Research Interests

  • Climate Change Research
  • Coral Physiology and Ecology
  • Benthic Ecology
  • Coral Reef Biogeochemistry
  • Computer Vision Coral Ecology
  • Marine Diseases
  • Marine Reserve Design


  • B.A. Carleton College in 1996 Summa Cum Laude
  • Ph.D. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD in 2005


Dr. David I. Kline is an Associate Project Scientist in the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He is a coral reef biologist who studies the fate of coral reefs in a high carbon dioxide future on molecular to ecosystem scales. In particular he collaborates with computer vision scientists, engineers, chemists and physiologists to develop new techniques for studying the impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems. He has led or co-authored over 45 high impact peer-reviewed publications with over 2000 citations. He studies the ecology of corals and reef communities, and how reefs will change under the plethora of stresses they face, both local (e.g. pollution and disease) and global (warming and ocean acidification).

His current research projects include:
1) A NSF funded project with Martin Tresguerres titled “Cellular physiological mechanisms for coral calcification and photosynthesis: extending lab-based models to the field” in which we are using immunological techniques to study coral responses to environmental conditions, and to test in nature the relevance of mechanistic models obtained from laboratory experiments.

2) A 10-year time series from Bocas del Toro, Panama in which I permanently tagged over 300 corals during the 2005 bleaching and we have returned to photograph and take samples for symbiont typing annually. This time series now includes three bleaching events (2005, 2010 and 2015) and we have segmented the photos for an analysis of growth, recovery or decline of 7 dominant Caribbean coral species and an analysis of the corals’ symbiont communities over this 10 year period (with Ben Neal, Adi Khen, Mary Alice Coffroth, Nancy Knowlton, and Greg Mitchell as key collaborators).

3) A Digital Globe project to use high-resolution satellite imagery to attempt to determine the global extent of shallow coral bleaching and recovery/mortality. We are working on developing automated methods to determine the extent of coral bleaching and the rate of recovery that will eventually be applied on a global scale. We also are attempting to build a model to link the health of shallow reefs visible from space to deeper reef regions. This work is being done in collaboration with Daniel Conley (SIO, UCSD), Gordon Hanson and Ran Goldblatt (School of Global Policy and Strategy, UCSD), Thomas Oliver and the NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem (CRED) team, and with collaborators at Terra Bella and the Google Earth Engine.

4) David has been co-leading a project with Greg Mitchell at SIO and David Kriegman at the UCSD computer vision department titled, “Computer Vision Coral Ecology: Cyber-Enabled Image Classification for Rapid, Large Scale, Automated Monitoring of Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reefs” that was funded from 2010-2013 by the NSF. The project aims to establish baselines of coral reef health to document the changes to reefs associated with climate change. This project has developed methods based on computer vision and machine learning for automatically performing point-based annotation and analysis of benthic images of coral reefs and other benthic ecosystems.