Benjamin Ruttenberg

Benjamin Ruttenberg

Contact Information

Assistant Professor

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

For Prospective Graduate Students:


Current opportunities - 

Masters opportunity in parrotfish corallivory in US Caribbean

Masters opportunity in Pismo clam population  dynamics and recovery

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 also attach a short CV that includes GPA, GREs (if relevant), and any specific skills or certifications you have (e.g. otolith processing, AAUS Scuba certification, small boat experience/certification, etc.).


Research Interests:


My research interests fall into several broad categories within marine conservation and marine ecology. These include patterns and drivers of ecological and life-history variation over large scales (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:

  • Processes of herbivory and corallivory in the Caribbean. Parrotfish feed on algae that compete with corals, thereby indirectly benefitting corals, but some parrotfish will occasionally feed directly on live corals. We seek to understand the feeding preferences of different parrotfish species, how these preferences might influence corals, and how might 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.
  • 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. In recent decades, the abundance of Pismo clams have declined across California. We are describing spatial patterns of abundance, and future work will begin to test the importance of a variety of potential limiting factors. 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.
  • 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.




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:


Assistant Professor of Biology, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2013-Present
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 24 total):


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


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.

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.

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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