The marine ecological research of Dr Miquel Alcaraz has spanned nearly four decades, and his analyses and insights have strongly influenced many of us in ocean sciences, particularly through the seminal 1980 paper that stimulated new research and led to significant advances in our understanding of behavioral plasticity in zooplankton. That behavioral plasticity must exist as a consequence of selective pressures in the environment. Advances in water column observational approaches have resulted in the physical and biological characterization of the upper water column at centimeter vertical scales, and have shown that thin layers (<3 m in thickness) of phytoplankton are reasonably common and can persist for many hours. This paper describes vertical patterns of distribution of both particulate material (represented by chlorophyll fluorescence) and dissolved material [represented by the fluorescence of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM)] within Monterey Bay, CA, in August–September, 2005. In the vertical profiles that possessed distinct phytoplankton thin layers, CDOM fluorescence commonly displayed steep vertical gradients at one or more depths within the water column, with ∼40% of those CDOM gradients offset from the phytoplankton layer by 1–5 m. These offsets between dissolved and particulate matter illustrate the complex structure of the feeding environment for zooplankton.