Monday, June 30, 2014

Where's Dan? What happened to last week's answer?

No, I didn't just fall off the face of the earth, and no, the secret cabal that is installing traffic cameras didn't get me in the middle of the night.  

The explanation is much simpler:  I got busy.  

The details are interesting, though.  

As regular readers might remember, each year in late June I attend the "Investigative Reporters and Editors" conference.  This year it was in San Francisco, so it was nearby.  I had to go!  

But Monday through Thursday I was at a different conference, which set me back (in terms of getting my work done), so I had to prep for my IRE talk.  

The good news is that the talk went very well.  My room held around 200 people, and it was standing-room only (with more than a few people sitting on the floor).  

Dan teaching SearchResearch methods at IRE 2014. (Photo by Erik Palm from about halfway back.)

I'll write up the answer today, but wanted to give you a link to the TipSheet that I wrote up for the IRE seminar attendees.  

IRE 2014 TipSheet includes links to last year's TipSheet, an outline of the seminar, a link to the slides, a link to the full list of Google operators, and a few other things you might be interested to see.  We've covered many of them here in the blog... but not all.  

(In the meantime, I'm waiting for a callback from the City of Palo Alto Transportation Department for an authoritative answer about those cameras.)  

An answer in just a bit... 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (6/25/14): What do these cameras do?

If you're like me, you'll sometimes notice something in your environment and wonder, "What's that?"  

Recently I noticed a bunch of unmarked cameras on top of light poles at traffic intersections near where I live.  Suddenly, it seemed, every intersection with a traffic light suddenly sprouted a camera that was pointed at each lane of traffic.  A three-way intersection has three cameras, a regular four-way intersection has four cameras, and so on.  (To be honest, when I check archival Streetview images, I see they've been there for at least 7 years, so this isn't a new thing.  But I JUST now noticed them.  And when I ask people about the cameras, 9-out-of-10 people say "what cameras"?)  

Initially I thought these were for visual traffic detection, something to replace the big loops of wire that detect when a car pulls up to the stop line.  But that didn't seem to make sense because I saw maintenance folks still fixing the loops.  

I did a little poking around, and it seems pretty clear that these are not red-light violation detection cameras.  (Or if they are, nobody seems to be getting tickets, and it's a huge waste of money!)  

So the question is, what are they?  That's today's Challenge.  And I have to tell you that I do NOT know the definitive answer to this Challenge.  (I think I have a good idea based on my searches this week, but I'm not 100% sure.  We'll work this one out together.)  

   1.  What are these cameras doing? 

   2.  Who owns (or installed) the cameras?  

   3.  What happens to the images being captured by the cameras?  

Here are 4 fairly high-quality images that I took just last week.  From this information, can you figure out the answers to the Challenge questions?   (You can click on these images to get the full resolution original file.)  

As you can see, there are few (or none?) identifying marks on the cameras.  No brand names, no part numbers that I can see... not much to go on.  This strikes me as odd in-and-of-itself.  The pole is marked; the light fixture is marked; there are part numbers on everything... except the cameras.

To save you the trouble of looking up the EXIF data, these are at the corner of Charleston and Nelson Drive in Palo Alto, CA.  (Lat/long:  37.4192351, -122.1115148)  But they're the same at essentially every intersection.  

Here are a bunch of images from Streetview of nearby intersections. 

It strikes me as odd that this major infrastructure deployment (cameras on EVERY streetlight) was done without any obvious announcement to the public.  Of course, it's possible that I missed the news item, but this seems fairly... well... odd. 

Can we figure out what these cameras are doing?  

Search on, Search Researchers!  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Answer: Can you see to the other side of this mystery building?

This week's challenge was semi-hard: 
1.  Where is this building?  (A street address or lat/long would be a fine answer.) 
2.  With your extraordinary SearchResearch powers, can you find a picture of the OTHER side of this building?  (Trust me, it's worth a look.) 
3.  How old are those trees on the left side of the building?  (Within a couple of years is fine.  But you have to tell us why you believe that's the correct date.) 
4. (Extra credit for the truly hard core searchers, and because you know I enjoy knowing the history of a place...)  What was located on this site in 1875?  

Here's what I did.  

First, start with the original photo,  then crop it down to just the big, white logo: 

Even though this is small, a Search-by-Image will tell you that this is, The Sea Ranch Lodge, 60 Sea Walk Drive, P.O. Box 44, The Sea Ranch.  As Debbie G found out, sometimes you might have to play around a little with the cropping to get it "just right."  But I've had good luck in the past by just cropping it tightly so that just the logo (or relevant symbol) is showing.  

