Scripps Ocean Acidification Real-time (SOAR) Monitoring Program

SOAR logo v3

Beginning in March 2012 the Smith Lab, in collaboration with Todd Martz and Andrew Dickson, deployed state-of-the-art instrumentation on the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial (EBSM) Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to measure long-term, high resolution variability in pH and temperature in coastal La Jolla. The SOAR Monitoring Program is one of the only continuous, coastal Ocean Acidification monitoring sites on the west coast of the United States.Scripps Pier

Unique Ocean Acidification Dataset

 SOAR is an unparalleled OA monitoring program for several reasons. It is one of the only continuous, coastal OA monitoring sites on the west coast of the United States. Historically, ocean acidification data has been collected in the open ocean, which is a more stable environment compared to the dynamic and variable near-shore environment. SOAR has already collected near-continuous data for four years off the Scripps Pier, and the Smith lab hopes to maintain this program into the foreseeable future.

SOAR data is also unique in data quality due to rigorous weekly instrument calibration methods. SOAR employs two methods of calibration: discrete water sample collection (per Andrew Dickson, et al., Guide to Best Practices for Ocean CO2 Measurements) and an in situ calibration. The in situ calibration is applied by surrounding the pH sensor with Tris Buffer, which has a known pH at a known temperature. This in situ method is more accurate than the collection of discrete samples, since the sensor is fully immersed in a known buffer solution. The collection of discrete samples assumes the water being collected is of the same chemical composition as the water immediately surrounding the sensor, but it is possible for carbonate chemistry parameters to vary within very small differences in space and time. Both calibration methods are used weekly, creating one of the most rigorously collected data sets on ocean pH that exist.

 SOAR Products

SOAR Monitoring Program provides a valuable coastal OA dataset that is not being replicated elsewhere. Therefore, the data produced has been in high demand. To date, three publications featuring SOAR data have been submitted to scientific journals for review.

  • Takeshita Y., Frieder CA., Martz TA., Ballard JR., Feely RA., Kram SL., Nam S., Navarro MO., Price N., and Smith JE., (2015) Unique Habitat-specific Ocean Acidification Projections from High-frequency pH Observations. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 12, 5853-5870.
  • Kram SL., Price NN., Donham EM., Johnson MD., Kelly ELA., Hamilton SL., and Smith JE., (2015), Variable Responses of Temperate Calcified and Fleshy Macroalgae to Elevated pCO2 and Warming. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsv168.
  • McLaughlin K., Dickson A., Weisberg SB., Coale K., Elrod V., Hunter C., Johnson KS., Kram SL., Kudela R., Martz T., Negrey K., Passow U., Shaughnessy F., Tadesse D., Washburn L., Smith JE., and Weis RK., An Evaluation of ISFET Sensors for Coastal pH Monitoring Applications. Environmental Science & Technology, In Review.


The Smith Lab has capitalized on several public education opportunities afforded by the SOAR program. We strongly believe that for the results of our research to have a lasting impact, they should be understood and accessible to the public, as well as fellow researchers. Therefore the Smith Lab and the SOAR Monitoring Program have been featured at several events, highlighting the importance of OA monitoring and showcasing the work being done at Scripps including the Birch Aquarium, Sea Camp, the Ocean Discovery Institute, local schools, lab tours, etc. The SOAR program has a dedicated Facebook page where we communicate our results to friends and followers. Facebook Page: Scripps Ocean Acidification Real-time (SOAR) Monitoring Program. Raising awareness about OA and telling the story behind the science. Over 650 likes!


In addition to acquiring the necessary scientific data to study and document OA, the Smith Lab is also actively engaged in training the next generation of young scientists. The EBSM Pier offers an unprecedented platform and countless opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students in marine science and scientific SCUBA diving while developing an unparalleled data set on OA. Over 50 students have been trained to help with the OA monitoring project, providing career training and hands-on experience.

Future Goals:

The Smith Lab is committed to maintaining this unprecedented data set at SIO. As with all long-term monitoring data sets they become more and more valuable the longer they persist. In addition to fundraising to maintain the basic program, our future goals include:

  • Publish additional peer-reviewed scientific articles
  • Foster and create new collaborations both within and outside of Scripps
  • Use the data to design and perform for rigorous and relevant biological experiments
  • Develop OA early warning system & mitigation strategies for local aquaculture facilities
  • Develop a parallel/sister program in the La Jolla kelp forest and Hawaii

For more information, please contact the SOAR Program Manager, Samantha Clements at <>