Scripps Institution of Oceanography
2021 Annual Impact Report
From the Director
In 2021, the community at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography continued to showcase its resilience and reawakened after a mostly virtual 2020. Our academic research fleet safely returned to sea, Birch Aquarium reopened to the public, students and faculty came back for in-person and hybrid learning, and our research continued to make an impact.
Scripps Oceanography’s thoughtful return to research, education, and outreach on campus is important because making an impact is key to our mission. For the first time we are recognizing this by initiating an annual impact report rather than a report that attempts to provide an overview of all that we do. Observing and understanding our environment is vitally important, but this year I’ve also been proud of how that research is benefiting our public health, the protection of our environment, and our work toward a more equitable and diverse community.
Our 2021 impact report aims to highlight outcomes of our activity. We’ve showcased research underway to understand the impact of an environmental tragedy, the effect climate change is having on our health and the health of our planet, and the discovery of potentially life-saving drugs from the sea—a new treatment made possible thanks to the tenacity and work of Scripps marine chemists over the past several decades. We’ve highlighted some of our stellar alumni, who are making waves around the world through their work on marine conservation, space research, environmental science, journalism, building sustainable cities, and more. I’m also incredibly proud to see the results from concerted efforts to improve the diversity of the Scripps community; this fall we welcomed the largest and most diverse graduate class in our history. While continuing to diversify, we are committed to building a more inclusive and equitable community at Scripps Oceanography.
Thank you to our supporters, students, staff, and faculty for being the driving force behind this impact.
Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, UC San Diego
Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Mary Ann Beyster
James L. Cairns
Rodney H. Glover
John “Mac” McQuown
Margaret Scripps Klenzing
Stephen Strachan (Chair)
J. Craig Venter
The Lasting Impact of a Coastal Dumpsite
Investigative reporting by the Los Angeles Times reinvigorated public outcry that the coast off Los Angeles once served as a dumping ground for the pesticide DDT and other toxic chemicals.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Eric Terrill led an expedition in March 2021 on research vessel Sally Ride to survey the seafloor using autonomous underwater vehicles.
The sonar data collected on the expedition soon became overwhelming, and the team turned to machine learning to develop an algorithm to tally the barrel-like targets. They mapped more than 27,000 targets with high confidence to be classified as a barrel, and an excess of 100,000 total debris objects (and this is just at one of two known dumpsites).
As the extent of this environmental tragedy unfolds, Scripps scientists are on a quest to understand the effect of this DDT in the marine ecosystem and determine how to best mitigate the problem.
This summer, Scripps chemical oceanographer Lihini Aluwihare collected samples of pelagic organisms during a California Current Ecosystem LTER expedition, visiting the dumpsite that Terrill had surveyed earlier. Aluwihare, along with Scripps biological oceanographer Anela Choy, will investigate which organisms may be transferring DDT from the seafloor up through the marine food web. Scientists also hope to look at Scripps’ decades-old archive of marine specimens in the CalCOFI and marine vertebrate collection to see when DDT concentrations began appearing.
Scripps’ Lisa Levin, Paul Jensen, and Greg Rouse also collected marine specimens and sediment samples near six barrels last summer, on a Schmidt Ocean Foundation expedition aboard R/V Falkor. Sponges, microorganisms, and other invertebrates living on barrels were slurped up by a remotely operated vehicle. They hope to evaluate these specimens to determine what role microbes might play in potentially bioremediating, or consuming, the chemicals coming out of the barrels.
Climate Change Research
As humankind faces catastrophic changes in climate patterns, sea level, ocean acidity, public health, and ecosystems due to climate change, Scripps Oceanography scientists are on the leading edge of research to observe how our planet is changing, understand these impacts, and work to find science-inspired solutions.