Once you know the street address, you'd think that you might be able to use StreetView to get a look at the building--but no, that particular stretch of Highway 1 is removed from StreetView, so we'll have to do something else.

Simplest way:  Search for photos or photospheres near that location.

There are multiple different approaches:

1. Using StreetView:

Search for [ The Sea Ranch Lodge ] this gives you a map like this.  The red balloon is the location of the Lodge.  (This place is 30 miles north of Jenner and about 8 miles south of the mighty town of Gualala. The place is pronouned "wah-la-la."  Really.)

Now, to look for images taken near here, you can click on the upward pointing arrows in the bottom right--but first, let's check for any photospheres taken near this location by clicking on the Pegman (he's usually yellow, but this was shot during 2014 World Cup, so he's a soccer/football guy in this image).  

Once you do that, you can see the blue dot (just above the red balloon).  That blue dot is a photosphere.  

Clicking on the photosphere lets us look around.  Note that you can zoom in/out and by dragging the image, you can spin the point-of-view.  

(And as you might notice, the photosphere is ACTUALLY on the small peninsula labeled "Black Point" in the above map; the dot location is incorrect on the map.) 

LESSON:  It's sometimes worth checking around a site--people still mislabel, misfile, & misplace things. Here it is, the Lodge from the other side... It's a pretty spectacular location.  

2.  Using Maps Views search to locate photospheres:

It turns out that Google Maps also has a specialized tool to help you locate images (including photospheres, panoramas, etc.).  To find that, search for:  

     [ Google Maps view ]

This leads you to Google Maps View home page.  Notice that this is a collection of images, photospheres, panoramas and other images located on the world map.  As you pan around on the map, you'll see images that we know are located in that location.  

You could then search for [ The Sea Ranch, CA ] and see the photosphere this way.  (And all other, nearby photospheres as well.)

The Black Point photosphere in detail:

Note the slightly different UI from the regular Maps access to photospheres
(which you get by clicking on pegman) 

3.  Using other collections:

Now, to get a historic view of this site and start to answer the "when were the trees planted" question, you can search for a survey taken of the California Coast.

     [ California coastal survey ]

Surveys are one way that people name collections of images are tagged to a location.  They're usually run by organizations like the USGS or other maps-centered groups.    

(Remember that we've seen this resource before in an earlier SearchResearch post.) 

Using the survey, you can look at this location in 1972:  

Sea Ranch Lodge, 1972.  Image by

As you can see, there are just a few tiny trees planted near the lodge.

But a picture taken just 7 years later shows the trees are starting to grow.  

 It's pretty clear those trees were planted in around 1969 - 1972.  This is agreement with the history of the Lodge as given on the Sea Ranch website. Found by the simple search: 

      [ Sea Ranch Lodge history ] 

To answer our last question, What was here in 1875? I was motivated to look for written histories of the place.  

Remember that above we discovered that this particular place is called Black Point, and it's located in the county of Sonoma.  In general, it's good to use specific place names when searching for histories.  I did NOT use "Sea Ranch" to search for a history of the place, because it didn't start as a named place until the late 1960's.  

So I did:  

     [ history of Black Point Sonoma ]

And then noticed that this leads to a book in Google Books.  Such history books are usually a great source of primary content, and well worth checking out.  Here, the Google Book scan is good:  "History of Sonoma County [Cal.]: Including Its Geology, Topography, Mountains, Valleys and Streams; with a Full and Particular Record of the Spanish Grants; Its Early History and Settlement" J. P. Fraser-Munro, 1850.

Search for "Black Point" in the text:  p. 380--"This is a small shipping point now owned by Wm. Bihler and D. L. B Ross... they built the chute in 1875..."  (The "chute" is a log chute to transfer lumber from the short to a ship waiting in the cove.) 

Several readers found that this location was part of the Rancho German (aka Rancho de Hermann), and that's true... it was part of that Rancho.  In the image below, I tried to align (as much as possible) the original Diseño for the Rancho de Hermann and a current image of the area.  The arrow show where the Lodge / mill-site is/were.  

If you read the Wikipedia article carefully there's a line:  "By 1855, German immigrants William Bihler and Charles Wagner acquired title to the northern 2.5 square leagues of Rancho German."  Guess where that was?  2.5 square leagues is 19,000 acres.  That's a lot of coastline... and forests for the mill.  So Bihler and Wagner had title and clearance to build their mill and chute in 1875.  The finished lumber would slide down the chute to waiting lumber schooners in the small cove below.  (Background story:  The lumber trade in the west coast in the late 1800's.)

A schooner waiting for lumber to come down the chute.

Search lessons: First, it's well worth looking around at images / maps / panorama resources that are nearby the site you're looking for--people frequently misfile or mislocate things on maps.  Near is often good enough (but be sure to then look for internal consistency-- the location of a building, the configuration of the coastline--to be sure that you're looking at the right thing.  

Second, remember that collections can often be rather useful.  By searching for a collection (such as the coastal survey from above), you can often find answers to your questions.  

Third, when searching for place history, be sure to use the name appropriate to the time ("Black Point" not "Sea Ranch") and consider including other location information (such as the county name, in this case, Sonoma).  

Lastly, when doing a search-by-image, OFTEN you'll have to crop the image to focus on just the part you're interested in matching.  And sometimes you have to recrop or adjust the image in some way to find a good match. 

Search on! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interesting app to search for a special symbol (symbol recognition)

Question:  Suppose you wanted to use an unusual orthography in your writing.  

For instance, suppose you wanted to insert a Cherokee letter into one of your texts. 

Here's how to do it: 


Draw the character you want (in this case, I draw the Cherokee "U" character just using my mousepad): 

Then, click "Recognize" (bottom left) 

You might have to scroll up a bit, but there it is, the second hit: 

Click on the "More Info" link next to the character you want. 

You can then copy the character on the right (next to "Displayed on your computer as:...")  

And if you have a modern font system, it should be paste-able into your document.  Like this: 

Ꭴ  Ꭴ  Ꭴ  Ꭴ  

Thought you might find this interesting / useful! 

My favorite use case (which is why I went looking for this in the first place):  the infinity symbol. 

Search on!   To , and beyond! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (6/18/14): Can you see the other side of this mystery building?

EVERY SO OFTEN you take a picture and can't quite remember where it was.  Sure, cell phone photos will often record the GPS latitude/longitude, but some cameras still don't quite write that information down.  

Here's a picture I took a while back.  But for the life of me, I can't remember where this is! 

Can you figure this out?  

Today's Challenges: 

1.  Where is this building?  (A street address or lat/long would be a fine answer.) 
2.  With your extraordinary SearchResearch powers, can you find a picture of the OTHER side of this building?  (Trust me, it's worth a look.) 
3.  How old are those trees on the left side of the building?  (Within a couple of years is fine.  But you have to tell us why you believe that's the correct date.) 
4. (Extra credit for the truly hard core searchers, and because you know I enjoy knowing the history of a place...)  What was located on this site in 1875?  

All of these questions can be answered from this one photo.  

This one is slightly harder than last week's Challenge, but I was able to find these answers in just a few minutes.  You can too!  

As always, tell us how you figured out the answers to these questions.  

Search on! 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Answer: Who is the confectionary man?

Our Challenges for this week are...  

1.  Instead of building the Lick Observatory as a memorial to himself, what was his original plan for his monument?  
2.  James Lick convinced a friend from Peru to enter the confectionary business in San Francisco.  Who was his friend, and what was (and still is!) the name of his confectionary business? 
3.  What languages did James Lick's confectionary friend speak?  (And how do you know?)  

As most everyone found out, these weren't that hard.  Wikipedia has lots of information about James Lick, and it didn't take long to figure out that (the slightly eccentric) James Lick had originally planned on building a marble-covered pyramid larger than the Great pyramid at Giza in the center of downtown San Francisco.  

My search was simple: 

     [ James Lick memorial ] 

This leads to the James Lick Wikipedia article.  To check on the history of this article, I first clicked on the Talk section (and found almost nothing).  

The "Talk" section (see the Wikipedia tab numbered 1 below) takes you to the discussion section (the Talk page) about the article.  If you do this, you'll see it was created in 2003, then edited by a small number of people (and a few bots doing cleanup and maintenance).  

As the notice points out (#2, below), the article is flagged as "needs additional citations."  That's usually a mark that the article might need a bit more work to be brought up to WP standards.  As you see at #3, this was last marked in 2010....  

 Just to check on this, I also clicked on the "View History" tab (#4) to see what all had been done to the article over time.  That's the full history of the article (as opposed to the Talk page, which is just discussions about the topic / article.)  

Although the article seems in good shape (not a lot of revisions and fighting back-and-forth, see the Wikipedia history on Hillary Clinton for contrast).  

Still, this level of benign neglect makes me want to get a few other sources for this topic.  

