Meet the New Faculty and Researchers at Scripps Oceanography

Fourteen new members of the academic community have joined Scripps recently, including several starting this fall

This fall, there will be some new faces on campus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, including scientists, students, and staff members. Over the past two academic years, Scripps Oceanography has welcomed a total of 14 new faculty members and researchers to its academic ranks, including nine who joined in 2023 and several who started their roles within the past few months.

These scientists bring a wealth of knowledge in topics spanning climate science, oceanography, marine biology, geology, engineering, environmental policy, and more.

“We are thrilled to welcome these talented new faculty members and researchers to Scripps Oceanography, as well as the new students and staff who make up our vibrant community,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. “Our new academics bring diverse expertise in their respective fields and share a common dedication to understanding and protecting the planet, while also training the next generation of scientists.”

Meet the newest members of Scripps Oceanography’s academic community in the profiles below.


Dahiana Arcila

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Marine Vertebrate Collection

Portrait of a woman near the ocean

Dahiana Arcila, a marine biologist specializing in the evolutionary biology of fishes, joined Scripps Oceanography in the spring of 2023. Arcila’s research integrates genomic and morphological approaches to explore the evolutionary history of both fossil and extant fishes. Her joint lab uses genome-scale approaches to understand relationships, diversification, and the genetic underpinnings of adaptations while integrating fossil evidence to address broader evolutionary questions. She has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, including a CAREER award supporting her research on marine fish evolution. As curator of the renowned Marine Vertebrate Collection at Scripps, Arcila will oversee the preservation and growth of this global repository of marine fishes. She aims to continue building an internationally recognized research program investigating the evolutionary relationships of marine and freshwater fishes, and plans to develop new courses related to fish evolution. Previously, Arcila completed doctoral research at the George Washington University and held postdoctoral positions at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Chicago.


Ricardo Betancur-R.

Associate Professor, Marine Biology Research Division (MBRD) and SIO Department

A man near an ancient pyramid

Ricardo Betancur-R. is a marine biologist whose work is dedicated to the study of fish evolutionary biology. His joint lab combines genomic and morphological approaches to examine the evolutionary history of both fossil and modern fish species. Fieldwork is an important component of his research, and his lab has collectively conducted expeditions to survey freshwater and marine fishes in 12 countries across four continents. Prior to joining Scripps Oceanography in the summer of 2023, Betancur-R. held faculty positions at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras, and completed postdoctoral research at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the George Washington University. He has served as the associate editor of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B since 2019.


Jennifer Burney

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Global Policy and Strategy 

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Jennifer Burney is an environmental scientist whose research focuses on the coupled relationships between climate and food security. Her work involves measuring air pollutant emissions and concentrations, as well as quantifying the effects of climate and air pollution on land use, food systems, and human health. Burney seeks to understand how food production and consumption contribute to climate change, and she designs and evaluates technologies and strategies for adaptation and mitigation among the world’s farmers. Much of her current research focuses on the developing world, and she is particularly interested in the science, technology and policy of short-lived climate pollutants, or SLCPs, and the role that mitigation of these compounds can play in meeting both climate and food security objectives. Burney has been a faculty member with UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) since 2012 and leads its Science Policy Fellows Program. Starting in 2022, she has also held an appointment with Scripps Oceanography, where she teaches cross-listed courses and advises Scripps students. Burney currently holds the Marshall Saunders Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Global Climate Policy and Research. Additionally, she is a fellow at the Center for Effective Global Action and member of the National Geographic Explorers family.


Yassir Eddebbar 

Assistant Research Scientist, Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography (CASPO)

Portrait of a smiling man in a blue jacket

Yassir Eddebbar is a climate scientist whose research combines long-term observations with numerical models of ocean and atmospheric circulation and biogeochemistry. His work aims to advance our understanding of the coupling between climate processes and ocean biogeochemistry, ranging from regional to global scales. Eddebbar’s ongoing research explores the influence of climate variability and ocean circulation on oxygen dynamics, carbon cycling, and primary productivity, enhancing our understanding of climate change impacts on marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle. His work aims to develop science-based strategies for adapting to climate change impacts, with a focus on the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources. A Scripps Oceanography alumnus, Eddebbar obtained his PhD in oceanography in 2018, followed by postdoctoral research at Scripps’ Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation and work as a project scientist within the Integrative Oceanography Division. He assumed his current role with CASPO in late 2022. 


