The California Current

A Pacific Ecosystem and Its Fliers, Divers, and Swimmers

By Stan Ulanski

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 26 halftones, 3 figs., 3 maps, 2 tables, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5470-6
    Published: August 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2824-0
    Published: April 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2825-7
    Published: February 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4819-2
    Published: February 2016

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The California Current--part of the large, swirling North Pacific gyre--flows slowly southward along the west coast of North America, stretching nearly 2,000 miles from southern British Columbia to the tip of Baja California in Mexico. To a casual observer standing on the shore, the vast current betrays no discernible signs, yet life abounds just over the horizon. Stan Ulanski takes us into the water on a journey through this magnificent, unique marine ecosystem, illuminating the scientific and biological marvels and the astonishing array of flora and fauna streaming along our Pacific coast.

The waters of the California Current yield a complex broth of planktonic organisms that form the base of an elaborate food web that many naturalists have compared to the species-rich Serengeti ecosystem of Africa. Every year, turtles, seals, fish, and seabirds travel great distances to feast in the current's distinct biological oases and feeding sites. Apex predators, such as the California gray whale, humpback whale, salmon shark, and bluefin tuna, undertake extensive north-south migrations within the current to find enough to eat. The California Current energizes us to celebrate and protect a marine ecosystem integral to the myriad fisheries, coastal communities, and cultures of the Pacific coast.

About the Author

Stan Ulanski, professor of geology and environmental science at James Madison University, is the author of The Gulf Stream: Tiny Plankton, Giant Bluefin, and the Amazing Story of the Powerful River in the Atlantic and Fishing North Carolina's Outer Banks: The Complete Guide to Catching More Fish from Surf, Pier, Sound, and Ocean.
For more information about Stan Ulanski, visit the Author Page.


“Spend several hours with this accessible, engaging book and emerge with a deeper understanding of these amazing animals, their life cycles, adaptations, interdependencies, food webs, and migratory patterns. At the same time, appreciate the important conservation research and work underway to help preserve these magnificent creatures for generations to come.”--Foreword Reviews

“Introduces lay readers to a wide range of natural history anecdotes, ecological concepts, history, and resource or habitat management challenges. Recommended.”--CHOICE

“Ulanski develops a compelling narrative about the California Current pelagic ecosystem, emphasizing the finned, flippered, fluked, and flighted denizens, which cannot help but draw in readers.”--Quarterly Review of Biology

"Stan Ulanski's unique and illuminating book on the California current treats this ocean system as an integrated whole, providing a sound scientific foundation for understanding it. Ulanski’s integrated and inclusive approach will prove illuminating for a wide audience of readers, including both lay readers and professionals--all who must ultimately decide upon the survivability of this planet."--Michael Garstang, author of Elephant Sense and Sensibility

"I enjoyed reading this book, and I especially liked the historical context. There were a lot of things that I wasn't aware of that now make more sense!"--Daniel P. Costa, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz