News @ the Beach

Are Snails Sexier Than Worms?

Are snails sexier than worms? CSULB’s Bruno Pernet thinks so and he should know—his research involves both.

“Snails are a step up for me,” chuckled the biological sciences’ professor. “I also work on worms, and snails are way sexier than worms.”

Beginning his 11th year on campus, Pernet works with invertebrate animals which, according to him, include just about anything that moves.


Bruno Pernet

“The only non-invertebrate animals are the vertebrates, like fishes and lizards and humans,” said Pernet. “There are something like a million described species of animals, and all but about 60,000 or so are invertebrates.”

Pernet, whose work focuses on the tiny embryos and larvae of invertebrates, finds the research to be not only interesting, but important work as well, particularly when it comes to marine reserves. While small in size, understanding snails has monumental effects on how we manage our coast’s natural resources.

“If we want to understand how a marine reserve works we need to understand how individual animals move in and out of reserves,” he said. “For many marine invertebrates the adults just sit on the bottom all the time, and the life stage that moves from site to site is the larvae that are up in the water column.

“How long those larvae spend up in the water column—which is determined, in part, by if and how they catch food particles—has a huge effect how far they move between sites. That’s important for the design of marine reserves,” he added. “How do you decide where on the coast you put reserves? Say you can establish five reserves. Where do you put them? How do you space them? To answer those kinds of questions, we need to know how larvae work, how long they spend drifting in ocean currents and how far they move while up in the water column.”

Pernet’s keen interest in inverterbrate animals grabbed hold at Cal State Stanislaus where he took invertebrate biology courses before going on to graduate school at the University of Washington (UW).

“I was generally interested in invertebrates, and at UW there were a ton of people who focused on the development of marine animals and the biology of their larvae and so I got interested in that and have been doing it ever since,” he said. “They’re really beautiful animals to look at.”

Since there are so many invertebrates, however, Pernet chose to focus on animals that undergo a particular kind of early development called spiral cleavage, where the cells tend to behave in the same manner. Those embryos, however, develop and give rise to animals that look really different from each other.

“So, for example, imagine a segmented worm (one of the many marine relatives of earthworms) and a snail. They don’t look anything alike as adults, but as embryos they’re indistinguishable,” said Pernet. “That’s the group I’m interested in, mostly because there is a huge amount that’s unknown about how their embryos and larvae work.”

When thinking of endangered species, snails do not usually come to mind, nor do any of the other animals Pernet and his students generally work with. But there is a concern for certain species.

“There are several species of abalone in Southern California whose populations are incredibly small right now largely because of overfishing, but also because of disease,” said Pernet. “For example, black abalone are now extremely rare in the Southern California intertidal zone, but they used to be incredibly common, and, until about the 1970s, were harvested for food. They, as well as some other West Coast snails like white abalone, are listed as an endangered species.”

The concern is so great, according to Pernet, that research is taking place along the West Coast on how to restore abalone populations. For the white abalone in particular, there are scientists trying to breed abalone and rear their larvae in captivity so they can release juveniles back into the wild in an effort to increase the population.

“Whether or not populations of that species actually survive probably depends quite a bit on the success of that (captive breeding),” he said. “Because their populations are so low right now, it’s actually hard for the few remaining adults to find a mate because they are so sparse. Adult snails don’t move around much, and because they are so sparse, it’s hard for a male to find a female, so in the wild it seems like breeding is going to be a problem.”

Since Pernet and his students work on these very tiny embryos and larvae, most of their work is done in the lab. Still, there is a need for field trips to collect the adults that produce the embryos they work on, so they venture out to nearby sites such as the Palos Verdes Peninsula or Alamitos Bay, where the floating docks are a great source of animals.

“Lots of interesting snails and worms live on those docks,” said Pernet. “One good thing about Cal State Long Beach is that there is a huge diversity of animals really close to campus, so I’m really well positioned for the kind of work I’m interested in. I can actually stop by a field site on my way into work and pick up animals to work on that day.”

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Alumna Named 2015 California Teacher of the Year

Amy Laughlin, an alumna of California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and a teacher at Hansen School in Anaheim, has been named a 2015 California Teacher of the Year by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.  She was among five outstanding educators selected as a 2015 California Teacher of the Year.