Environmental Injustice Increases Stillbirth: Scientists found links between extreme heat and a heightened incidence of stillbirths and preterm births in relatively poor countries, in the first assessment of extreme heat events and adverse birth outcomes. Scripps’ Tarik Benmarhnia, Sasha Gershunov and Anna Dimitrova used global meteorological data and compared it to available health survey information in 14 low- and middle-income countries. They found a strong correlation between extreme heat events endured in the last week of pregnancy and women’s risk of adverse birth outcomes. More on this study >
“Heat Bombs” Destroying Arctic Ice: A team of physical oceanographers led by Jennifer MacKinnon discovered plumes of warm water flowing into the Arctic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean and accelerating sea ice melt from below. Their research describes these underwater “heat bombs” as one mechanism by which global warming is changing the Arctic Ocean faster than nearly any other place on Earth. The discovery was enabled by instruments developed by Scripps’ Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group that capture high-resolution profiles and complex ocean processes in fine detail. More about 'heat bombs' >
Defining Geoengineering Consequences: A team led by Kate Ricke, assistant professor at Scripps and the School of Global Policy and Strategy, modeled a hypothetical solution to a real drought that had plagued Africa’s Sahel region in the 1970s and 80s. The computational model they used found that proposed artificial upwelling that could lead to a solution to the Sahel’s drought also caused drought in sub-Saharan East Africa. The study is considered to be one of the few to consider regional-scale geoengineering schemes and identify specific consequences. More on this simulation >
Tracking Cliff Collapse: Thanks to funding from a new bill in California, Scripps will lead research that aims to better understand the timing of bluff collapses and help inform recommendations towards the development of a potential early landslide warning system. The research will include expanded LiDAR surveys of coastal bluffs and the development of new geotechnical monitoring technology to measure microscopic-scale changes to slope stability. Read more about the new bill >
Scripps by the Numbers
Alumni of Scripps Oceanography represent academics, professionals, experts, and entrepreneurs. Their accomplishments reach far and wide, from education and environment to industry and innovation, and their impact spans the expanse of our planet, from deep oceans to deep space.
Cody Hooven (MAS ‘08) was named the chief operating officer at San Diego Community Power, and recently signed a deal with San Diego County to build a more affordable, equitable, and renewable energy-filled future in the area. SDCP will act as an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric, likely bringing in hundreds of thousands more energy users in the region. Hear Union-Tribune interview >
Ayana Johnson (MS ’09, PhD ’11) was named the 11th annual recipient for the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication in July, 2021. Johnson earned this award for her work as a marine biologist, policy expert and writer, as well as her efforts in engaging a broader audience in the climate change solution conversation. The organization said Johnson is “the rare combination of superb scientist and powerful communicator.” View virtual program >
Megan McArthur (PhD ‘02) piloted the NASA SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station in March 2021. The six-month mission marked McArthur’s first visit to the station and second time in space, where she completed scientific research in areas such as medical technology, human health, robotics, and more. She also participated in a live Q&A with Scripps, discussing her path from oceanography to the stars. McArthur and her Crew-2 colleagues returned to Earth in November, safely splashing down off the coast of Florida.
Tekateteke Metai (MAS '18) After completing her studies at Scripps, Metai returned to her family and home of Kiribati to help the South Pacific island nation protect their ocean resources. In 2021, Metai became the fundraising local consultant for Kiribati's Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), an initiative recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2018 as an "exemplary model" of international marine protection and conservation. Metai is also featured in "The Ecology of Home", an upcoming documentary sponsored by National Geographic and the Waitt Foundation.
Matt Mulrennan (MAS '10) was appointed CEO of EnVest, the world's leading environmental investing organization, which has helped raise more than $130 million for early-stage environmental companies by matching leading investors with the most compelling environmental entrepreneurs. Mulrennan was also one of 20 candidates nominated for the 2018 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Awards and was the Grand Prize winner of the Con X Tech Prize for conservation technology.
Audrey Tan (MAS ‘18) is a science and environment reporter with Singapore’s The Straits Times and a leading voice in climate communications. Tan’s work has been globally recognized by environmentalists, scientists, and the Pulitzer Center, and in 2021, she won the Journalist of the Year award from Singapore Press Holdings. This award recognizes Tan’s expansive and timely coverage of COVID-19 and climate change, topics she examined through more than 260 stories, videos, podcasts and infographics.
