Santa Monica Bay

Research Project | 2024

Using eDNA Techniques to Understand the Patterns of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Santa Monica Bay

Awardee: Likhitha Yettela

Likhitha Yettela (she/her) is a 4th-year undergraduate environmental science student with a concentration in conservation biology at UCLA. She was born and raised in southern California and would spend her summers going to the beach. This grew her interest in marine ecosystems and conservation and she wants to continue exploring more of the biodiversity found on the California coast. Likhitha’s research journey started through the
Sustainable LA Grand Challenge where she studied water quality monitoring. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, explore LA, and go on road trips.

The purpose of this project is to monitor the patterns of harmful algal blooms in the Santa Monica Bay using eDNA to inform conservation efforts. Harmful algae produce neurotoxins that are extremely harmful to aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates. In southern California, there has been an increase in the number of marine mammals such as sea lions found dead or suffering from the symptoms of toxic algae. This project will provide
conservation groups with a guide on what to look for and when to test the waters for certain phytoplankton communities.