Ballona Institute
Los Angeles, California
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Wesley Roswell Coe, California Oysters, and Ballona Bay Estuary:
Nearly Forgotten Marine Invertebrate Zoologist
of the
Los Angeles Region and Southern California


by
Robert "Roy" van de Hoek
Biogeographer, Environmental Historian, and Conservation Biologist
Ballona Institute

roy@naturespeace.org
roy@ballonainstitute.org

December 17, 2009

Wesley Roswell Coe was a marine biologist and zoologist of the eastern United States in New England, at Yale University in Connecticut. He retired in the 1920s, and moved to the Los Angeles region of southern California. He was associated with Scripps Institute of Oceanography near La Jolla, California.

Early in his career, while at Yale University, Wesley Coe wrote a definitive book on the seastars of Connecticut and New England, entitled Echinoderms of Connecticut, nearly 100 years ago.

Almost immediately, he began to study the native California Oyster and our native California Mussel. In fact, he coined the term "California Oyster" in the 1930s, even though some marine biologists still insist today to call it the "Native Oyster" or "Pacific Oyster" or "Olympia Oyster" in their books. At least one marine biologist and expert on shells (malacologist), named Percy Morris, an expert on marine mollusca (snails, clams, oysters etc.), listed our oyster of the Pacific coast, by the same name that Wesley Coe used, namely "California Oyster" in both editions his Field guide to Pacific Coast Shells, published by Roger Tory Peterson and the National Audubon Society.

Wesley Coe knew Joel Hedgpeth, the dean of Marine Biology in California and the United States. And Joel Hedgpeth acknowledged Wesley Coe, in the fourth edition of Rickett's Between Pacific Tides.

Additional biographical information about Wesley Coe will be added to this brief biography of an important marine biologist and zoologist of the Los Angeles Region in the future, so stay tuned and check this web page again. The Ballona Institute has acquired all of the scientific articles written by Wesley Coe on the California Oyster and Mussels. The Ballona Institute also has an interesting article on marine life that was co-authored by Wesley Coe, with the distinguished marine biologist of the California Department of Fish & Game, namely John Fitch. If you have an interesting story or knowledge about John Fitch, Joel Hedgpeth, and Wesley Coe, we would be interested to hear from you.

Long live the California Oyster in Los Angeles, in places such as Marina Del Rey and the Ballona Creek Estuary, where they are at risk of extinction, but still holding on to an existence on the jetties, sea walls, pilings, and dead seashells embedded in the sandy mudflats.