Website Update

Benjamin Ruttenberg

Benjamin Ruttenberg

Contact Information

Associate Professor

Director, Center for Coastal Marine Science

Office: 33-376
Phone: (805) 756-2498
Curriculum Vitae

For Prospective Graduate Students:

I usually accept students for specific projects for which I already have funding. If you are interested in joining my lab, please contact me via email, and be sure to describe your previous experience as well as what you hope to learn by doing a MS degree. Please include: a brief description of qualifications, interest in the Cal Poly MS program and the project, followed by a short CV (2 pages max), all as a single PDF file (with the title ‘LastName_Firstname.pdf’). Please include GPA, GRE scores, relevant experience and skills for your area of interest and/or the specific project. Please include names and contact info for at least 3 references following the CV.

I will likely be accepting one student for Fall 2019 for this project: Climate change and nearshore fisheries

Research Interests:

Our research interests fall into several broad categories within marine conservation and marine ecology but they usually involve some aspects of ecology (how do things change over space and time, and why) and the impacts of management on marine systems (how do we change and try to manage our impacts on the oceans, and what can we do better).

We have several current projects that fit into these categories, including:

  • Factors controlling the decline and recovery of Pismo clams.
    Pismo clams were once an abundant recreational fishery species throughout California and in Pismo Beach in particular, but their abundance has declined statewide. We seek to understand the current status of Pismo clams and the mechanisms that impact their abundance. This project involves field work from Monterey to Baja California, as well as lab and experimental work, and includes collaborators at Cal Poly and institutions throughout California.
  • Processes of herbivory and corallivory in the Caribbean.
    Parrotfish feed on algae that compete with corals (helping corals), but sometimes they feed directly on live corals (hurting corals). We study the feeding behavior of parrotfish to estimate their net effects on coral reefs, and how fisheries for parrotfish change these net effects. This project involves field work in the US Caribbean, as well as video analyses and ecological modeling, and includes collaborators at UC Santa Barbara and several federal agencies.
  • Understanding the impacts of marine protected areas and oceanographic events on nearshore fisheries.
    Cal Poly has several ongoing nearshore fishery monitoring programs designed to provide information to understand how fish communities change following the implementation of marine protected areas. However, these programs also provide the opportunities to understand how changing climate and oceanography impact community trajectories, as well as how demography and food webs change with changing climate and management.
  • Understanding the potential for offshore renewable energy production along the California Central Coast.
    Offshore wind and wave energy will likely be an important part of California’s mix of renewable energy in the future. However, we still lack detailed information about the potential for energy production and the information needed to evaluate potential environmental and socioeconomic costs and benefits of renewable energy production. This project involves synthesis and modeling work with existing data, and includes collaborators at Cal Poly and federal agencies.
  • Using artificial intelligence to facilitate monitoring in marine (and other) systems.
    Many organizations collect hours of video monitoring data, but processing those videos is expensive and time consuming. We are collaborating with computer scientists to develop new tools that we greatly speed the rate at which we can use computers to generate data from video. The potential applications for these tools go far beyond marine monitoring.


  • Ph.D., Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • M.S., School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • B.A., Tufts University, Medford, MA

Professional Appointments:

  • Associate Professor, Cal Poly, 2013-Present
  • Director, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences
  • Research Fishery Biologist, NOAA/National Marine Fishery Service, Miami, FL, 2009-2013
  • Marine Ecologist, National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program, Miami, FL, 2008-2009
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2007-2008
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Oregon State University/University of California/Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, 2006-2007

Selected recent publications (out of 28):

(Go to for a complete list and PDFs; * denotes student author)

Wang, Y. H., R. K. Walter, H. K. Farr*, C. White, B. I. Ruttenberg. 2018. Assessment of surface wind datasets for estimating offshore wind energy along the Central California coast. Renewable Energy. In press.

Glynn, P.W., A. Baker, S. Banks, I. Baums, J. Cole, M. Colgan, P. Fong, P. J. Glynn; I. Keith, D. Manzelo, B. Riegl, B. I. Ruttenberg, T. Smith, M. Vera-Zambrano. 2018. State of corals and coral reefs of the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador): past, present and future. Marine Pollution Bulletin 133: 717-733.

