9-23 April 2018 – Nearly 2 m of sand accreted over our pressure sensor buried in the mouth of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, making it 3 m beneath ground level. After recovering the sensor in the surfzone and attempting to recover the lagoon mouth sensor, we had to resort to heavy machinery. Since the lagoon mouth was in the process of closing, recovery was a priority before the lagoon filled with water and the recovery became impossible. After a couple long days in the field, the pressure sensor was successfully recovered!
Thanks to Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications for some amazing photographs taken on the first day (before the heavy machinery!). And of course thanks to the amazing field crew – could not have done it without the immense efforts of Brian, Kent, Greg, Lucian, Rob, and Bill!
23 March 2018 – Giddings was invited to give a talk at the SDSU Computational Science Research Center (CSRC). Meetings with faculty and students during the visit highlighted the amazing work they are doing there and some potentials for future collaboration!
21 March 2018 – Harvey and Giddings participated in a workshop that was part of the Marshes on the Margins project. Marshes on the Margins is investigating how heavily altered Southern California estuaries will be impacted by sea level rise, particularly thinking towards restoration strategies. The workshop was focused on Los Peñasquitos Lagoon as a case study location. Harvey presented the data she has collected and work she has done towards understanding the system as part of her dissertation.
11 – 16 February 2018, Giddings lab members attended the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon. Arzeno presented an excellent poster, and Harvey & Rodriguez presented talks on their most recent research projects.
During January 2018, we returned to the Seychelles to continue our research there as part of the Seychelles Local Ocean Modeling and Observations (SLOMO) project, a project which is part of the larger ONR funded NASCar project.
05-09 November 2017, Maddie, Angelica, and Sarah attended the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017 conference in Providence Rhode Island. All group members presented talks on their research and we had multiple meetings with collaborators.
A paper in Oceanography was recently published highlighting the NASCar (North Arabian Sea Circulation – autonomous research) efforts. It includes a section on our NASCar Seychelles project – Seychelles Local Ocean Modeling and Observations (NASCar – SLOMO). And it highlights several of our photographs from the field, check out Isa, Maddie, Rich,Geno, and others on the cover page!
As one of five major ports in California, San Diego Bay is an important hub for industry and commerce, as well as the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet. The bay consists of nearly 11,000 acres of marine habitat for a diverse aquatic population that helps sustain various fauna that use the bay for breeding, rearing young, and migratory respite. Among the many organisms that call the bay home are sea turtles and the California Least Tern. As anthropogenic activities alter the landscape, environmental stresses put on these organisms have changed their migration and foraging patterns.
A collaborative project between SIO and SPAWAR SSC-Pacific is currently underway to improve upon the current understanding of the mechanisms driving San Diego Bay environmental conditions and circulation patterns to asses their role in ecological function of the bay. By assessing its modern hydrographic state, quantifying flow fields, and contextualizing the physical data with existing biological data, we hope to gain a better understanding of the system as a whole, which will ultimately allow for better stewardship of the resources that the bay provides.
A key focus of this project is shoal-channel interaction during the time period when the south bay becomes consistently saltier than the ocean (i.e. summertime in San Diego). This is intended to be a topic in Angelica’s dissertation and her summer internship with SPAWAR through the NREIP.
As part of her dissertation work, Maddie led a large field experiment in Los Peñasquitos Lagoon that just recently wrapped up. In addition to her typical deployments (pressure sensors, current meters, salinity/temperature sensors, etc.) she also deployed a Distributed Temperature Sensor (DTS) which consists of a long cable that can effectively measure temperature at very high spatial resolution. This month-long deployment required going to the lagoon multiple times per week to collect data and check on equipment.
Heitor presented his research in our group at the 2017 UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference and got excellent feedback! Very excited to have him working with us and expanding upon an interactive model visualization tool which we hope to release by this coming summer!!
Heitor presenting at one of our past group meetings x infinity! He had to connect to another computer via video conference in order to present so it resulted in an infinite string of images of himself!
Congratulations to Angelica Rodriguez and Maddie Harvey for passing their qualifying exams! Angelica advanced to candidacy on 21 March 2017 and Maddie advanced to candidacy on 6 December 2017. I am super proud of my students, they are all doing an excellent job! Here they are engulfing Angelica in a hug after her post-quals celebratory lunch!