Amy Laughlin photo

Amy Laughlin

Laughlin has been teaching for 16 years, 13 of them at Hansen School—and the last six as a Title I Intervention Specialist there. In her role she ensures that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. Her class, called Husky Time, is an intensive reading intervention program she created for struggling students in all grade levels.

“I am honored to receive this award.  I share this with the colleagues I collaborate with and the thousands of hard-working California teachers who are just as passionate about making a difference as I am. The courses I took at CSULB surrounded me with inspirational teachers and motivating peers who influenced me to fight for what I stand for,” said Laughlin.  “The education I received at Long Beach sharpened my skills in teaching, learning and leading, which I will forever be grateful for.”

Hansen School is part of the Savanna School District, whose Superintendent Sue Johnson calls Laughlin a “dynamic educator who has a desire to enhance teaching and learning with a heart for and dedication to the children she serves.”

“Amy Laughlin is one of our shining stars in the Education Administration program. As coordinator, I have had many opportunities to observe Amy display remarkable insight involving key and crucial issues that challenge educators on a daily basis. Amy is truly a leader among leaders and inspires everyone with whom she collaborates. We are beyond proud of her accomplishments and know she will continue to make a significant difference in the lives of countless children,” said James Scott, distinguished faculty in residence and coordinator of the M.A. Education Administration/Preliminary Administrative Services Credential Faculty Doctoral Program.

“It is an honor to recognize these five incredibly dedicated teachers who devote their energy, passion and creativity to helping all their students achieve inside and outside the classroom,” Torlakson said. “These teachers have made a huge difference in their students’ lives.”

Traditional education does not always work for her students so Laughlin must offer something different. She nurtures confidence and instills a sense of pride and self-worth into children who may have felt alone and unworthy. She calls herself their biggest cheerleader, “and they are my heroes.” It is her job, she stresses, to ensure every child succeeds. “Whether it is the child who has fallen so far behind that the teacher is at a loss on how to help, or the child who may be academically proficient yet inwardly battles social and emotional conflict,” she said.

“Simply put,” writes Shannon D. Wyatt, principal of Hansen School, “Amy Laughlin is the most amazing educator I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Amy’s greatest strength is her ability to motivate and build relationships with students.”

Laughlin also earned the 2015 Orange County and Savanna School District Teacher of the Year awards. Laughlin earned an Administrative Services Credential in 2013 at CSULB and a master of arts in curriculum and instruction in middle school education at California State University, San Bernardino. She also earned a B.S. in elementary education from Illinois State University. Prior to Hansen, she taught at Cahuilla Elementary School in Palm Springs.

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Enders Nationally Recognized for Visionary Leadership in Student Success

Thomas Enders, associate vice president of Enrollment Services at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), has been nationally recognized for his efforts to improve retention and graduation rates. He was recently presented with the Visionary Leadership Award from the Education Advisory Board (EAB), one of the largest providers of research, technology and consulting services to college and universities nationwide.

tom enders picture

Thomas Enders

The Visionary Leadership Award specifically honors his efforts to provide advising staff with technology that lets them easily identify which students are struggling academically and orchestrate informed interventions with at-risk students.

“At Cal State Long Beach we are all committed to student success. What Tom Enders has done to help improve graduation and retention rates is outstanding. We are proud that he and the university have received this national recognition for our growing success in this very important effort,” said David Dowell, CSULB provost.

Enders, who has been with the university since 1996, oversees many of the units involved in enrollment management, including admissions, student records and graduation evaluations. He has played a critical role in implementing the university’s ambitious eAdvising initiative, which helps students and advisors create academic plans and schedules that better allow students to make timely progress to degree.

Enders’ leadership builds on a long history of student success improvement at CSULB. In the past five years, first-time freshman six-year graduation rates increased by more than 20 percent.

“By transforming the use of data at Cal State Long Beach, Tom is having a real impact on student success,” said Scott Schirmeier, executive vice president at EAB. “He is an advocate for advisors and a leader among his peers.  He continues to make sure advisors have the tools they need to keep more students in school and he consistently shares best practices with other members of the Student Success Collaborative so they can learn from his success. We are excited to honor him with a Visionary Leadership Award – it is a well-deserved recognition.”

