Conceptual roots: PISCO was founded on an appreciation that coastal ecosystems are extraordinarily rich and complex environments that are economically, socially, and environmentally precious. PISCO has its roots in the early 1980s when marine ecologists grew increasingly aware of the role larval supply can play in structuring marine communities. To fully understand how diverse marine ecosystems are maintained, ecologists needed to understand more than the local interactions between organisms, they needed to understand how populations are connected and replenished by the influx of young. Another initial motivation for PISCO was to go beyond site-specific studies with relatively short time frames so that scientists could have large-scale, long-term information to assess ecosystem responses to climate cycles such as Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and bring this information to managers and policy makers who require this information for wise planning.
The resulting program: Over the past decade, PISCO has refined and expanded its interdisciplinary research program to integrate oceanography, marine ecology, molecular physiology, biomechanics, and genetics. The initial years of PISCO (PISCO I, 1999-2004) were a test-bed for developing standard methods of measurement along the west coast and instituting the science, policy, and outreach necessary to lay the groundwork for PISCO achievements. The following five years (PISCO II, 2005-2009) saw a focus on full integration across disciplines, deployment of the data management systems, and increased applications of this work to policy and management questions. Strong, collaborative partnerships allowed PISCO to better integrate with state and federal agencies and other programs. With human-induced climate change and other activities influencing ecosystems, the value of PISCO’s long-term data sets and integrated scientific exploration is growing. In 2008, the consortium initiated an ambitious strategic planning project to chart future years. Exciting research programs and a broadened spectrum of partnerships are resulting from this planning process.