Yesterday we went out on the Sally Ann to swap the batteries on some offshore instrumentation. Despite some extremely dense fog that made navigating tricky we made some new friends! Both instruments were playing host to octopi that only left their homes inside the instrument after the instruments were hauled on deck. One octopus decided to make his great escape back to the ocean through the boat’s bilge pump. Luckily, Kent and Greg were able to save him and put him back in the water!
Madeleine volunteered with the Ocean Discovery Institute’s Wetland Exploration Program to talk to 4th grade students about wetlands and what it is like to be a scientist.
Giddings and Harvey attended the Intermittenly Open Estuaries: Science & Mangagement Perspectives workshop in LA. Great discussions about these systems, the issues they face, and management approaches. Thanks to the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Wetlands Recovery Project for hosting this great meeting!
Giddings and CSIDE (Cross Surfzone / Innershelf Dye Exchange) graduate student Derek Grimes attended and presented at the International Boundary & Water Commission Citizen’s Forum on 1 September 2016. Grimes showed preliminary results from the CSIDE project which was highlighted in the local news.
the Giddings lab participated in the SIO Block Party, showing examples of extreme water level impacts on our local coastlines. The party was attended by hundreds of interested locals who got to learn about SIO science directly from the researchers. Here Isa flips through one of the flip-books of estuary sediment accretion/erosion created by Maddie and undergraduate researcher Mia Gonzalez.
Giddings, Harvey, and undergraduate researcher Mia Gonzalez attended the UC Irvine workshop on California Coastal Resiliency following a meeting with Colleagues at SCCWRP.
The Giddings lab participated in an SIO wide outreach event to students from Upward Bound, a year-round comprehensive academic college preparation and retention program that serves students from North County High Schools. The students were incredibly engaged and excited to witness the gravity currents and play around with stratification! Isa, Angelica, and Maddie, seen in the picture had a great time as well!
Great update on our project posted on the USC Sea Grant website! Thanks to the USC Sea Grant for funding this work looking at El Niño impacts on lagoon circulation and how it serves as a window into future conditions.
Part of the team departed for the Seychelles on 28 May 2016 to recover and re-deploy moorings, carry-out a process-based focus study, and do outreach with the local community. You can follow their trip on our NASCar-SLOMO project website. From left to right, Hugo, Isa, Rich, and Geno.
19 May 2016 Giddings and a few other scientists and policy specialists presented to community members at the City of Carlsbad Sea Level Rise Meeting. The City of Carlsbad hosted a panel discussion and community meeting about “The Future of Carlsbad’s Coast and Lagoons.”
On 18-20 May 2016, the Los Peñasquitos lagoon mouth was dredged open following nearly 2 months of continuous closure and upstream flooding. On 19 May 2016 water levels were low enough for us to recover the buried pressure sensor located just inside of the lagoon mouth. This pressure sensor has been measuring wave energy entering the lagoon throughout the El Niño winter.
Now you can watch the lecture on El Niño and Our Urban Ocean by Sarah and Julie Thomas from SCCOOS at the Birch Aquarium’s Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series.
SIO highlights all of the amazing El Niño work that has gone on during this 2015-2016 El Niño season in this article.
Join Astrid and many others as they highlight the various citizen science projects occurring in San Diego. This will be the inaugural Citizen Science Expo for San Diego! Astrid will highlight the Urban Tides Initiative and Stormphoto citizen science projects which the Giddings lab has participated in and her results from analyzing the efficacy of these programs as part of her SIO MAS (you can read about Astrid’s work and the Urban Tides and Stormphoto initiatives). In addition to an exhibition in the community room featuring local citizen science projects, there will also be citizen science seminars, workshops, games, raffles, and more. This should be a great event to learn how you can get involved in a variety of different citizen science programs that allow you to learn from and help scientists throughout San Diego. Representatives from citizen science programs ranging from the medical field to oceanography to conservation and more will be represented!
The Tijuana River mouth closed last week in response to what we think are the combined effects of large waves throughout this El Niño season and potentially along-shore transport of sand from earlier beach nourishments. Our colleagues at the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve have been monitoring the situation closely to better understand what is going on. See this news article about some of the unfortunate consequences of this closure combined with significant water quality issues from upstream. A paper by colleagues in the Guza lab should be coming out soon that looks at the beach component of this issue. While several of the smaller estuaries throughout California close more regularly, a closure of this estuary has not occurred since the last major El Niño in 1983.
