Moss Landing Interim Director’s bequest recognizes life-long history with MLML and San José State

Jim HarveyA lot has changed since Jim Harvey first stepped foot on the campus of San José State. He earned a Ph.D. and helped rescue a few gray whales. He found the job of his dreams and became the interim director of a leading marine research lab. He’s married, mentored more than 75 graduate students and—perhaps most noticeable—he’s grown a couple feet taller.

Few people can claim a deeper association with SJSU than Harvey. His father was a professor in the College of Science and Harvey grew up in a home that valued science. Harvey remembers coming to campus as a child and taking trips with his father to do research on giant sequoias in the Sierra and marsh restoration in San Francisco Bay. Later, Harvey would become an alumnus when he attended San José State as an undergraduate.

Now, Harvey is a professor and Interim Director of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. If you’ve driven down the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California, you’ve probably cruised past the marine research consortium’s headquarters, which is operated by the CSU and administered through San José State. The facility is located in Moss Landing, Calif., and offers a well-regarded graduate program in marine science.

Recently, Harvey and his wife decided to bequeath a portion of their estate to Moss Landing through San José State. It was a decision that grew from their deep connection to the lab and the confidence that their gift would go to good use. 

“Moss Landing has been an important part of my life. I’ve spent most of my career here,” Harvey said. “I know the culture of this place, and I know that our gift is going to have a lasting effect.”

Jim Harvey Seated

In 1988, Harvey was a postdoctoral fellow when he was tapped to be part of a team of scientists involved in the rescue of three gray whales trapped underneath the ice near Barrow, Alaska. Rescue team members Mark Fraker (left, oil company), NOAA’s Dave Withrow (center) and Jim Harvey (right, seated). (photo: Dave Withrow, NMML, NOAA)

Moss Landing is unlike other marine research labs because faculty members are expected to both teach and engage in research—frequently at the same time. Moss Landing is known for a hands-on, field-oriented approach, which places students, faculty, researchers and staff at the frontiers of marine science.

“We have an interesting blend of research and teaching that means our master’s students get experience beyond what’s normally available to students at their level, Harvey said. “As a result, our students compete really well in the field after graduation.”

Harvey himself is a graduate of the Moss Landing program. He first came to the MLML as an undergraduate student and later returned to earn his master’s degree in 1979. After earning his Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University, Harvey returned to teach at the facility in 1989. For more than 20 years, he’s mentored and taught graduate students and worked on research projects focused on marine mammals, birds and turtles.  If that wasn’t enough to cement Harvey’s connection to the marine lab, he also met his wife—herself a marine scientist—at Moss Landing. 

Surprisingly, Harvey’s best fish story though has nothing to do with either the MLML or San José State.  In 1988, Harvey was a postdoctoral fellow when he was tapped to be part of a team of scientists involved in the rescue of three gray whales trapped underneath the ice near Barrow, Alaska. The tale was dramatized in a movie called Big Miracle released by Universal Studios earlier this year. You can read a detailed interview with Harvey about the rescue over here.

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