Feature image courtesy of Robin Fales

College of Science honors Professor Jayson Smith with the Ralph W. Ames Distinguished Research Award

By Emely Bonilla, Nov. 01, 2022

On Thursday November 3 Cal Poly Pomona Professor Jayson Smith will be receiving the Ralph W. Ames Distinguished Research Award from the College of Science for his research in marine conversation.

The award is an honor presented to faculty members once a year who have a strong focus for research and have established themselves within the Cal Poly Pomona science community. Smith, an ecologist with a focus in marine conversation, hopes to help provide insight on how coastal ecosystems are impacted by human activity.

“My personal passions are really about the environment, especially in regard to the ocean. I have spent a lot of my work time near the ocean, but I’ve also spent a lot of personal time snorkeling and diving,” said Smith. “The ocean has always been a passion of mine; I am extremely lucky I get to work in a place I love to be at.”

Smith shared how he is currently working on a collaborative project called the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network where many researchers and organizations work with the same methods on individual projects to monitor rocky intertidal coasts and then share data into a database. These numbers allow for all participating researchers to view data that reflects long term changes from various geographical locations.

The second project Smith is working on is based on rockweed restoration, a type of seaweed that is important to the intertidal zones because it provides habitat for multiple marine species. The rockweed has been in decline for decades now, so Smith and his lab students work towards reinstating the seaweed where it is needed.

Smith works closely with both undergraduate and graduate students within his lab and feels that these mentees play a huge role in his research.

Feature image courtesy of Claire Arre

“I strive to give the undergraduate and graduate students the experience to make them the next biologist and ecologist in the field,” said Smith. “I believe CPP has an excellent pool of students and I’ve been extremely impressed with a lot of students I work with.”

Robin Fales, a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington and CPP alumni, worked closely with Smith throughout her graduate program. As a student Fales worked under Smith and collaborated on her thesis where she studied long term change in “Pelvetiopsis californica,” a rare species of rockweed.

“Working in Dr. Smith’s lab gave me the freedom to ask the questions that I was interested in, I was given a lot of freedom to explore my own interests in rockweeds that were understudied. His guidance as a mentor really helped me figure out that this interest was even available as a career option,” said Fales. “I am a first-generation student and the first in my family to do any graduate school and I am now working on my PhD. His guidance was pivotal in that. I felt well supported and encouraged, working with him was a really great experience.”

Smith continues to act as a mentor to students like Fales who have already finished their master programs and obtained their degrees. Fales shared how Smith continued to support her and even bylined her own research paper.

“Jay helped me develop the work I had led and primarily done myself. He helped me with my ideas, what questions I wanted to ask and helped me think of methods that would help me address those questions,” said Fales.

According to current graduate and Marine Restoration Director for Orange County Coastkeeper Claire Arre, Smith continues to help his mentees understand the importance of research and why it is a necessary field to pursue.

Feature image courtesy of Claire Arre

“He really takes young scientists and inspires them. He makes us think critically and really highlights the fact that there are still so many questions to be answered and you as a student have the power to study them and get those answers,” said Arre.

The Ralph W. Ames Distinguished Research Award reflects Smith’s devotion towards keeping the species of coastal regions safe, his ability to be both a friend and a mentor to the students in his labs and his future endeavors in research.

For more information on the Ralph W. Ames Distinguished Research Award and Professor Jayson Smith’s research visit the College of Science website.

Feature image courtesy of Robin Fales

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