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!

100 Island Challenge featured by BBC Earth

Our Blue Planet: 100 Island Challenge

Could virtual diving save our planet's coral reefs?#OurBluePlanet w/ OceanX

Posted by BBC Earth on Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Adi Khen featured affiliate artist with Climate Science Alliance

Adi Khen, a PhD candidate in the Smith Lab, was recently featured in an interview with the Climate Science Alliance. She is the newest affiliated artist with the Alliance, and her work will be featured in their upcoming “Art of Change” show.

Adi is passionate about art and using illustration to communicate complex scientific topics to a variety of audiences. She has created many scientifically accurate illustrations of many species of corals, seaweed, fish, and invertebrates with an emphasis on those that play a key role in coral reef ecology.

Click here to read the full interview!

100IC team featured in bioGraphic while on expedition in the Cook Islands

Researchers from the 100 Island Challenge team were interviewed for a piece in bioGraphic in January on an expedition to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. The article, “Picture of Health,” published online last week, details the daily life of researchers in the field and shares the team’s optimistic view of coral reef health in areas where local managers are making waves to effectively protect their natural resources. According to the article, “Despite myriad threats, some coral reefs are thriving, or rebounding, suggesting it may be far too early to write the obituary for these critical ecosystems.”

Moving forward, the team hopes to work with local communities in the Cook Islands and other similar places to empower local officials and stakeholders with knowledge of the health of their reefs in order to facilitate effective management strategies.

Read the full article here!

Smith Lab alum, Maggie Johnson, uses her field skills to learn more about Panama’s reefs

Smith Lab Ph.D. alum, Dr. Maggie Johnson, was recently featured in the latest issue of Trópicos for her work studying coral reefs of Panama as part of her postdoctoral research with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Check out this YouTube video featuring Maggie’s postdoctoral work in Bocas del Toro, where she uses field techniques she learned in the Smith Lab to answer important questions about reef health in Panama under changing ocean conditions!

Way to go, Dr. Johnson!

100 Island Challenge featured at SXSW: “Saving coral reefs one pixel at a time”

This year at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas there was a special panel focusing on the use of technology in coral reef conservation – “Saving Coral Reefs One Pixel at a Time”. Dr. Jennifer Smith spoke on this panel alongside Zack Rago, from the documentary, Chasing Coral, and Joanna Klein, a science journalist from the New York Times.



The panel explored how novel imaging technology is being used to study coral reefs and inform coral reef conservation. From landscape-view swaths of reef to microscopic coral polyps, the imaging technology used to assess coral reefs is just as diverse as the images they offer. Panelists discuss everything from “What is a coral?” to the latest in underwater imaging technology, including autonomous cameras, high-resolution photo mosaics, 3D mapping, and underwater microscopes. At the end of day, the take home message from the panel was that there is still hope for coral reef conservation, especially if we can use novel imaging technology, such as virutal reality, to educate people globally about coral reef conservation and the power they have to make a difference in their local communities.

Click here to see the Facebook livestream of the panel, posted by Scripps Oceanography

Click here to read the Daily Texan article, “How virtual reality can help save the coral reefs”

Collaboration in the news: Smith Lab assists US Fish and Wildlife Service with water quality monitoring at Palmyra Atoll

On a recent trip to Palmyra Atoll, members of the Smith Lab assisted US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with the deployment of a nearshore water quality sensor.

The sensor, a Sea-Bird Electronics 16plus V2 SeaCAT Recorder with integrated WET Labs ECO-FLNTUS (say that 10 times fast!), is part of the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System’s (PacIOOS) Water Quality Sensor Partnership Program. It records temperature, conductivity (pH), pressure, chlorophyll (amount of phytoplankton in the water), and turbidity (how clear or murky the water is), which are all factors that can affect coral reef health.

PacIOOS provides participating partners with these data in a collaborative effort to increase understanding of how these oceanographic conditions affect the health of coral reefs over time.



To read more about the instrumentation and the reefs of Palmyra Atoll, check out the PacIOOS article here!

New study by SIO alum, Dr. Maggie Johnson, reveals how turf algae fare in the face of global change

Dr. Maggie Johnson, a recent Smith Lab PhD grad, recently published a study in the journal Coral Reefs revealing how epilithic and endolithic algae (that is, algae that grows on top of and beneath the surface of “rocks”, respectively) respond to increasing ocean temperature and acidification (lower pH).

Samples were collected from turf-covered substrate in Moorea, and were exposed for 3 weeks to different combinations of temperature and pH levels meant to mimic projections of future as well as present ocean temperatures and pH values.

Findings of this study suggest that algal turfs may respond positively to both warmer temperatures and lower pH (caused by an abundance of carbon dioxide in the water, which fuels photosynthesis). What’s interesting about these findings is that they also found an interactive effect between these two factors, meaning that the observed effects were even more apparent when warm temperatures and increased carbon dioxide were combined.

So, what does this mean for reefs of the future? While turf algae may respond positively to these conditions, other organisms, such as the corals that build the reefs, may have a negative response. This could mean a shift in the future from reefs that are dominated by calcifying reef organisms to those dominated by algal turfs and other fleshy organisms.

This study highlights the importance of incorporating multiple stressors into global change experiments to gain a complete understanding of how they will affect coral reefs in the future!


Click here to see Maggie’s photo featured as SIO’s “photo of the week”!


Johnson, M. D., S. Comeau, C. A. Lants, & J. E. Smith (2017) Complex and interactive effects of ocean acidification and temperature on epilithic and endolithic coral-reef turf algal assemblages. Coral Reefs. [pdf]

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