2022 Annual Impact Report
From the Director
As we wrap up 2022 and I reflect on this year, it is clear that the Scripps Institution of Oceanography community achievements and impact have been extraordinary.
With the support of the National Science Foundation and UC San Diego, we opened SOARS, a first-of-its-kind ocean, atmosphere, and biology simulator that will allow scientists around the world to conduct unprecedented experiments with conditions simulating our changing climate. We also advanced designs on our new hydrogen-hybrid research vessel that will be an innovation in the maritime industry for its zero-emission capabilities.
Our scientific discoveries are informing policy and decision-makers on important issues like the cross-border pollution crisis at the Tijuana River Valley, and the increasing threat of cliff retreat across the state of California. At both poles our scientists are conducting high-impact research about the mechanisms of climate change in polar regions.
We have created several new programs to welcome more diverse people into the geosciences. These range from the creation of a student-initiated and donor-supported fellowship to increase diversity in scientific diving, a new program to expose community college students to hands-on research at Scripps, and a program developed in partnership with minority-serving colleges and universities.
Our impressive alumni continue to make an impact as entrepreneurs, climate advisors, and environmental justice advocates, positioned with organizations like the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Academy of Sciences.
Thank you to all of our supporters, staff, students, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, faculty, and alumni who help make Scripps a world leader in education, research, and global impact.
Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, UC San Diego
Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
DIRECTOR'S COUNCIL MEMBERS
Mary Ann Beyster
Julia Brown (Vice Chair)
Maggie Scripps Klenzing
Steve Strachan (Chair)
California Cliff Erosion Report
The first study to analyze California's coastal cliff retreat statewide using high-resolution data was released this summer and found that cliffs receded faster in the north than elsewhere in the state during the study period.
The data from the study, which detected erosional hotspots throughout the state, was made available on the new California Coastal Cliff Erosion Viewer website. The site is intended for coastal planning and development decision-makers, and allows users to browse any cliff in the state to see its past rate of erosion and related retreat statistics.
In the study, coauthors Adam Young and Zuzanna Swirad created one-meter digital elevation models and evaluated the cliff erosion and retreat between 2009-2011 and 2016 in five-meter (16.4 foot) segments along 866 kilometers (538 miles) of California's coast. Included in the analysis were data collected with airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), an advanced laser-imaging technology. New machine-learning techniques that Swirad developed expedited the large-scale study.
"Communities and critical infrastructure are located on the cliff top. It is really important to understand the hazard of cliff collapse," said Swirad, a former postdoctoral scholar at Scripps.
After COVID-19 shut down research in Antarctica, Scripps scientists made new discoveries and returned to the field in 2022 to research this global hotspot of climate and ecology.
Learn more about climate change in the polar regions on our Climate Change FAQs page.
Groundwater Discovered Under Antarctic Ice: Using a ground-based geophysical electromagnetic (EM) method called magnetotellurics, scientists made the first detection of groundwater beneath an Antarctic ice stream. This discovery, spearheaded by Scripps postdoctoral scholar Chloe Gustafson, gives scientists more data from the Antarctic ice sheet to understand how the system works and how it changes over time in response to climate. The study improves scientists’ understanding of how it might affect sea level. More on this study >
Voyage to the “Doomsday Glacier”: Geophysicist Jamin Greenbaum joined an expedition to Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, often called the “Doomsday Glacier” due to its rapid melt and high sea-level rise potential. He led a team that deployed sensors from helicopters to the most rapidly melting part of the glacier. The sensors returned temperature, salinity, water velocity, and depth readings that will help scientists better predict details of glacier melt and how the boundary between grounded and floating ice will retreat in a changing climate. More on this expedition >
Penguin Guano Provides Fertile Ground for Plastics Research: Seabird research took flight in 2022 through the work of Scripps PhD candidate Tammy Russell. In January, she made her first trip to the Antarctic Peninsula to collect and analyze samples of penguin poop, or guano, shedding light on the penguins’ diet composition and the amount of microplastics found in the marine food web. This work contributes to the Penguano Project, a research effort launched by Russell in 2019 in collaboration with the Vernet and Bowman labs at Scripps and colleagues at NOAA. More on this research >
Citizen Science Expands with Support from NASA: PhD candidate Allison Cusick continues to lead citizen scientists in collecting phytoplankton and glacial meltwater samples for the Fjord Phyto program, which enlists cruise ship passengers to help monitor changes in the microscopic life in coastal fjords. The research was expanded thanks to support from NASA’s Citizen Science for Earth Systems Program. Tourists took measurements of water temperature, salinity, and water cloudiness, and collected samples of glacial meltwater and phytoplankton for identification. More about this program >
Analyzing Southern Ocean for Traces of Mercury: PhD student Hannah Adams participated on a 16-day research cruise through the Drake Passage to the West Antarctic Peninsula, where she analyzed water samples collected from the Southern Ocean for traces of dissolved mercury. Mercury concentrations in the majority of the oceans are low, but can reach high levels in predatory fish. Adams and her advisor Amina Schartup hope to expand this data for the Southern Ocean, which has not been previously studied as much as other regions. More on this expedition >
Scripps by the Numbers
Alumni of Scripps Oceanography represent academics, scientists, communicators, policymakers, experts, and entrepreneurs that leverage their diverse backgrounds to advance innovative solutions. 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.