Sarah joined Julie Thomas from SCCOOS to talk about impacts of the current El Niño on our coastline at the Birch Aquarium’s Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series. There was an excellent turnout and a lot of interest by the community. A brief news clip of the talks is here, a full recording will be available soon.
Our beach walk was a great success! We saw extreme beach erosion, infrastructure damage, and a recently excavated estuary mouth.
Astrid Hsu, MAS student at SIO Is studying the efficacy of beach walks and the Urban Tides Citizen Science Initiative, both to figure out who and why people join the Initiative and whether citizens are learning something from their participation. Click “read more” below to read preliminary findings of Astrids’ results! And if you want to participate check out the Urban Tides Initiative website (for those that want to use an app and/or on-line program) and the Storm Photo website ( for those who would rather send images via email). More information about El Niño and its effects see here.
Join us for a beach walk this Saturday, March 5th 3:30pm at Torrey Pines. We will highlight coastal changes we are experiencing during this El Niño season including cliff and beach erosion and drastic changes to the estuaries. We will also introduce the Urban Tides Initiative, a citizen science initiative intended to document coastline change. The walk will start at theTorrey Pines State Reserve South parking lot near the restrooms (directions). From there we will briefly walk south and then head north, passing the mouth of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and ending near the cliffs north of the lagoon. The walk should take ~1-1.5 hours. Note that a chance of rain and large waves are predicted, so long as it is not pouring, we will do the walk. In the case of very large waves and high water level, we will walk along the roadway rather than the beach. We look forward to seeing you there!
This weekend should be a particularly interesting time to check out the region as it recently experienced a few cliff failures, massive beach erosion, a closed estuary mouth (see above photo), and mechanical breaching of the estuary is expected to occur Friday before our walk. The photo above is from 18 February 2016, shortly after a cobble berm blocked the estuary mouth and the beach access ramp (note the hand rail barely sticking up above the cobbles!).
The Giddings’ lab just returned from the 2016 Ocean Sciences Conference in New Orleans. Isa gave an excellent talk (her first science talk at a major conference, congrats!) and Maddie presented a great poster with exciting new data. This was the view above the poster hall… a sea of posters and ocean scientists!
Due to receiving a newly funded USC Sea Grant project, we deployed a mooring in Agua Hedionda Lagoon to compare the influence of waves and wave-current interactions on sediment transport in a more open-water type of lagoon.
Thanks to the Carlsbad Aquafarm for their help in mooring deployment and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute for access to a location to mount our time-lapse camera!
KPBS joined our beach walk on 20 January 2016 and featured a great story on the radio and on-line about the Urban Tides citizen science program as well as the science many of us at SIO are doing to document El Niño’s impact on our coastline. KPBS has been working on a series of El Niño related stories, also check out this great one on Bob Guza’s beach monitoring program. Another story highlighting some of the science recently funded related to this El Niño season (including our CA estuary comparisons with SCCWRP ) is available here.
20 January 2016, Sarah, Maddie & Astrid joined a beach walk on La Jolla Shores to explain extreme water level events, El Niño, sea level rise, and to introduce folks to the Urban Tides citizen science initiative. The Urban Tides Initiative and the walk are led by USC Sea Grant. Astrid Hsu is a Master of Advanced Studies student in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO interested in science communication and the process of citizen science. She is helping gauge the success of the Urban Tides citizen science program through surveys and web-data analysis.
Check out a wonderful blog that Astrid wrote about the beach walk here, and another one here!
Maddie Harvey gave a tour of the SIO pier and Sarah Giddings spoke briefly about sea level rise, El Niño, and what scientists are able to do with the photographic dataset collected via Urban Tides. We are still looking for participants, so please consider joining in this great citizen science project to document changes to our coastline (beaches, estuaries, cliffs, and infrastructure) throughout this winter!
The lab spent the past two days in the field collecting data for Maddie’s lagoon morphodynamics project. The photo here is from Los Penasquitos Lagoon prior to conducting morphodynamic and hydrodynamic surveys following a series of major storms. The estuary looks very different after those storms. Unfortunately none of our arms are long enough to show our excellent oversized lagoon waders + safety vests! Crane in the background is because the railroad bridge over Los Pen is under construction.
Local news station, Fox 5 highlighted the citizen science program for El Niño documentation. Giddings answered a few questions regarding El Niño and its coastal impacts.
