Beyond the Pier ... By a Few Meters!


Love brought them to Scripps.  For one, it was the love of the ocean.  For the other, it was the love of a girl.  These loves lead them to La Jolla, but it was the love for Scripps Institution of Oceanography that kept them there.

And in that love for Scripps Oceanography, they are not alone.  More than eighty Scripps alumni are currently employed by the institution. Holding positions from development engineers to project scientists to professors, many cannot break the bonds of affections that first drew them to a science education at La Jolla’s shores.

In an effort to create linkages between current and past students, on October 10, Scripps launched a new alumni program – Triton Table by the Sea.  The program concept is simple – bring alumni and current students together around a dinner table to discuss current scientific topics and explore potential career paths.  This first dinner included eight students from diverse backgrounds, some only at Scripps a month, others entering their seventh year.

“I believe this will be a highlight of my time here at Scripps,” said Mike Navarro, in his second year in the ocean biosciences program.

With the oft-bestowed title of “greatest living oceanographer,” Walter Munk, Scripps professor emeritus, was the gracious host of this inaugural Triton Table by the Sea.  Munk arrived at Scripps in 1939 – and he never left! He has spent his entire professional career here, and what a career it has been.  His awards, honors and accomplishments are too plentiful to name, but some notable scientific highlights include inventing acoustic tomography and founding the UCSD branch of the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics.


Ever the accomplished storyteller, Munk enthralled students with tales of his experiences merging science with national security.  During WWII, his important work forecasting breakers and surf guided troop landings on the beaches of Europe.  Today he continues to serve with several government bodies on general security issues, including "climate" which is now accepted as a security issue.  All were spellbound as he explained how he ended up at Scripps.

“I was in love with a girl who lived in La Jolla, so I needed a job here.  That’s how I came to be at Scripps.  After a time I fell out of love with the girl, but my love for Scripps remained and I’ve been here ever since,” Munk told his captivated audience.

Joining Munk as alumni representatives were Heidi Dewar, class of 1993, and Dale Stokes, class of 1996.  Dewar is a fisheries research biologist just up the hill from Scripps at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Stokes is a research oceanographer at Scripps’ Marine Physical Laboratory.

Stokes too came to Scripps for love, but his was a different kind of love story.  Born and raised far from the sea in northern Canada, Stokes inexplicably came into the world knowing he wanted to be an oceanographer – even before having set eyes on the ocean.  At age six a family vacation brought him to Oceanside, just north of San Diego, and when local family friends learned of this passion, they took him for a visit to Scripps.

“I was six, and they took me away from my parents and dropped me off at Scripps,” Stokes says, amused by the free spirited forwardness of his first encounter with Scripps.  “I met first with Don Wilkie, then director of the aquarium.  Then he handed me off to someone else.  I cannot remember who that person was, all I remember was that he was an older, professor type man.  He showed me all around Scripps and then returned me to my family,” Stokes recalled, comfortable on campus even at such a tender age.

Stokes completed his undergraduate work in Canada before heading to La Jolla to pursue his love.  He has a diverse background in biology and physics, works on projects from coral reefs to polar ecology and is currently working on air-sea gas exchange through studies of bubbles.

With the sun set and the dinner dishes cleared, the evening drew to a close.  Deemed a success by all in attendance, all that was left were parting words of wisdom from the alumni to the students.

“Have fun!” and “Love what you do!”


Walter Munk

Class: 1947

Advisor: Harald Sverdrup

Thesis: Increase in the Period of Waves Traveling Over Large Distances: With Applications to Tsunamis, Swell, and Seismic Surface Waves

Awards: Munk was honored with the 199 Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences for his fundamental contributions to the field of oceanography, the first time the prize was awarded to an oceanographer.


Dale Stokes

Class:  1996

Advisors: Paul Dayton and Nick Holland

Thesis: Ontogenetic Changes in the Morphology, Ecology, and Locomotory Biomechanics of the Lancelet, Branchiostoma floridae.

Field time: Stokes has extensive field experience, including 3 seasons in the Arctic and 4 seasons in the Antarctic.


Heidi Dewar

Class: 1993

Advisor: Jeff Graham

Thesis: Studies of Tropical Tuna Swimming Performance: Thermoregulation, Energetics and Swimming Mechanics

Current work: Dewar is at the NOAA Fisheries Southwest Science Center where she works in the highly migratory species group collecting biological data relevant to management.

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