Alice Gabriel

Associate Professor, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)

Portrait of a smiling woman near a wooden building

Alice Gabriel is a seismologist who uses some of the world’s largest supercomputers to uncover the physical mechanisms behind earthquakes. Her research combines physics-based computer simulations with data-driven techniques and theoretical analysis, bridging space-time scales and disciplines encompassing geophysics, computer science, and applied mathematics. Gabriel joined Scripps Oceanography’s IGPP in late 2021, and her recent work has focused on understanding the complex physics behind the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquakes and the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes. Gabriel comes to Scripps from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, where she completed postdoctoral work and later served as an assistant and then associate professor.


Ganesh Gopalakrishnan

Researcher, Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography (CASPO)

Portrait of a smiling man near a lake

Physical oceanographer Ganesh Gopalakrishnan specializes in numerical modeling and data assimilation to better understand ocean-ice-wave-atmosphere interaction dynamics and improve prediction of future states of the climate system. His research combines observations, theory, and modeling to address specific science questions, including estimation of the ocean circulation in regions such as the northwestern Pacific Ocean, northwestern Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, northern Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and the California Current System. Gopalakrishnan uses these estimates to improve our understanding of dynamic ocean-atmosphere processes and to initialize forecasts for predictability studies. His recent work focuses on coupled ocean-wave-atmosphere modeling and data assimilation to contribute to better representation and prediction of regional climate systems. Gopalakrishnan joined Scripps as a postdoctoral scholar in the fall of 2008, advancing to his current role in the summer of 2023 through the project scientist series.


Xuanting Hao

Assistant Professor, Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)

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Xuanting Hao is a fluid dynamicist whose research is focused on understanding the small-scale physical processes at the atmosphere-ocean interface. With the help of modern high-performance computers, he develops physics-based and data-driven models to gain insights into air-sea processes. Hao’s research addresses fundamental scientific challenges in fluid mechanics, physical oceanography, and boundary layer meteorology, with significant implications for engineering applications in weather forecasting, renewable energy harvesting, and marine infrastructure protection. Hao joined Scripps Oceanography’s MPL and the Jacobs School of Engineering’s MAE in the fall of 2022, and he recently received seed funding from Scripps to examine the scientific challenges behind bioluminescence, the light produced by marine microorganisms. An example of bioluminescence is the “blue tears” phenomenon often seen along Southern California coastlines. This occurs when large aggregations of phytoplankton or other microorganisms in the water are agitated by waves or movement in the water, causing them to emit a neon blue glow. Sometimes, these microorganisms release harmful toxins that impact both human health and fish populations. Hao’s research aims to enhance our understanding of bioluminescence and develop improved methods for monitoring harmful algal blooms. Before coming to UC San Diego, Hao conducted remote postdoctoral research at the University of Minnesota and served as a visiting scholar at the University of Miami.


Ying-Tsong (YT) Lin 

Acting Professor, Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) and SIO Department

Potrait of a smiling man wearing an argyle sweater

Ying-Tsong (YT) Lin is an ocean acoustician who is working to advance our knowledge of the ocean through interdisciplinary, acoustics-based studies. He currently holds the Victor C. Alderson Chair of Applied Ocean Science and is one of the core principal investigators of the Ocean Acoustics program and the Task Force Ocean program established by the Office of Naval Research. Lin joined Scripps Oceanography’s MPL in the summer of 2023. His current research is centered on distributed hydrophone array networks, which combine 3D acoustics, AUV technology, and high-performance signal processing for the purpose of detection, classification, and localization. Prior to his role at Scripps, Lin was a tenured scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), where he led an engineering group that won a grand prize from the W.M. Keck Foundation to build the first real-time 3D acoustic telescope, which enables advanced studies of the underwater soundscape. Lin is passionate about ocean exploration, and in 2020 became the first person of Asian descent and twelfth person in history to visit the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the ocean.


April Lukowski

Assistant Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Portrait of a smiling woman with blonde hair

April Lukowski is a biochemist whose research focuses on enzyme discovery and applications to sustainable chemical synthesis. Her research is interdisciplinary and uses methods in enzymology, synthetic biology, chemical analysis, and bioinformatics to understand how natural products, particularly toxins, are made by marine organisms step-by-step. Using the enzymes she characterizes, Lukowski assesses the breadth of their potential for targeted applications in chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry as biocatalysts. Her recent work reported on the discovery of an enzyme family from marine cyanobacteria that added a new reaction to the enzyme chemistry toolbox for building drugs from the sea. Lukowski completed her PhD in chemical biology at the University of Michigan in 2020, and joined Scripps Oceanography that same year as a postdoctoral scholar. In the fall of 2023, she became a faculty member at Scripps Oceanography's Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine (CMBB) through a joint appointment with UC San Diego’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.