Happy holidays and happy extreme tides! Higher than normal tides this year have fallen on the holidays, the last one was at Thanksgiving, this one was on Christmas eve. The extreme tides + higher sea level caused by El Nino + waves led to coastal flooding along Southern California (unfortunately leading to more line un-happy high tides). These pictures are from 25 December at Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pier and La Jolla Shores about an hour after the maximum water levels. If you have pictures of extreme high OR low tides, please send them our way via our citizen science efforts! See this page on how to do so and how we will use the images.
Geno, Sarah, Isa, and Rich spent 10 lovely days in the Seychelles doing field work in December… the first trip of several that is part of the NASCar : SLOMO program.
The overarching goal for the research is to develop predictive capabilities for physical oceanography for the Seychelles region in support of locally relevant marine applications while providing context for larger scale NASCar efforts. Our work includes both observations and numerical simulations to identify the primary forcing mechanisms for local oceanography in this complex and relatively under-sampled environment. This work is being done in partnership with local authorities to help guide use of the data and support future observational programs.
We began field work to examine estuarine response to extreme events during the El Niño winter season. Extreme events of interest include extreme sea level events caused by tides + waves + surge as well as runoff from storms with rainfall. Photos include instrument checks in August and deployments in November.
As part of a collaboration with SCCWRP (Southern California Coastal Water Research Project), funded by California Sea Grant, we are collaborating with a large group of scientists up and down the CA coastline to examine and compare estuarine response to extreme events that we expect to occur during this 2015-2016 El Niño winter season. 19 November 2015 we met at San Dieguito Lagoon to discuss our strategies and installation techniques for instrumentation and sampling.
15-16 October, 2015 Giddings attended the US CLIVAR (Climate Variability and Predictability Program) meeting entitled: Translating Process Understanding to Improve Climate Models held at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA GFDL). At this meeting Giddings and several other scientist who study oceanic and atmospheric processes gathered with scientists from National modeling centers to discuss how to improve representation of smaller-scale processes in global models. GFDL is one of those modeling centers which includes scientists from NOAA and Princeton, however other modeling centers were represented including NCAR, NOAA NCEP, NASA GISS, GMAO, DOE ACME, and ONR. It was a very interesting and fruitful meeting with a lot of wonderful scientific discussions.
Early September we deployed instruments in the Tijuana Estuary as part of the CSIDE (Cross Surfzone/Inner-shelf Dye Exchange) experiment. The dye releases will be on the coast but we would like to better understand the interaction of the nearshore with the estuary. By instrumenting the estuary, we can directly look at nearshore/estuarine connectivity and estuarine dispersion.
Check out the major experiment that the Giddings lab is working on with the Feddersen lab to examine the exchange between the surfzone and a stratified inner-shelf. The experiment prep work is in full gear and preliminary models are up and running!
June 7-12 Dr. Giddings and Angelica attended the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Coastal Ocean Modeling. GRCs are intended for a small number of participants to present and discuss new, unpublished research. The environment fosters interaction between senior and junior scientists, as well as graduate students. Sessions are geared toward highlighting the most cutting-edge scientific methods and results while facilitating healthy discussion and debate.
Dr. Giddings gave an invited talk on using numerical models to capture the dynamics of ocean-estuarine interactions. The photo here includes all attendees. Invited speakers who presented on model development and/or application are pictured in the front row, behind the conference Chair and Vice Chair. All other participants presented posters. Angelica’s poster displayed her most recent work on assessing the impact of wave forcing on small river plumes.
Thursday, 12 March, 2015, Angelica (second from right) introduced UCSD Chancellor Emerita Marye Anne Fox
(second from left) at the Navy’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC) Women’s History Month Event. SWRMC is the largest and most diverse intermediate maintenance activity. The command provides superior ship maintenance, modernization, and technical support to over 100 surface ships, submarines, shore activities and other commands of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Among the event attendees was the commanding officer, engineer, astronaut, diver, and military officer, CAPT Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper (fourth from right). Other audience members included Engineers, Shipbuilding Specialists, Engineering/ Electronic Technicians, Contract Specialists, Quality Assurance, and Management Analysts.
