Scripps Student Spotlight: Rhys Tallentire

An undergraduate student researches coral reef biogeochemistry and its global decline

Approaching his third year at the University of California San Diego, Rhys Tallentire is a recent recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, as well as an undergraduate student studying oceanic and atmospheric sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He grew up in England and Chicago, before his enrollment into UC San Diego. Tallentire works under his advisor Andreas Andersson, a chemical oceanographer who leads the Scripps Coastal and Open Ocean BiogeochemistrY (SCOOBY) Research Group.


explorations now: Why did you choose to attend Scripps?

Rhys Tallentire: Honestly when I applied to UC San Diego, I had no knowledge of Scripps. After being accepted into the school, I went on a campus visit and walked into the Scripps Coastal Reserve. I took one look out to sea from the cliffs and thought "this is the place for me." Driving down La Jolla Shores Drive and seeing all the buildings dedicated to understanding various aspects of the ocean assured me that there was ample opportunity for me to engage in oceanography.


en: What are you researching at Scripps?

RT: At the SCOOBY lab, we study coral reef biogeochemistry in many places across the world, one of which is the island of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. Bermuda sits on a platform surrounded by shallow waters, and uniquely contains many high latitude coral reefs. There has been a decline in global coral cover in recent decades, however, corals on the Bermuda platform have fared relatively well. My research hopes to elucidate the mechanisms that enable corals in Bermuda to thrive relative to their counterparts worldwide. To do this, we are quantifying the biogeochemical changes across the Bermuda platform, and offshore in the Sargasso Sea.


en: How did you become interested in science and your field of study?

RT: I have always been interested in science because it strives to understand the natural world empirically. Despite never living close to the ocean, I was continually drawn to it—whether it be rewatching The Blue Planet, or enjoying the waves and watching the seafloor below me every time I was by the seaside.


en: What’s life like as a Scripps student? Describe a typical day.

RT: Unfortunately, I have spent two-thirds of my time at Scripps online, so I can really only speak for that. Most of the day is spent at the computer working on classes to fulfill major and college requirements. However, I usually give myself a break by doing some research on MATLAB while listening to one of my favorite video game soundtracks, Subnautica. Then, I top off the day with a run.  


en: What’s the most exciting thing about your work (in the field or in the lab)?

RT: That my work is contributing to our knowledge of the natural world: something that is bigger than myself.


en: Are there any role models or mentors who have helped you along the way?

RT: Yes—Dr. Andreas Andersson, who gave me the opportunity to join the lab and stay there despite COVID, while also providing guidance during the research process. Additionally, Dr. Travis Courtney who has been there to answer my countless questions pertaining to the research, and providing me with advice about how to navigate my time as an undergraduate. 


en: What are some of the challenges you face as a student?

RT: Knowing when to stop working and enjoy life. 


en: What are your plans post-Scripps?

RT: Right now, I think I want to attend graduate school and pursue research in oceanography. 

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