Naturally, I turned to Google Books with the query: 

     [ James Lick pyramid ] 

looking to find some additional background and discussion.  Naturally, I found several books,  James Lick's Monument: The Saga of Captain Richard Floyd and the Building of the Lick Observatory, Helen Wright (2003) and for a more contemporary account, I found the journal New Outlook (v. 45), Outlook Published (1892).  

All of the sources I found agree with the Wikipedia account.  

James Lick originally thought to build a massive pyramid and/or gigantic statues of himself, his mother and his father, positioned to look out towards incoming ships from North Beach as they passed through the Golden Gate.  

But as chance would have it, Lick happened to meet Joseph Henry and Louis Agassiz (both remarkable scientists) who convinced him to dedicate his fortune to science rather than self-aggrandizement.  

He wanted to built a giant telescope on Market Street (where he happened to hold property), but his friend David Jackson Staples talked him out of that idea.  "Mr. Lick, I am not an astronomer, but I know well enough that Market Street is no place for an observatory.  In the first place, the climate is too foggy, and in the second, the traffic on the streets would disturb the instruments."  (Quote from James Lick's Monument.)  

Between Henry, Agassiz, and Staples, they convinced him to devote his energies to building the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, well inland and to the south of the fog, far from passing streetcars.  

Following this same line of search, it's clear that Domenico Ghirardelli (later changed to Domingo when he moved to South America) was the lucky chocolate-maker who was in the office next door to Lick when they were both in Lima, Peru.  

When Lick traveled to San Francisco in 1848, he brought along his tools, work bench, $30,000 in gold ($784,700 with inflation), and 600 pounds (275 kilograms) of chocolate made by Ghirardelli.  

The chocolate quickly sold, and Lick convinced his neighbor and friend to move to San Francisco, where he founded the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Inevitably, I suppose, both became major players in San Francisco of the late 1800's.  

But when Ghirardelli first moved to San Francisco, the 1849 Gold Rush was in full swing, so he spent a few months prospecting for gold before finally figuring out that the way to make real money was to make chocolate in the city, and establishing the Ghirardelli chocolate empire which is still a big presence in the world of chocolate. 

Although it's worth knowing that the Ghirardelli company was bought by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, maker of Rice-A-Roni ("the San Francisco treat"), in 1963.In 1986, Quaker Oats bought Golden Grain, and thus Ghirardelli. In 1992, Quaker Oats sold the Ghirardelli Chocolate division to a private investment group.  Lindt and Sprüngli, the Swiss chocolate company, acquired Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in 1998,where it is now a wholly owned subsidiary.

What languages did Domenico/Domingo speak?  

Obviously Italian (born and raised in Italy, and his will was written in Italian!).  Spanish (lived in Uruguay and Peru for years, even changing his name to the Spanish version).  

And French.  

I found this when doing my background research on Ghirardelli the man.  While searching in Books,  I kept finding references to a history of Ghirardelli in a text "The Ghirardelli Story" by Sidney Lawrence (California HistoryVol. 81, No. 2 (2002), pp. 90-115).  It took a while to find the full-text (it's not in Books, but in the I ran across this entry:  

"He [Ghirardelli] was active in the French-speaking Masonic lodge and a Franco-Italian coalition of investors in the coal- and gold-seeking Buenaventura Mining Company."
This was intriguing.  A bit more poking around in Google Books finds several references to Domenico Ghirardelli as a Master Mason of the Excelsior Lodge 166 in San Francisco.  (in Proceedings of the M, a book about Masonry in California).  So it's clear he was in the lodge.  Was it French-speaking?  

I did the search for: 

     [  Excelsior Mason lodge San Francisco ] 

and found that its membership list was suspiciously Anglo.  

So I kept searching in Proceedings of the M.  

It turns out that he was a member in more than one lodge!  Domenico was ALSO a member of the French-speaking lodge, Loge La Parfaite Union, in San Francisco.  (See page 651 below.)  

Search Lessons:  In this case, the searches were pretty simple and straightforward.  

But when you're looking for background information on someone (even someone who lived in 1850s San Francisco),  it's often useful to search out groups and clubs they might have joined.  Think of it a bit like trying to be an investigative journalist--you want to build up a good picture of the person, including their hobbies, memberships, and affiliations.  To that extent, you have to think like a person of that time and that place.  What would a successful businessman of San Francisco do?  What clubs would he join?  Was he also an enrolled member of the local Catholic church?  Was he involved in the politics of the time?  

All great questions; all answerable by using your SearchResearch skills! 

