The History of SCMI

SCMI’s History and Future
Dr. Rick Pieper, former Director

The formation of SCMI must be credited to Lon McClanahan (Director of SCMI, 1994-1998), Don Newman (Associate Director of SCMI, 1995-1997), and the marine science faculty members and administrators from the various Universities that make up the Consortium. The beginnings of SCMI officially started in May 1993 with Lon McClanahan, then Acting Director of the California State University’s (CSU’s) Ocean Studies Institute (OSI), proposing the creation of a Regional Laboratory at Fish Harbor to the Board of Governors of OSI. Lon saw the potential for maximizing resources, and recognized that OSI’s budget had been dealing with consistent cuts since 1989; the early 1990’s were a tough economic time. At the same time, the University of Southern California (USC) was terminating some of the operations at the Fish Harbor facility, and Don Newman, then Manager of USC’s Marine Support Facility, was looking for additional use of the laboratory. Concurrently, faculty members at USC were strongly lobbying for the continuation of marine science facilities and operations at Fish Harbor.

The first planning session for a “Regional Marine Studies Institute” was held in San Pedro in July 1993, with representatives from OSI, USC, Occidental College, the Tatman Foundation and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. Representation on a Board of Directors was decided, and the group named the new Consortium the “Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI).” Lon McClanahan and the OSI staff then moved to Fish Harbor, and joined Don Newman and the USC staff. Lon, along with Bob Douglas (USC), Ralph Mills (CSU Chancellor’s Office) and Don Newman, drafted the initial Articles of Operation for SCMI. The Articles of Incorporation of the Southern California Marine Institute were filed in the Office of the Secretary of State of the State of California on May 27, 1994. The Bylaws for SCMI were adopted at the first Board of Directors meeting on November 17, 1994. SCMI was granted its non-profit 501(c)(3) California Corporation status on November 20, 1995. From 1994 through 1998, Lon McClanahan and Don Newman continued to expand University education and research on the Research Vessels Sea Watch and Yellowfin, as well as in the new classrooms at the Fish Harbor laboratory. SCMI’s mission was expanded to include “… helping advance the knowledge needed to provide and protect a healthy ocean, and to strengthen the education of our young people.” Lon McClanahan left SCMI in June 1998 and is now retired from teaching at California State University, Fullerton. Don Newman left SCMI in December 1997 and is now teaching in Nevada.

I began as Interim Director of SCMI on July 1, 1998 and my first steps were to attempt an understanding of the operations and financial condition at SCMI. We are continually evaluating and, if appropriate, rewriting existing agreements. We are strengthening our basic mission, as well as looking into new areas and endeavors. The SCMI Board of Directors met for a day-long retreat and meeting at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island on August 27, 1998. Re-affirming the conditions that led to the formation of SCMI, the following general mission statement was accepted: “The Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) is a consortium of institutions that have pooled their sea-going vessels and resources to support coastal research and educational opportunities off southern California.” Specific goals for SCMI emerged in the discussions that included: (a) to emphasize research and education from member institutions, including faculty enhancement; (b) to maintain a significant involvement in, and continue to develop programs for, K-12 education, marine monitoring, environmental concerns and public outreach; and (c) to become a focal point for, and coordinator of, marine science education and research in southern California.

The Board of Directors continues to be composed of the leaders at the various campuses. This reflects the increased strength of the marine programs at both OSI and USC. OSI, with Raymond Wilson as Chairman of the Board of Governors, has a strong, involved membership and is presently re-defining its priorities, roles and commitments to the marine sciences within the CSU system and SCMI. Concurrently, Tony Michaels (SCMI Board of Directors Chairman), Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES), continues to strengthen USC’s marine program through WIES, both at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island and at the downtown USC campus. Occidental College has recently re-designated marine sciences as one of their focus areas.

We have expanded SCMI’s role in science programs in both education and research. There has been an increase in ship use by all consortium members in their teaching and research programs. SCMI supports the CSU (OSI) and USC (WIES) marine-semester programs at Catalina Island. Carrie Wolfe runs our NOAA VOS (Volunteer Observing Ship) Program that supports oceanographic measurements on volunteer commercial ships, especially on routes that cross the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles. Our role in supporting and training volunteers from citizen organizations in Marine Monitoring continues to expand under the leadership of Lisa Gilbane. SCMI has benefited by having an excellent, hard-working, and dedicated staff.

The Los Angeles – Long Beach harbor area continues to develop into a center of marine related programs and activities. In addition to SCMI, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, our long-time supporter and partner, is presently expanding their facility in San Pedro, and we have plans for joint studies with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which continues to develop active programs.

Our goals are to strengthen the Consortium and, through it, marine science education and research. With a strong University base, we add an important scientific component to the more public, educational and recreational activities in the area. We hope to increase the amount of basic and applied research out of the SCMI laboratory, both through existing faculty involvement and, eventually, by SCMI Post-doctoral scientists or other researchers located at the Fish Harbor laboratory. In addition, marine monitoring and maintaining the health of local harbor and oceanic waters is a major interest to local citizens, sailors and scientists.

The future of SCMI is open and full of potential. We have a great staff and involved individuals from the Universities that make up the Consortium. We will continue to streamline operations, and develop new programs and connections within the local scientific and marine oriented organizations. In addition to the SCMI staff, the future lies heavily with the Universities that govern, both directly and indirectly, operations at SCMI. Their success will be ours, and our success will be theirs.