Around the Pier: Name that Species. Literally.


Several of the most important “libraries” in the world are housed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Known as the Scripps Oceanographic Collections, and referenced by scientists all over the world, these holdings of biological and geological marine specimens tell a unique and evolving story of life on Earth, and provide answers to questions about our planet’s future.

In response to severe cuts to the collections budget over the past several years, Scripps is introducing two new ways for donors to show their support for these irreplaceable science and teaching resources.

Every year collections staff and researchers discover new, undescribed species that add to the library of known organisms on Earth. Some specimens set new records, such as the stout infantfish — co-identified by Scripps as the world’s smallest fish in 2004.

Traditionally, the person who first describes a newfound plant or animal gets to name it, but now, Scripps is inviting collections donors to share in the process by naming select newly discovered species acquired by the institution.

Currently, the Scripps Oceanographic Collections hold several new species that are available for naming. They include an orange, speckled nudibranch, a worm from a hydrothermal vent, two types of worms found living on deep-sea whale bones, and several new species uncovered in local La Jolla waters.

The cost to name one of these, or several other newly discovered creatures, starts from $5,000. Donors receive a framed print of their named organism, as well as a copy of the official publication in which it is first described.

“By supporting the collections through species naming, donors have an opportunity for their name, or the name of a person they love or respect, to be immortalized forever,” said Greg Rouse, curator of the Scripps benthic invertebrate collection. “This type of unique gift highlights the vast unknown diversity in the sea that Scripps scientists are working to document and describe.”

While offering the rights to name species may be a relatively new trend, naming species after people is not. Rouse plans to name the newly discovered Osedax worm after longtime Scripps Collections friend Ellen Lehman for her extraordinary support of the collections. In October 2007, Scripps’s Russ Chapman, executive director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, had a new species of green algae discovered by a former doctoral student named in his honor. The name, Trentepohlia chapmanii, recognizes Chapman for his research of the group of subaerial green algae.

Scripps is now also offering numerous annual sponsorship opportunities for donors to associate their name with categories of holdings within the collections. Collections sponsors receive prominent listing on a plaque at Scripps’s Vaughan Hall, the primary location of the collections; opportunities for tours of the holdings; and invitations to participate in various Friends of Collections events. Sponsorships range from $25,000 to be a lead sponsor, to $2,500 to sponsor specific categories of holdings such as California fish, mollusks, sediment cores, or deep-sea plankton.

Funds raised through these new naming opportunities will be used to help maintain and build upon the invaluable Scripps Oceanographic Collections for future generations of scientists.

To learn more about how you can support the Scripps Oceanographic Collections through a naming gift, or to join us for a tour, please contact the Scripps Development Office at 858-822-1865 or


--Shannon Casey


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