Search on! 

The TransAmerica company pyramid.
The only pyramid in San Francisco today. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (6/11/14): Who is the confectionary man?

YOU might remember our brief discussion of Lick Observatory in an earlier SRS episode.

Lick Observatory in the snow, Mt. Hamilton, Santa Clara County, CA

The observatory, in a Classical Revival style structure, was constructed between 1876 and 1887, with a bequest from James Lick.  Lick was a real character.  After being spurned in romance in his hometown of Stumpstown, he moved to Baltimore, learned cabinetry and piano-making, then moved to Argentina after learning his pianos were selling well there.

His story goes on and on, interwoven with history in ways that read like a novel.  He's a rich source of today's Challenges though...

1.  Instead of building the Lick Observatory as a memorial to himself, what was his original plan for his monument?  
2.  James Lick convinced a friend from Peru to enter the confectionary business.  Who was his friend, and what was (and still is!) the name of his confectionary business? 
3.  What languages did James Lick's confectionary friend speak?  (And how do you know?)  

These searches shouldn't be that tough.  (After last week, we need a fun break.)

Careful, though:  The stories of these men's lives are truly amazing.  They lived through turbulent times and seem to have been involved in most of the history of their era.

Search on!  (Remember to tell us HOW you figured out the answers!)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Answer: Finding something in the UC System

This one turned out to be harder than I expected.  A bit like finding the eye of the lionfish.  
Lionfish upclose. Bahamas, 2010.

These were the Challenges:  

1.  Can you find a talk (or seminar) that will be given somewhere in the UC schools during this week (between June 1 - 7, 2014) on some aspect of corals?  
2.  Remember my affinity for Parrotfish?  Is anyone in the UC system doing research on Parrotfish?  (Can you list their name(s) and what the gist of their research is?  Made-up example:  Dr. Smith at UCSD is studying feeding behavior of Bonarian Parrotfish.)  
3.  Suppose I decide to give up this crazy computer science lifestyle at Google and become a marine biologist. Which of the ten UC campuses has the best marine biology research program that I should join?   (Be sure to say why you believe that, given what you found in search.) 

The key to answering these Challenges is to realize that you need to search all 10 campuses at the same time.  

You could do a query like:  

     [ coral seminar June 2014 OR OR  ...etc etc...   ] 

but that's pretty unwieldy, especially if you're going to do a query like this more than once.  
This is a task that calls for a Google Custom Search Engine.  

What IS a Custom Search Engine?  (aka CSE)  It's basically a way to encapsulate a search query and then add a few extra terms when you actually do the search.  

As an example, if you look on the right side of this blog you'll see a box that's labeled "Search the SearchResearch Blog" -- see that?  If you put search terms in there and click on the Search button next to it, you'll run a search that is over JUST all of the postings and comments from the blog.  It's just as though you've done a search with a filter on.  

In essence, it takes whatever terms you put into the query box and appends them to that and sends it to regular Google.  So, if you want to find that post I wrote about parrotfish poop, you'd be doing a search like this: 

     [ parrotfish poop ] 

Obviously, you can do a lot more with this (because ANY legal query can be the basis for the CSE), but for the moment you can think of the CSE as a giant SITE: restriction.  

How does that help us?  

Because what I want to do is repeatedly do queries with a long list of SITE filters:  

     [ coral seminar June 2014 OR OR   ...etc etc...   ] 

So let's build a CSE that searches over ALL of the ten UC campus websites. 

The first time you go to the CSE web page (, it will look something like this: 

To make a new CSE, click on the "Create a custom search engine"  (it's all free--don't worry).  

When the creation page opens up, enter a reasonable title for your CSE.  Here I've put in "UC Campus Search" 

And now you have to add in the sites for the UC campuses.  You do this by adding each campus site in the "Sites to search" at the top of this page.  In the image below I've started to fill in a few... starting with, the, etc.  (Don't worry if you don't do all 10 campuses here, you can always add more later.)  

Note that I just used the top-level domain for each campus.  (e.g  The CSE will automatically include all of the subdomains (e.g., in the search results.  

Once you've added in the top-level domains for all 10 campuses, you'll have the "UC Campus Search" CSE!  

LINK to my "UC Campus Search" CSE.  You can use this to follow along for the rest of the blogpost, but I encourage you to try it out yourself.  

Now, when you go back to you'll see the this CSE.  If this is the first you've made, you'll only have one CSE.  I've made quite a few; here's the top of my CSE list.  

AND NOW we've built our own tool for searching over all of the UC Campus web sites.  