Margo Odlum 

Assistant Professor, Geosciences Research Division (GRD) and SIO Department

A woman in hiking gear outdoors with her dog

Margo Odlum is a geologist whose research focuses on developing and applying novel techniques to document thermal, chemical, and mechanical signatures of deformation and fluid-rock interactions in the lithosphere — the rigid, outermost layer of Earth’s structure, including the crust and upper mantle. Her research group integrates field geology, microscale observations, geochronology, and geochemistry to investigate the rock record of deformation and seismicity in active and ancient fault zones. She has active projects in several different locations, including California and Nevada in the southwest United States, Arctic Alaska, and Argentina. Prior to joining Scripps Oceanography in the summer of 2023, Odlum served as an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and completed an NSF postdoctoral fellowship at Utah State University. 


Lia Siegelman

Assistant Professor, Integrative Oceanography Division (IOD)

Portrait of a woman with short hair outdoors near a pier

Lia Siegelman is a physical oceanographer who specializes in geophysical fluid dynamics and examining submesoscale processes in the upper ocean. Her work focuses on better understanding circular currents of water known as eddies, as well as the complex interactions between these currents and other bodies of water that occur at dimensions of less than 100 kilometers across. Siegelman is also interested in researching the polar dynamics of giant gaseous planets like Jupiter. Her research is informed by satellite observations, in situ data, and numerical simulations. Previously, Siegelman conducted postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She joined Scripps Oceanography as a postdoctoral fellow in 2020, rising to her current role in the spring of 2023.


Heriberto J. Vazquez Peralta 

Assistant Researcher, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) 

Potrait of a smiling man outdoors on a ship

Heriberto J. Vazquez Peralta is a physical oceanographer who blends observations and numerical models to investigate ocean dynamics across spatial scales, ranging from the basin-scale to shorter distances. His recent work focuses on using ocean acoustics for remote underwater sensing, which provides data that can help validate and constrain numerical models. He is interested in sampling diverse phenomena across different spatial scales by changing factors such as the acoustic wave frequency, the aperture of the antenna, and the shape of the transmitted signal. Vazquez Peralta joined Scripps Oceanography in late 2014, first working in the CASPO division as a postdoctoral researcher and then as an assistant project scientist. He assumed his current role with IGPP’s acoustic oceanography group in the summer of 2023. Previously, he held research positions at CICESE in Ensenada, Mexico, and at the Mexican Institute of Petroleum, where he supervised the implementation of a forecast system for circulation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Duncan Watson-Parris 

Assistant Professor, SIO Department and Halicioğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI)  

Portrait of a smiling man outdoors near the ocean and a pier

Duncan Watson-Parris is an atmospheric physicist who works at the intersection of climate research and machine learning. His research investigates the effect of human-generated aerosols on the climate. Using cutting-edge machine learning techniques, his research group combines global aerosol models with novel observational constraints to better understand the complex interactions between aerosols and the climate, and to improve projections of climate change. Watson-Parris holds a joint appointment with Scripps Oceanography and HDSI, where he works to promote the application of machine learning in addressing broader questions within the realm of climate science. Prior to joining UC San Diego in the spring of 2023, he completed postdoctoral research and then served as a senior research associate at the University of Oxford. He convenes the annual “Machine Learning for Climate Science” session at the European Geosciences Union general assembly and co-convenes “AI and Climate Science,” a discovery series that is part of the United Nations’ AI for Good program.


Adam Young

Researcher, Integrative Oceanography Division (IOD) and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)

Portrait of a smiling man outdoors near a banana plant

Adam Young is a researcher who studies coastal processes, geomorphology, and hazards. Young is especially interested in how the coast changes over time and the related impacts on society. He uses tools such as lidar, seismometers, ocean wave sensors, drones, and photogrammetry to research coastal erosion, sea-level rise, sediment budgets and transport, landslides, and the influence of human activities on the coastal environment. Recently, Young received funding to develop a new annual California statewide coastal erosion mapping program. Young joined Scripps Oceanography in 2007, working as a postdoctoral scholar and project scientist at the Scripps Coastal Processes Group. He started his new role as a researcher with Scripps Oceanography’s IOD and IGPP in the spring of 2022, and also serves as a research affiliate of the Scripps Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation.


- This article has been updated to include April Lukowski among the new faculty hires for the 2023-24 academic year.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

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