Despite the pandemic, Scripps vessels accomplished great things during calendar year 2020. We completed the midlife refit of R/V Roger Revelle, and returned to productive service in a big way with a pair of challenging missions, a 51-day mission to the central Pacific, and a 60-day mission to the far Southern Ocean (60 degrees south) staged from Honolulu, led by Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences’ Barney Balch (PhD ‘85). Balch’s expedition aimed to investigate how carbon dioxide is being cycled between the atmosphere and ocean at an area of intense upwelling and high concentrations of nutrients.
R/V Sally Ride successfully carried out scientific missions for major programs sponsored by the NSF, the Office of Naval Research, DARPA, and NOAA—as well as three student-led expeditions through the UC Ship Funds Program. Additionally, in July 2020, the 71-year-old California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program accomplished an historic event, setting sail with its first-ever all-female science party. Our workhorse vessel, R/V Robert Gordon Sproul, had an exceptionally light schedule because one of its primary duties—carrying students to sea for classes or independent projects—was curtailed due to COVID.
Thank you to our donors!
Christy and Edward Scripps Jr.
Ellen Lehman, PhD and Charles Kennel, PhD
Larry Icerman, MS ’68, PhD ‘78
Wendy W. Kwok ‘99
Susan and David Rockefeller Jr.
Patricia and William Todd
Miranda Ko ‘14 and Tsz Yan K Cui
Dinia and Lloyd Green
Elizabeth and Philip Hiestand
Nancy and David Haney
Caroline and Nicolas Nierenberg
Kathryn and William H. Scripps
Eve and Osama Attal
Denise Bevers ’97 and Lon Bevers
Margaret and David Engel
Mario Gaytan ‘17
Catherine and Matthew Hervey
Allison and Robert Price
Amparo and Leo Rotter
Julie and Michael Scarpella
Sharon and Carlos Arbelaez
Mary Ann Beyster
Joyce Haak-Brooks and Paul Brooks
Denise and Gary David
Carol and Thomas Dillon
Susan and Sheldon Engelhorn
Annalisa Griffa, MS ’83, PhD ’88 and M. Rustin Erdman, PhD ‘83
Gail and John Eyler
Paula and William Hodgkiss
Kristina and Semyon Kruglyak
Leslie and John McQuown
Kathy and Charles Mitchell
Mysti and Gerald Scripps
Norma and William A. Scripps
Eliza and Stuart Stedman
Dale and Mark Steele
Cheryl and Donald Ward
Jane Widroe ’84 and Greg Widroe
The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Herman P & Sophia Taubman Foundation
The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
The Builders Initiative, Inc.
Green Foundation for Earth Sciences
Moore Family Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Schmidt Ocean Institute
The William and Kathryn Scripps Family Foundation Inc.
The Seaver Institute
Simons Foundation, Inc.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Michael and Karen Stone Family Foundation, Inc.
Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Foundation
Gibbet Hill Foundation
The J. M. Kaplan Fund
National Academy of Sciences
National Geographic Society
Pincus Family Foundation
The Schmidt Family Foundation
Alan G Lehman and Jane A Lehman Foundation
Illumina Corporate Foundation
Ocean Visions, Inc.
Charles H. Stout Foundation
Edna Bailey Sussman Fund
The Archie Arnold Trust
Charities Aid Foundation of America
Enberg Family Charitable Foundation
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
MUFG Union Bank Foundation
Walter Munk Foundation For The Oceans
Oceanides Conservacion Y Desarrollo Marino AC
Perpetual Family Foundation
Price Philanthropies Foundation
Spielman Family Foundation
Blue Oceans Barns Inc.
Global Ocean Design
Research Corporation for Science Advancement
San Diego County Water Authority
Turlock Irrigation District
Sony Group Corporation
Dimensional Fund Advisors LP
Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District
Irvine Ranch Water District
MUFG Union Bank Foundation
Orange County Water District
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
Santa Clara Valley Water District
City of San Diego
City and County of San Francisco
Yuba Water Agency
Statement of Activity
This section provides an overview of revenue and expenses, census and award info, and a list of sponsored research funding entities.
Past annual reports