presented at symposia, is featured in the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife Pismo clam Enhanced Status Report, and has been accepted for publication in the CA Fish and Wildlife Journal. Follow the links below to see some of the student and faculty presentations about this research:

Baby Pismo Clams

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 of Noah Kolander

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.

Baby Pismo Clams

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!

Baby Pismo Clams

Ocean Acidification

Together with fishing, habitat loss or other stressors, the ocean’s pH changes might break a skate. Learn how in, "Ocean Acidification may Ground Swimming Skates" with observations by our Marine Lab Director, Sean Bignami.

Photo of a skate

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 Coastal Commission Whale Tail grant program, the Orange County Community Foundation, the CUI 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.

whale tail, protect our coast and oceans fund logo
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Support the Marine Lab

How to get involved

The CUI 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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