Scripps Oceanography
2020 Annual report

Emelia Chamberlain

From the Director

Scripps Oceanography Director Margaret Leinen

It would be an understatement to say that the fiscal year 2019-2020 brought challenges to Scripps Institution of Oceanography due to the global pandemic. While circumstances limited access to campus in March 2020, the Scripps community and university responded in a resounding way. Essential research carried on, our community adapted in inspiring ways, and the university as a whole developed an audacious plan to safely return to campus.

At Scripps, our scientists also got involved in COVID-19 research and awareness efforts. Atmospheric chemist Kimberly Prather embarked on an outreach campaign that included contributions to the journal Science to educate scientific leaders and the public about the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Her original piece had worldwide reach and was downloaded more than 1.5 million times, and she has advised federal health agency leaders on the topic.

The social justice movement following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others illuminated issues of systemic racism in academia. At Scripps, it inspired a series of community conversations, and new momentum with actionable steps towards expanding diversity and inclusion among students, staff, and faculty.

While this past year had challenges, there was also a lot to celebrate. It was a banner year for awards for members of the Scripps community. Some of these awards include Prather being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Vicki Grassian, David Victor and I being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and from the American Chemistry Society, Bradley Moore received the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products, and Grassian received the ACS Award in Surface Chemistry.

In June, NOAA announced that UC San Diego would be home for the new Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems. This selection comes with up to $220 million in funding over five years, which could make it the institution’s largest award ever. This new institute will direct more funding to essential observation programs like Argo, the Keeling Curve, and CalCOFI, helping us continue to understand and protect the planet for years to come, and ensure a sustainable future for the ocean.

Thank you to our supporters, students, staff, and faculty, for the tenacity shown this past year.      


Margaret Leinen
Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, UC San Diego
Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography 

Maxine Baker
Mary Ann Beyster
Paul Brooks
Julia Brown
James L. Cairns
Bernard David
Patty Elkus
Sheldon Engelhorn
Christine Forester
Cindy Glancy
Rodney H. Glover
Stuart Goode
Richard Gulley
Richard Hertzberg
James Jameson
Wayne Kennedy
Dona Lucas
Dennis McGinn
John “Mac” McQuown
Chyrsa Mineo
Elizabeth Oliver
Clyde Ostler
Tom Page
John Patton
David Price
David Rockefeller, Jr.
Margaret Scripps Klenzing
Dixon Smith
Stephen Strachan (Chair)
J. Craig Venter
Caroline Winn
Dawn Wright

Class of 2020

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

New Community Engagement Fellows

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego welcomed eight new Community Engagement Fellows to support Scripps’ efforts to develop and engage the Scripps community around equity, diversity, and inclusion. The role of the Community Engagement Fellows is  to educate their peers on current issues, and serve as catalysts for creating impactful change as mentors of empathy and representatives that advocate for community, awareness, and equality.

Meet the Fellows

Collage of eight headshots.
SURF 2020

SURF Program Continues

Despite complications from COVID-19, the Scripps Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) was still able to welcome 19 students this year by pivoting to a new hybrid model. Additionally, a new virtual program allowed 19 more students to participate in a fully remote summer research experience working on the 100 Island Challenge. The SURF program was designed to increase student diversity in geosciences by recruiting individuals from institutions with limited undergraduate research opportunities. So far, 75 percent of former SURF students have continued on to graduate school or careers in Earth and ocean sciences.

Read more about the success of the 2020 SURF program


From STEM to Stars

In October 2019, Scripps alumna and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (PhD ‘09) made history when she and her crewmate Christina Koch completed the first all-female spacewalk outside of the International Space Station. Meir was also named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People because of this historic achievement.


AR jessica meir space talk
AR Ayana Johnson

Environmental Leadership

2020 was a productive year for Scripps alumna Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (MS ’09, PhD ’11). The marine biologist and policy expert advised Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign on the Blue New Deal; co-edited All We Can Save, an anthology of essays by women climate leaders; launched How to Save a Planet, a podcast that focuses on how to solve the climate crisis; and penned a poignant op-ed that examines how racism derails the environmental movement.

Birch Aquarium

Baby Seadragons

For the first time ever, Birch Aquarium bred and successfully hatched two rare Weedy Seadragons. The aquarium is now one of the few in the world to breed these unusual fish. After hatching in February 2020, the inch-long babies displayed the characteristic camouflaging appendages of the elaborate adult Weedy Seadragons in miniature. Both baby Weedy Seadragons have now grown to be about five-inches long and continue to thrive.

Through March 2020, Birch Aquarium was on track to break previous attendance records, pacing 5% above the prior record. The aquarium closed on March 12 due to COVID-19, and remained closed for the remainder of the fiscal year, accounted for lower numbers compared to previous years.

An all-time record


346,074 Onsite Attendance1
13,269 Member Households2

21,867 Pre-K through 12th Grade Students Served with 35 percent receiving financial assistance
17,848 hours donated by 344 volunteers
5,913 Animals in our Care


Coast Guard Opens Blue Technology Center of Expertise at Scripps 

As a leading center for global earth science research and education, Scripps has a long history of technological advancement. In partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the 2018 Save Our Seas Act, in January 2020 a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to open the new Blue Technology Center of Expertise (COE) located at Scripps. This new COE provides opportunities for cutting-edge blue technology research and implementation in Coast Guard activities, and will better connect the Coast Guard with the government, academic, and industry innovation ecosystem in the San Diego area.

