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April, 2006


Science Community Boils Over As Marine Lab Sinks
By Shiva Das

College of Marin Echo Times
Issue date: 3/10/06 Section: News
After over 45 years of off and on use, College of Marin's Marine Biology Lab at Bolinas Lagoon is closing its doors for the last time. A crowd gathered on Saturday February 11, the day before the official closing, to protest the lab's demise.
"Places like this are a conduit, they foster the ability to change students' lives," said Biology teacher Joe Mueller. "The ability to be out here living it, breathing the salt air, you can't get this behind four walls in a classroom."

Mueller, an instructor at COM since 1989, began teaching Marine Biology classes at the Bolinas lab in 1995, and was denied access this semester as the administration decided to discontinue the program.

A survey, conducted by the Swinerton Management and the administration in preparation for the Measure C renovation alleges that the facility is unsafe.

Cited in the report as a reason to close the lab are the results from the Main House Microbial and Mold sampling. The report states that the house might contain elevated spore counts in both the ambient air as well as inside the walls.

Jamie Deneris, Microbiology professor at COM disagrees with the nature of the findings. The "post abatement ambient air samplings showed spore counts indicative of normal indoor fungal conditions," she said. "The wall cavity samplings continued to show elevated spore counts." Deneris, holds a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Molds need damp places to multiply, you bleach it and you dry it out, you've solved the mold problem. But is that a reason to panic and tear the place down?

Heating is allegedly a point of contention between Mueller and the administration. Mueller says that the COM administration has been "starving the program." As an example he cites the heating. "I put a work order in for a heater ten years ago, and we still don't have it.

"And it is not that we don't have the money. There is [approximately] $160,000 in endowment money, and that's one of the reasons we have mold."

The report also says "The House, Laboratory, and Shed all have structural and non- structural seismic deficiencies and pose a life-safety threat in a major earthquake". COM's communications director, Andrew Carothers, adds "[the facility] is in a tsunami zone as well as being directly on a fault. The burden of proof lay with the college to prove that the facility is not on a fault," said Carothers.

Geology professor Don Foss says "There is always a tsunami danger to a marine biology lab, that's what makes it a marine biology lab. Where do you want the thing, Kansas?" He further adds "There is nothing safe in the California coast range from seismic events, but she [the facility] stood up in the 1906 Earthquake, the 1989 earthquake, and everything in between."

Carothers says "There is a task force being spearheaded by Dr. Alissa Arp of the San Francisco State University Marine Institute, and Margaret Elliot of the College of Marin Foundation to determine the future of the lab."

In a previous interview, Student Trustee Austin Smith was quoted as saying "It is my feeling that some of the trustees and the administration would like to reopen the lab but it may not be financially viable for a number of reasons." And although there is $60,0000 dollars earmarked for the renovation in Bolinas, with the findings of Swinerton, the outlook is bleak.

Echo Times

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