Adam, T. C., A. Duran, C. E. Fuchs, M. V. Roycroft*, M. Rojas, B. I. Ruttenberg, D. E. Burkepile. 2018. Comparative analysis of diet, foraging behavior and bite mechanics reveals complex functional diversity among Caribbean parrotfishes. Marine Ecology Progress Series 597: 207-220.

Ruttenberg, B. I., J. E. Caselle, A. E. Estep, A. E. Johnson, K. L. Marhaver, L. J. Richter, S. A. Sandin, M. J. A. Vermeij, J. E. Smith, D. Grenda, and A. Cannon*. 2018. Ecological assessment of the marine ecosystems of Barbuda, West Indies: Using rapid scientific assessment to inform ocean zoning and fisheries management. PLoS ONE. e0189355.

Meyers-Cherry, N. L.*, R. Nakamura, B. I. Ruttenberg, and D. E. Wendt. 2016. Spatial and temporal comparisons of gopher rockfish (Sebastes carnatus) life history and condition in south-central California. CalCOFI Reports 57: 1-8

Adam, T. C., Kelley, M., B. I. Ruttenberg, and D. E. Burkepile. 2015. Resource partitioning along multiple niche axes drives functional diversity in parrotfishes on Caribbean coral reefs. Oecologia 179: 1173-1185. doi: 10.1007/s00442-015-3406-3

Adam, T. C., D. E. Burkepile, B. I. Ruttenberg, and M. J. Paddack. 2015. Herbivory and the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs: knowledge gaps and implications for management. Marine Ecology Progress Series 520: 1-20. doi:10.3354/meps11170

Ruttenberg, B. I. and S. E. Lester. 2015. “Patterns and processes in geographic range size in coral reef fishes.” In Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs. C. Mora, ed. Academic Press, pp. 97-103.

Ault, J. S., S. G. Smith, J. A. Bohnsack, J. Luo, N. Zurcher, D. B. McClellan, T. A. Ziegler, D. E. Hallac, M. Patterson, M. W. Feeley, B. I. Ruttenberg, J. Hunt, D. Kimball, and B. Causey. 2013. Assessing coral reef fish population and community changes in response to marine reserves in the Dry Tortugas, Florida USA. Fisheries Research 144: 28-37. doi:

Ruttenberg, B. I., P. J. Schofield, J. L. Akins, A. Acosta, M. W. Feeley, J. Blondeau, S. G. Smith and J. S. Ault. 2012. Rapid invasion of Indo Pacific lionfishes (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) in the Florida Keys, USA: evidence from multiple pre- and post-invasion datasets. Bulletin of Marine Science. 88: 1051-1059. doi:

Brandt, M. E., B. I. Ruttenberg, W. J. Miller, R. Waara, B. Witcher, A. J. Estep, and M. E. Patterson. 2012. Dynamics of an acute coral disease outbreak associated with the macroalgae Dictyota spp. in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA. Bulletin of Marine Science 88. doi:

Walsh, S. M., S. L. Hamilton, B. I. Ruttenberg, M. K. Donovan, and S. A. Sandin. 2012. Fishing top predators indirectly affects condition and reproduction in a reef-fish community. Journal of Fish Biology 80: 519-537. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-8649.2011.03209.x

Ruttenberg, B. I., S. L. Hamilton, S. M. Walsh, M. K. Donovan, A. Freidlander, E. DeMartini, E. Sala, and S. A. Sandin. 2011. Demographic shifts in coral reef fish communities across a gradient of human disturbance. PLoS One 6(6): e21062. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021062

Ruttenberg, B. I. and E. F. Granek. 2011. Bridging the marine-terrestrial disconnect in coastal zone science and management. Marine Ecology Progress Series 434:203-212.

Lester, S. E., B. S. Halpern, K. Grorud-Colvert, J. Lubchenco, B. I. Ruttenberg, S. D. Gaines, S. Airamé, and R. R. Warner. 2009. Biological effects within no-take marine reserves: a global synthesis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 384: 33-46.

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