Dr. Clare Steele is an applied marine ecologist with extensive experience in marine and coastal environments around the world, conducting research and natural resource assessments to enable informed management decisions. She has conducted research assessing the benefits of protected areas and community-based resource management to reef fish assemblages and artisanal fisheries in the Philippines, Fiji, Kenya and the Bahamas. In southern California, her research has focused on productivity of fishes on natural kelp and artificial reefs, and assessing anthropogenic impacts to sandy beach ecological communities. Her ongoing research in the Cook Islands and California examines the ecological impacts of marine debris and microplastic debris on coastal ecosystems. Dedicated to providing research opportunities to undergraduate students, she is working with various student groups, including CI classes, CI capstone students, Project ACCESO’s Summer Research Institute and NOAA’s B-WET program, to explore educational and research experiences in the California coastal zone and at CSUCI’s undergraduate research station on Santa Rosa Island.


Microplastics are a component of ocean litter smaller than 5mm. Primary microplastics, like microbeads found in personal care products, are engineered to be small, whereas secondary microplastics form from the break-up of larger plastic items. We have observed microplastic pollution in beach sediments from over 15 countries, including remote Pacific Islands. In beach sands along the California coast, synthetic fibers are the most commonly observed microplastic items.

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Cook Islands

I have been working in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific for three years with an interdisciplinary team, exploring the interaction of natural and human systems and examining how patterns of resource use influence ecosystem health. In Summer 2015, my colleagues and I brought a team of 14 CSUCI students to learn about the culture and to conduct service learning and baseline research in a variety of habitats on the island of Aitutaki.

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Santa Barbara Oil Spill

Following the oil spill at Refugio Beach, Drs. Clare Steele, Sean Anderson and CSUCI students mounted a rapid response to establish baselines at El Capitan, Gaviota and Coal Oil Point beaches before any possible oil impact.
The ESRM program's ongoing sandy beach monitoring will allow us to examine the impact of perturbations like the oil spill and the effects of beach grooming and nourishment.

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Courses at CSUCI

CSUCI Classes Fall Semester 2020

CSUCI Classes Spring Semester 2020

  • Introduction to Environmental Science and Resource Management ESRM 100
  • Conservation Biology ESRM 313 BIO 313
  • Environmental Law and Policy ESRM 329
  • The Beach ESRM 335
  • Analytics Studio ESRM 400
  • Coastal and Marine Resource Management ESRM 462
  • Global Issues in Resource Management ESRM 483
  • Service Learning in New Orleans ESRM 492
  • Capstone Preparation ESRM 491
  • Environmental Film and Speaker Series COMM 496 ESRM 496
  • Capstone ESRM 499
  • International Experience – Pacific Islands Ecosystem Management: Cook Islands UNIV  392_5
  • Ecotourism and Marine Megafauna in Maui UNIV 391

Courses taught elsewhere:

  • Seminar in Ecology – Reproductive Ecology BIOL 615C (CSUN)
  • Biology and Ecology of Fishes BIO U507 BIO G207 (NEU)
  • Botany BIO 102 (URI)