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Angeles Alvariño: 1916—: Marine Biologist, Oceanographer

Joined The Swfsc

In 1970 Alvariño accepted a position as a fishery research biologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), a division of the newly formed National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). Alvariño's research focused on the geographic distribution and ecology of zooplankton, especially the distribution of chaeognath and siphonophore species in the Pacific and Antarctic Oceans and on the relationships between zooplankton and the ocean environment. She examined the effects of plankton predation on fish larvae survival and the impact on fisheries and the biotic environment of fish spawning grounds. She identified zooplankton that are indicator species, based on their associations with specific ocean currents and other forms of ocean dynamics or with other types of organisms, such as spawning fish, eggs, and larvae. She also studied the artificial transport of plankton into new areas of the ocean, via pollution and ship bilge tanks, and the effects of these exotic organisms on the biotic environment.

Between 1977 and 1979 Alvariño coordinated oceanic research for Hispano-American countries. She held Antarctic research grants between 1979 and 1982 and grants from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Alvariño directed doctoral theses candidates at various universities in the western hemisphere and served on thesis committees in the United States and abroad. Her concurrent university appointments included associate professorships at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1976, San Diego State University between 1979 and 1982, and at the University of San Diego between 1982 and 1984. She held visiting professorships at the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil in 1982 and at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico between 1982 and 1986.

Alvariño has published more than 100 original scientific books, book chapters, and journal articles. On July 23, 1993, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia of Spain awarded her the Great Silver Medal of Galicia. She is an emeritus fellow of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists and a fellow of the San Diego Society of Natural History. She is a member of the Biological Society of Washington and the Hispano-American Association of Researchers on Marine Sciences. In addition to Spanish and English, Alvariño is fluent in French and Portuguese and speaks some German. A lover of art, classical music, and literature, Alvariño and her husband, a retired naval captain, have one daughter, Angeles Leira Alvariño, who is an architect and city planner.

Angeles Alvariño has continued her scientific work on plankton and other subjects since her official retirement from the SWFSC as an emeritus scientist in 1987. The first woman scientist to work on a British research vessel, she has continued to participate in expeditions on the research vessels of various countries. In recent years Alvariño has conducted historical research focusing on early oceanography, including the explorations of Spanish navigators who discovered the oceans of the world and the main oceanic currents and the First Scientific Oceanic Expedition that sailed the western Atlantic Ocean and all of the Pacific Ocean between 1789 and 1794. In 2000 she published an account of this expedition. A second edition of this work, with additional illustrations in full color, is forthcoming. She also has prepared English and Spanish manuscripts on the scientific study of 100 species of animals, including plankton, mollusks, turtles, fish, and birds, that were collected from the western South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and illustrated in color, during the expedition.

Selected writings

Books and reports

Distributional Atlas of Chaetognatha in the California Current Region During the CALCOFI Monthly Cruises of 1954 and 1958, California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations, 1965.

The Chaetognatha of the NAGA Expedition (1959-1961) in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1967.

Atlantic Chaetognatha. Distribution and Essential Notes of Systematics, Travaux Spanish Institute of Oceanography, 1969.
Siphonophores of the Pacific with a Revision of the World Distribution, University of California Press, 1971.
The Relation Between the Distribution of Zooplankton Predators and Engraulis Mordax Larvae (Anchovy), California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations Reports, 1980.

(With S. C. Hosmer and R. F. Ford) Antarctic Chaetognatha: United States Antarctic Research Program, ELTANIN Cruises 8-28, American Geophysical Union, 1983.

(With D. F. Verfaillie and R. F. Ford) Antarctic Chaetognatha: United States Antarctic Research Program, ELTANIN Cruises 10-23, 25 and 27, American Geophysical Union, 1983.

(With Joan M. Wojtan and M. Rachel Martinez) Antarctic Siphonophores from the Plankton Samples of the United States Antarctic Research Program, ELTANIN Cruises from Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter (Cruises 3-4, 6-23, 25-28, 30, 35 and 38), American Geophysical Union, 1990.

Spain and the First Scientific Oceanic Expedition (1789-1794). Malaspina and Bustamante with the Corvettes DESCUBIERTA and ATREVIDA, (in Spanish) 2000.

Book chapters

"Chaetognatha," in Oceanography and Marine Biology: Annual Review, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1965.

"Chaetognatha. Oogenesis, Ovoposition, and Oosorption," in Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 1, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1983.

"Chaetognatha. Spermatogenesis and Sperm Function," in Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 2, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1983.

"Fertilization, Development and Parental Care in Chaetognatha," in Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 4, Oxford & IBH Publishing, 1990.

"Sexual Differentiation and Behavior in Chaetognatha. Hermaphroditism," in Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 5, Oxford & IBH Publishing, 1990.

"Asexual Propagation and Reproductive Strategies in Chaetognatha," in Reproductive Biology of Invertebrates, Vol. 6, Oxford & IBH Publishing, 1991.


"Two New Pacific Chaetognaths: Their Distribution and Relationship to Allied Species," Bulletin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1962.

"Egg Pouches and Other Reproductive Structures in Pelagic Chaetognatha," Pacific Science, 1968.

"Distribution of Siphonophores in the Regions Adjacent to the Suez and Panama Canals," U.S. Fishery Bulletin, 1974.

"The Importance of the Indian Ocean as Origin of Species and Biological Link Uniting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans," Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 1974.

"The Depth Distribution, Relative Abundance and Structure of the Population of the Chaetognatha Sagitta scrippsae Alvariño 1962, in the California Current off California and Baja California," Anales Indtituto Ciencias del Mar y Limnologia, 1983.

"Pandea cybeles a New Medusa from the Sargasso Sea," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 1987.

"Abundance of Zooplankton Species, Females and Males, Eggs and Larvae of Holoplanktonic Species. Zooplankton Assemblages and Changes in the Zooplankton Communities Related to Engraulis mordax Spawning and Survival of the Larvae," Memoirs III Encontro Brasileiro de Plancton, 1989.

"Hydromedusae: Daylight and Night and Seasonal Bathymetric Abundance off California and Baja California, and Study of the Species in the Eastern Pacific and Other Regions," Revista de Biología Marina y Oceanografía, 1999.



"From Johah To NOAA: Women in the Fisheries Profession," Women in Natural Resources Magazine, www.womentechworld.org/bios/fisheries/articles/women.htm (May 13, 2003).


Information for this profile was obtained through personal communications between Dr. Alvariño and Contemporary Hispanic Biography in February, 2003.

—Margaret Alic

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: (Hugo) Alvar (Henrik) Aalto (1898–1976) Biography to Miguel Angel Asturias (1899–1974) BiographyAngeles Alvariño: 1916—: Marine Biologist, Oceanographer Biography - Dreamed Of Becoming A Doctor, Became Zooplankton Expert, Joined The Swfsc