SOAR Spring 2020 Report: Red Tide Edition

If you’re a resident of Southern California (and maybe even if you’re not) you likely heard about the recent red tide bloom (and subsequent smelly fish and invertebrate die-offs) that saturated the coastline of Southern California. Here at Scripps Oceanography, it was the main topic of conversation to break the monotony of COVID-19 information and pandemic updates.

For those of us who are committed to collecting long-term monitoring data, it is during events like this where our efforts truly pay off! In the Smith Lab, we have been maintaining a near-continuous Ocean Acidification monitoring program off the Scripps Pier since 2013, and we recently added dissolved oxygen to the sensor platform. Due to the nature of this event and the value of this data set, we were granted permission by the university, as it was deemed essential to service our sensors despite the campus shut down and mandated “shelter-in-place” orders in the state of California.

According to Dr. Jen Smith, “The data that were collected during this recent event help to illuminate just how extreme the conditions were for marine organisms off our coast as the algal bloom began to degrade. So, while the bioilluminescence was certainly impressive, the extreme, multi-day hypoxic and acidified conditions likely caused the massive fish and invertebrate die offs that were observed.”

While conducting field work in the midst of a global pandemic provided a unique set of challenges, we were able to safely and effectively service our sensors and download the data to share what the ocean pH and dissolved oxygen concentration look like during a red tide bloom of such magnitude, the likes of which haven’t been seen here since 1995! We are happy to be able to share the data here.

For more information and access to the data, please contact the program manager, Sam Clements ( and visit our website to learn more!

Cow burps & the scientists waging war against them, featured in WIRED

Dr. Jen Smith was recently interviewed and featured in a WIRED article where she discussed how her work learning to cultivate Asparagopsis taxiformis in the lab will help Californian dairy farmers to cut emissions by 2030. The article mentions her work with Elm Innovations and introduces a multitude of scientific methods currently being explored by scientists worldwide to reduce methane emissions by the livestock industry. Check it out!


The Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series: Food, Feed, & Climate Change

Dr. Jennifer Smith and lab staff researcher, Brant Chlebowski, presented a joint lecture for the Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series at Birch Aquarium. In their talk entitled, “Food, Feed, & Climate Change: Emerging Opportunities for Shore Based Seaweed Aquaculture,” they discuss the recent innovations in shore-based aquaculture and the great potential it has to change the future for the better. The full lecture can be viewed below!

UCSD Research highlight: “Usurp the Burp”

This week Dr. Jen Smith’s research was featured by the UC San Diego News Center, highlighting her recent collaboration with agricultural scientists at UC Davis. Dr. Smith is researching methods of cultivation of Asparagopsis taxiformis, a red seaweed that has been discovered to reduce methane emissions from cow burps in studies conducted at UC Davis. She’s also working with scientists at SIO to investigate the genetic makeup of this seaweed and scientists at Georgia Tech to learn more about the biochemical pathways that make this seaweed so uniquely suited to inhibiting methane production in cows.

Click here to read more!

An incredible story of reef recovery after coral bleaching at Palmyra Atoll

Scripps Oceanography published a press release this week celebrating the Smith Lab’s most recent publication led by Dr. Mike Fox. The paper, published in Coral Reefs on April 5th, reveals an optimistic recovery of coral reefs at Palmyra Atoll following the 2015 global bleaching event. In 2015, 90% of corals at Palmyra bleached, and an astounding 90% of those bleached corals fully recovered in the following years. It’s a truly inspirational story of reef resilience and highlights the potential for reef recovery after disturbance in protected areas. Check out the full press release here!

Orion McCarthy answers the question, “What will climate change mean for corals?”

Orion McCarthy, a 1st year PhD student in the Smith lab, recently contributed an article to the Agenda for International Development detailing what climate change might mean for corals. In his article he addresses the importance of coral reefs and details the processes that are triggered by climate change that could lead to a decrease in reef health worldwide. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as he talks about best practices to help mitigate climate change and highlights the research efforts being carried out at Scripps by the Smith and Sandin labs.

















Click here to read the full article online, What will climate change mean for corals? 

Smith Lab awarded grant by the California Ocean Protection Council to study effects of sea level rise on intertidal communities

The Smith Lab was recently awarded a grant by the California Ocean Protection Council to study the effects of sea level rise on intertidal communities – that is, the life that thrives in the zone that is exposed to the air at low tide and covered by water at high tide. This project will use technology similar to that used in the 100 Island Challenge, where thousands of images are stitched together to reconstruct the habitat in 3D. These models serve as a window into a habitat that is difficult to access and only exposed a few times each year – they can provide important new ways to study a long-studied ecosystem and can also be used as tools to communicate with and inspire nearby communities who interact with these unique places.

Check out this article written by The San Diego Union Tribune to learn more about the 4 scientists at Scripps Oceanography who were awarded collectively more than $1 million in grants this year!

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