You can use the CSE by clicking on the "Public URL" icon (looks like a chain) on the right.  That brings up a minimalist interface:  

Let's turn back to our Challenges.  

1.  Can you find a talk (or seminar) that will be given somewhere in the UC schools during this week (between June 1 - 7, 2014) on some aspect of corals?

I'm going to use my "UC Campus Search" CSE to search for: 

     [ coral seminar OR colloquium June 2014 ] 

(I did seminar OR colloquium because they're terms that are often used to describe talks given in a university.) 

Once I run this query, I get back 93 results: 

(I'm getting the ads at the top because I made the free version, which is supported by ads.  If you want to pay a bit, you can get the ads-free version of the CSE.  For my purposes, the free one is fine.)  

As you can see, there are quite a few seminars being given.  After poking around in the results for a bit, I find that there's a seminar on "Ocean Apocalypse Now" which discusses the future of corals in the sea, to be held at the Bren Center (UC Irvine) on June 2, 2014.  

You might notice that the first result ("Marine Biology Seminar") looks like it's incorrect.  If you click on that page and Control-F for "coral" you won't find anything.  BUT that's because it's a calendar page.  

Typically, when a calendar page is loaded, ALL of the months are loaded with it.  To find the seminar about coral, you have to go back to May, 2014, and you'll find there's a seminar on May 8th at Scripps entitled "The Benthic Underwater Microscope: A Novel Tool for In Situ Microscopic Observations of Coral Reefs."  Wish I'd seen that talk; it sounds excellent.  

See where this is going?  We've got a powerful search telescope that's trained on the UC campuses.  

2.  Remember my affinity for Parrotfish?  Is anyone in the UC system doing research on Parrotfish?  

Let's do the obvious search in CSE: 

     [ parrotfish research ] 

And we'll find lots of great hits.  If we'd tried to do this search WITHOUT the CSE, we'd be drowning in irrelevant results.  The CSE is a giant filter that gives us just the kinds of results we want.  

You can find lots of parrotfish scholars.  

The first result shown above is Melissa Roth at Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation who's doing really interesting research on parrotfish sizes on the reef.  Does it make a difference?  (Short answer:  Yes.  See her web page for details.)  

3.  Suppose I decide to give up this crazy computer science lifestyle at Google and become a marine biologist. Which of the ten UC campuses has the best marine biology research program that I should join?

So... this is a qualitative problem.  Let's first figure out WHICH of the campuses has a Marine Biology program.  

Using the CSE, I searched for: 

     [ "marine biology" major ] 

thinking that I only would want to go to a school with a marine bio major program.  

I quickly found that the leading contenders are UCSB (Santa Barbara), UCSD (San Diego), UCSC (Santa Cruz), and UC Davis.  The other schools have classes and programs, but these four schools seem to publish the most and have the highest activity in the area.  

So I'll just start drilling down into each school using a pattern like this: 

     [ UCSB "marine biology" ] 

in the CSE.  That quickly gives me a nice overview of the work going on at that school in marine bio.  

It doesn't take long for me to figure out that while all of the school have fine programs, USCD has the Scripps Marine, UCSB has the Marine Science Institute, UC Davis has the Bodega Marine Lab, and UCSC has the Institute for Marine Sciences (not to be confused with UCSB) and works closely with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Institute.  

At this point, I'd start looking in detail at the research focus of each place.  I'd probably look in detail at UCSD's Scripps, along with UCSC and UCSB's institutes and checking out their interests in corals.  Probably by doing something like: 

     [ UCSD "marine biology"  coral ] 

which will tell me who on the faculty is currently doing active coral research, whether or not they have graduate students, and details of their work.  (That's how I found Jennifer Smith at UCSD who's working on coral reef stressors and effective management practices.  Now that sounds like a great research program.  Her YouTube lecture on "Benthic Coral Reef Community Dynamics" is great.  If I had a second career... )  

Bottom line:  For me, it's a toss-up between UCSD and Scripps (because of the coral research) and UCSC (because it's very good, it's close to where I live now, and has an extensive research system).  

But they'll all good.  You really couldn't go very wrong.   

Search Lessons: 

The biggest lesson for today is the use of the Custom Search Engine.  It's incredibly handy when trying to do repeated searches that involve filtering or query modification.  

CSEs are also really useful when you want to focus in on just a particular KIND of result (e.g., limited to a timespan, or with certain META tags).  I'll write up more on CSEs in the future, but for today, remember that they're incredibly easy to set up and share (by making them public.)