The event was comprised of slideshows, presentations, and interactive sessions intended to inform the audience of the contributions women have made to societal advancement across multiple disciplines. SWRMC’s Multi-cultural Committee, headed by Paul Memije (far right), partnered with Cil Pleman (third from right) and Erika McBride (far left) from Commander Pacific Fleet’s Human Resource Office Southwest to bring two distinguished guest speakers to the event: Spokeswoman for the Women’s History Museum of California, Ashley Gardner (third from left), and Dr. Fox. Each speaker gave both historical perspectives as well as anecdotes from their own intriguing personal experiences. The event was very well received and all of the audience members admitted to learning something new. CAPT Stefanyshyn-Piper closed the event by stating that women’s history is not just women’s history—it’s our history.
21 March 2015. Giddings and SIO graduate students Julia, May-Linn, Sasha, Erica, and Shantong, joined with the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) team to present hands-on experiments to kids and parents at the San Diego Science EXPO Day. It was a fun filled day with exhibitors presenting hands-on STEM experiences ranging from operating and building robots to making concrete. There were even math rap and dance performances! With over 20,000 participants, it was an amazing day of science and fun. The TRNERR group had a demo where kids dug through fake mud cores to search for the various creatures that live in estuary marshes and microscopes to check them out in more detail. While the TRNERR group covered the biology, we covered the physics of estuaries and guided kids in experiments of what happens when river water meets the ocean.
Angelica Gilroy helped organize the Giddings’ group and some other Scripps students to attend San Diego’s Expanding Your Horizon conference. Expanding Your Horizons is an annual conference aimed to interest girls, aged 11 to 16, in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in fun, informative, hands-on workshops. The goals include helping the girls learn about STEM based careers, providing them with positive role models, and showing the excitement and fun of science. Our group presented a series of hands-on activities demonstrating the effects of density in mini water tanks. This included having the girls explore gravity currents, intrusions, stratification, internal waves, melting ice, and much more. We related the dynamics they were seeing to oceanic processes that we all study. Everyone had a great time, the scientists and the students… in fact we had a hard time prying the girls (and sometimes ourselves!) away from the tanks!
Above is the group of scientists leading our workshop. From left to right: Julia Fiedler, Angelica Gilroy, Olavo Marques, Isabella Arzeno, and Sarah Giddings.
Left: an intrusion layer of intermediate density (blue) between a dense (red) and fresh (clear) layer about to hit the wall of the mini-tank.
04 March 2015. Giddings briefly spoke at a STAY COOL event where Dr. Ron Flick was the lead speaker. Dr Flick discussed climate change impacts as they relate to sea level on a global and regional scale, including his recent work in Antarctica. Dr. Giddings described her work on local estuarine response to extreme sea level events including her PhD students’ Angelica and Maddie’s projects. STAY COOL is a non-partisan organization of grandparents working to help protect their grandkids from global warming by staying informed and expanding education. It was inspiring to see such a large group of citizens actively engaged in advocacy and education.
19 February 2015. Giddings (holding poster) helps lead a tour of Scripps Pier and a discussion of sea level change with sea level expert Dr. Ron Flick (with the ballcap) for the group, STAY COOL. STAY COOL is a non-partisan organization of grandparents working to help protect their grandkids from global warming by staying informed and expanding education. The group visit was planned to coincide with a moderately high spring tide.
Giddings’ group received an Environment Blaskar Grant from the San Diego Foundation to examine the response of local lagoons to extreme events through numerical models. The work will be used to consider these system’s response to future change. See the press-release here.
Check out The Oceanography Society (TOS) special issue on women in oceanography for a series of inspiring profiles and information on how far oceanography has come in the past decade.
Check out the exciting Ignite! talks at the 2013 Coastal Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) conference, 1 year ago in San Diego. I was invited to give one of these talks, you can see me at minute 19:40 but it is well worth watching the whole bunch!
Giddings et al. 2014 publication “Hindcasts of potential harmful algal bloom transport pathways on the Pacific Northwest coast” was featured as the weekly highlighted publication by Scripps Institution of Oceanography in July and was recently featured in the University of Washington news!
Angelica Gilroy and Madeleine Harvey are recent PhD students joining the lab. They both will be working on local Southern California estuaries and their interactions with the ocean. Gilroy and Harvey have both completed 1 year of coursework at SIO and are actively starting their research projects this summer.
If you have visited this site, you may notice some oddities and a lot of things missing, please be patient as this site is under construction and check back in a couple of weeks!