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (PhD '09) continues to make history: in 2019 she completed the world’s first all-female spacewalk, and was soon after selected to NASA’s Artemis moon exploration program, which aims to land the first woman on the moon by 2025. In June 2022, Meir served as UC San Diego’s All Campus Commencement Ceremony keynote speaker and returned to Scripps Oceanography to present Director Margaret Leinen with a Scripps flag flown in space, reconnect with her faculty advisors, and surprise graduating students.
Robert Sparrock’s (MS '90) 34-year military career bridges science and security in extraordinary ways. He currently manages six Navy-owned oceanographic research vessels, the historic ROV Alvin, and the Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) through the Office of Naval Research. Sparrock was present at the commissioning of R/V Sally Ride in 2016, helped oversee a $150 million Naval investment to modernize the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, R/V Roger Revelle and R/V Atlantis, and returned to Scripps as the 2022 Graduate Commencement Speaker.
Heidi Sosik (PhD '93) is an inventor and scientist who explores the ocean’s twilight zone (OTZ), a vast, dim region 200-1,000 meters below the surface teeming with 90 percent of the world’s fish biomass. Sosik co-invented a robotic underwater microscope now used globally and her work informing international protection policies for the OTZ has garnered international attention. Her research was one of only five inaugural projects sponsored by The Audacious Project, TED’s initiative to fund global change, and in 2022 received Endorsed Action status as part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science.
Luciano Hiriart-Bertrand (MAS '12) is the Founder and CEO of Costa Humboldt, an internationally recognized non-profit that seeks to preserve the biodiversity of Chile’s marine ecosystems and provide sustainable livelihoods for Indigenous and local communities. His work is transforming Chile’s environmental policy and includes partnering with the Kawésqar peoples and National Geographic to establish the largest national park in Patagonia, elevating the effectiveness of Indigenous Marine Areas (IMA), exploring blue carbon contributions, and centering Indigenous knowledge in climate mitigation actions.
Tashiana Osborne (MS '16, PhD '21) is a Climate Advisor Fellow with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through a 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. Within USAID, she works in the Economic Growth, Environment, and Agriculture Division within the Bureau of Africa’s Office of Sustainable Development. She helped lead a recent Coastal Ocean Environment Summer School in Nigeria and Ghana, and now provides technical support and training on climate, public health, water, and sustainability issues.
Lucero Sanchez (BA '19) describes herself as “a young Latina in San Diego fighting for clean water and climate action.” She works as the Campaigns Manager for San Diego Coastkeeper, conducting advocacy work through community engagement to ensure environmental justice and equity. Sanchez is president of the League of Conservation Voters San Diego, and in May 2022 was appointed as vice chair of the San Diego County Environmental Health and Quality Advisory Board, where she has served since 2021.
Illumina Support Helps Build Two Automation Labs at Scripps
Support from Illumina, a global leader in the development and application of genomic technology to improve human and environmental health, enabled the Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine at Scripps to build two new laboratory spaces on the Scripps campus to enhance genomics and laboratory automation-enabled discovery and training programs.
The support, which included high-throughput screening equipment and a $973,000 donation from the Illumina Corporate Foundation, will enable advanced synthetic biology, marine drug compound library curation, microbiome science, marine model organism cell biology, and more. The new equipment will also provide immense training opportunities for students, both at Scripps and in the broader San Diego community, giving them experience in genomics and laboratory automation that is critical in today’s life science and biotechnology workforce.
“Today’s students need to be familiar with solving biological problems at these huge scales, and that simply can’t be done without the use of laboratory automation and big data experimental design and informatics,” said Moore Lab National Institutes of Health (NIH) Postdoctoral Fellow Timothy Fallon, who helped spearhead the effort to develop the automation hub. “This is why the support is so exciting. It allows us to build the facilities and coursework to both teach these cutting-edge topics, and to apply them in our research.“
Thank you to our donors!
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