Read more about blue technology and the new COE

AR coast guard
AR Lake sonoma

New Water Affiliates Group Forms

The newly formed Water Affiliates Group (WAG), formed by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E), brings together water agencies and other water resource stakeholders to share information about water management, reservoir operation, and atmospheric data. This new group will allow members to strategize and execute plans for research and applications developments that support best practices in forecast-informed water operations, and pioneer solutions in water supply management.

Read more about this new coalition and its founding members


Scripps Delegation at COP25 

At the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid, Spain, delegates from Scripps Oceanography made more than a dozen presentations on science topics, including on the new recognition of Indigenous knowledge as a resource for confronting climate change. A highlight of the two-week event was a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other Congressional representatives to the delegation’s exhibit.

Ship Tracks

Scripps vessels serve a large and diverse group of scientists, students, and educators. During calendar year 2019, Scripps oceanographic research vessels carried 1,030 people to sea on 56 separate research missions, spending 430 operational days at sea conducting scientific research and instruction. Of the people who sailed aboard, 209 were from Scripps, and the remaining came from 32 different institutions. The robust use of the Scripps fleet in support of research and education is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, NOAA, NASA, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. 

Additionally, the UC Ship Funds program awarded 529 students, scientists, educators, and technicians the ability to pursue research and instruction at sea. Made possible by support from UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and forward-thinking philanthropists, this program provides significant support for independent research and instruction at sea aboard Scripps ships.


Center for Coastal Studies Construction Completed

The updated and revitalized Charles and Beano Scripps Center for Coastal Studies has finished construction. Funded by a $2 million gift made possible by Charles E. Scripps Jr., Eaton M. Scripps, Marilyn J. Scripps, The Heidt Family Foundation, Julia Scripps Heidt and Dr. Robert S. Heidt Jr., and Trustees, the gift was made in memory of the donors’ parents, Charles E. Scripps Sr. and his wife Lois “Beano” Scripps. The modernized facility, located at the base of the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, will house scientists that conduct vital research impacting the California coast and shoreline, including coastal erosion, shoreline pollution transport, and sea-level rise. The renovated facility features office space and areas to develop observational equipment used to monitor coastal changes.

Thank you to our donors!


Beyster Family
Linda and Stephen Strachan
Flora H. Young

Ellen Lehman, PhD and Charlie Kennel, PhD
Eleanor and William R. Revelle

Una Davis Family
Salah M. Hassanein*
Margaret and Gary Klenzing
Lynne Warner and Ashley J. Mullen
Robert W. Rex, PhD ‘58
Karen F. and Jeffrey H. Silberman
Patricia and William Todd

Nancy E. Cooley and Stuart Goode
Carol A. and Thomas Dillon, PhD
Barbara A. Bruno
Caroline and Nicolas C. Nierenberg ‘78
Margaret K. and Eaton Scripps
Chrysa Mineo and Mark K. Stephenson

Brenda and Jeffrey R. Bohn, PhD
Annamaria and James L. Cairns, PhD ‘74
Bev Grant and Art Cooley
Denise N. and Gary S. David
Mary E. DeJong
Margaret B. and David Engel, PhD
Gail and John Eyler
Catherine and Matthew Hervey
Elizabeth and Philip Hiestand
Linda Hervey
Susan G. Chance and Igor Korneitchouk, PhD ‘87
Leslie and John A. McQuown
Connie V. Dowell and Stephen P. Miller ‘69
Carolyn Revelle
Jean W. Scripps


Koret Foundation
Schmidt Futures

G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation
Simons Foundation, Inc.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
The Schmidt Family Foundation
Waitt Foundation

American Heart Association
Baum Foundation
The Diane and Elliot Feuerstein Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation
Green Foundation for Earth Sciences
International Community Foundation
Moore Family Foundation
The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation
Morgan Dene and Elizabeth Hamman Oliver Family Foundation Inc.
The Seaver Institute

Alan G Lehman and Jane A Lehman Foundation
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Alumbra Innovations Foundation
Stephen & Mary Birch Foundation
Dalio Philanthropies
Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Foundation
Dr. Seuss Foundation
Gibbet Hill Foundation
Honda Marine Science Foundation
Nierenberg Foundation
Perpetual Family Foundation
Price Philanthropies Foundation
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Agouron Institute
Charles H. Stout Foundation
The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
Walton Family Foundation Inc.
The William and Kathryn Scripps Family Foundation Inc.


Acacia Partners, LP
BP Technology Ventures Inc.
Pacific6 Enterprises
Southern California Edison Co.

Association of Bay Area Governments
ImageCat, Inc.
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Boston Scientific Corporation
California Ocean Science Trust


Statement of Activity

This section provides an overview of revenue and expenses, census and award info, and a list of sponsored research funding entities.