Marine Ecology Research Program

Santa Catalina sits just two miles from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest in the nation. Because of our location, we have developed a signature program that exposes our students to the wonders of the Monterey Bay and allows them to take full advantage of its great educational value.






I’ve always had a passion for marine science. The research part is definitely what made me interested. It’s nice to have it outside, with all of the opportunities and field trips; actually using the bay, since we’re right here.

~Katie, Senior Day Student
Monterey, California




The Marine Science Program has two components. The first involves students in all grade levels. They study physics, chemistry, and biology in a manner that is consistent with our position as a college-preparatory school, but we have enhanced and differentiated our instruction by applying basic scientific principles to the ocean environment and using the framework of marine science to develop connections between their science courses. Monterey Bay is a laboratory that allows students to see the interactions among physical, chemical, and biological factors and encourages them to explore the complexities of real-world problems and solutions.

The second component is the three-year Marine Ecology Research Program. Coordinated by Dr. Christian Reilly, this program provides a more intensive focus on marine science for a select group of students, beginning in their sophomore year. With an emphasis on experiential learning, students will be in and around the ocean, doing research, learning by observation, testing hypotheses, and experimenting in the very environment they are studying. This group of highly motivated and talented students will engage in a program devoted to authentic scientific research in the local marine environment.

Marine Ecology Research Program Curriculum

Year 1

In the sophomore year, the fundamentals of research methods and literacy are taught in the Marine Ecology Research class. In this course, students learn the basics of data collection in marine environments and the fundamentals of scientific practice, including reading and writing about technical subjects, experimental design, and statistical analysis.

Year 2

Building on the foundation of sophomore year, students spend the majority of their junior year developing and executing a marine science research project. As appropriate, they work with local marine agencies.

Year 3

During senior year, the students enroll in Marine Ecology Research Honors. In this class, scientific communication and research project presentations are the primary objectives. As a capstone project, students present the results of their individual research project in a public forum. At the conclusion of this three-year program, students receive a certificate of completion.

Goals of the Marine Ecology Research Program

Goal 1

To provide motivated and skilled students real involvement with scientific and technical fields —experiences which are not usually found in a high school curriculum.


Goal 2

To give motivated and skilled students a deeper experience in the fields of marine science and to help them develop the leadership skills required to successfully interact with a dynamic marine environment.

Goal 3

To give motivated and skilled students unique abilities and experiences that will allow them to take advantage of opportunities in college and future careers.

Program Faculty:

Christian Reilly
Ph.D., Biological Sciences, Stanford University
M.A., Biology, Boston University
B.S., The Evergreen State College

Lisa Marrack
Ph.D., Environmental Science, University of California, Berkeley
M.S., Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories
B.A., Geology, Williams College


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