CSULB was among three universities selected from more than 120 nationwide to receive 2014 Student Success Collaborative Awards.  The other two universities honored were Purdue University Calumet and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  The awards recognize institutions and leaders who are improving student outcomes by using data and analytics to predict which students are more likely to drop out and proactively intervening with students at risk.

“These institutions have shown national leadership in strategically supporting students through the use of data.  Academic advisors at these schools are helping students stay on a path to success by intervening before there’s a problem – and getting students the resources they need to graduate,” Schirmeier said.  “Students and schools both win when institutions get access to data that elevate the art of advising.”

Since its launch in 2007, the EAB, through its innovative membership model, has partnered with academic and administrative leaders at more than 700 institutions, helping them solve their most pressing problems.  EAB is a division of the Advisory Board Company. For more information, visit

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Former Presidential Speechwriter and Prolific Author Receiving National Awards

Craig Smith, a former presidential speechwriter and prolific author is the recipient of two prestigious national awards. The director of CSULB’s Center for First Amendment Studies will be presented the pair of awards at the National Communication Association’s (NCA) 100th annual convention in Chicago, Nov. 20-23.

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

Smith, who is a professor of Communication Studies and founder of the Center for First Amendment Studies at CSULB, will receive the Bruce Gronbeck Award, given to those whose work has interpreted or addressed theoretical-conceptual, historical and critical-culture issues of political communication. And, for the third time, he will receive the Robert O’Neil Award, given for outstanding scholarship on First Amendment issues.

“I knew Bruce for a long time since both of us were in political communication,” said Smith, noting that Gronbeck’s last Facebook posting before his passing on Sept. 10 was congratulating him on the award. “There was a call for nominations and I was nominated by several professors. It’s a nice award. Bruce has published a lot of articles and books on political communication and I think that’s why the National Communication Association decided to honor him by naming this particular award after him.”

The O’Neil award comes from the Freedom of Expression Division of the NCA.

“I wrote the award-winning paper with my center’s research director Professor Kevin Johnson, who was once a student of mine here,” said Smith. “So I am doubly proud of that award.”

Smith has been honored a number of times throughout his career, including being named the Outstanding Professor on the campus in 2000 and earned a similar title from the National Speakers Association in 1997. He has also received campus awards for Distinguished Teaching in 1997 and Distinguished Scholarship in 1994.

Also, Smith has served as a consultant to CBS News for convention, election night and inaugural coverage. He was a full-time speechwriter for President Gerald Ford and Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and served as a consultant to President George H.W. Bush and Gov. Pete Wilson, among others.

A prolific writer, Smith has authored 18 books and more than 60 scholarly articles and book chapters. A couple of his most recent works include Confessions of a Presidential Speechwriter and Herod from Hell: Confessions and Reminiscences. Currently, he is working on a scholarly article on romantic rhetoric.

“The Romantic poets, in reaction to the Enlightenment, which they thought depended too much on reason and science, then also revolting against the Industrial Revolution, return to nature and there’s a whole set of tenets of that movement I want to bring to rhetorical theory,” he said. “The emphasis is on narrative storytelling and folklore and emphasis on nature and the beauty of nature and an emphasis on nationalism and indigenous nationalism in particular. So I want to revive that whole theory from the Romantic poets and apply it to persuasion.”

Some of Smith’s studies on the First Amendment include A First Amendment Profile of the Supreme Court (John Cabot University Press, 2011), Freedom of Expression and Partisan Politics (University of South Carolina Press), Silencing the Opposition: Government Strategies of Suppression (State University of New York Press, 2nd ed. 2011) and The Four Freedoms of the First Amendment (Waveland, 2004). He regularly publishes editorials in such prestigious newspaper as the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

“You begin your career by writing a lot of articles and books and you end your career, if you’re lucky like me, getting a lot of awards,” said Smith. “I’m not one to just sit around, I’ve never been able to do that. I have to be learning, reading or writing.”

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