A sparkling spring Sunday morning set the stage for a “thank you” gathering at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
The April 6 event recognized donors who contribute to Scripps fellowships that support graduate students so they can focus exclusively on their training and research. While enjoying a tasty brunch buffet, the donors were treated to a broad array of graduate student research poster presentations covering topics ranging from tiny phytoplankton to immense whales.
“I love to meet these students and hear about the work they do,” said Julia Brown, vice chair of the Scripps Director’s Cabinet and a UC San Diego Foundation Trustee. “These presentations are incredibly important and this event is a great way to learn about the new research happening at Scripps.”
“Donor support for fellowships is critical because a five-year funding guarantee allows us to attract the best and brightest students,” said Lisa Tauxe, Scripps department chair and deputy director for education. “We want to increase the number of first-year fellowships because that gives students a degree of freedom that they won’t otherwise have. We also support research and travel grants that allow students to go on cruises, attend meetings, and conduct field research. We would be not nearly as good as we are without fellowship support.”
Scripps Director Margaret Leinen welcomed attendees and conveyed her personal thanks to donors for their support. She also gave a special recognition award to Irving Tragen, a retired diplomat who has supported UC San Diego education for more than 10 years, including funding for the Latin American Fellowship at Scripps.
“This institution is a great place that creates opportunities,” said Tragen. “We often take for granted where we live and no institution is more on the cutting edge of helping our planet than Scripps… thank you for this honor.”
“The scientific funding landscape has changed so this kind of support is absolutely critical,” said Megan Bailiff, chair of the E.W. Scripps Associates. “Fellowships allow students to pursue their scientific ideas without compromise and displaying them here allows them to express themselves and communicate their findings to a public audience.”
In addition to poster displays of emerging science, the event showcased three graduate student feature presentations from Caitlin Whalen, who described her research on ocean mixing processes, Lyall Bellquist, who discussed his work in a fish tagging cooperative program off the Southern California coast, and Sam Wilson, who described the science of how sunlight is used to measure chlorophyll. They were then joined by geosciences graduate student Emily Wei for a panel discussion on their experiences at Scripps.
“Most ‘landlubbers’ don’t know what’s happening with the oceans, so we need to change that,” said Bill Kimmich, a retired teacher who supports graduate student fellowships. “We better learn how the ocean works so that we can better manage it.”
“Thank you donors for helping us recruit the finest students,” said Tauxe. “You can’t help but look at them and say there’s hope for this world.”
— Mario C. Aguilera