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2020 SURF Research Projects - Descriptions

Sarah Aarons - Assistant Professor, Geoscience Research Division

The Earth’s surface is diverse, with different chemical compositions, mechanisms of formation, and weathering histories. Isotopes in natural substances vary as a result of physical, chemical, and biologic processes, and they can be used as a tool for understanding and interpreting Earth’s history throughout time. The Aarons lab uses isotope compositions of natural materials such as mineral dust, weathering profiles, river sediment and rocks to reconstruct paleo-environmental conditions and more broadly to understand the geochemical evolution of Earth’s surface. Potential SURF student projects for summer of 2020 include laboratory chemistry to understand the role of mineral dust on soil nutrient content and vegetation fertilization, and determining primary mineral phases in dust transported to mountain ecosystems.

Lihini Aluwihare - Professor, Geoscience Research Division

The Aluwihare Lab studies the role of organic molecules in influencing community structure at the lowest trophic levels and how organic molecules participate in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen through the aquatic biosphere and geosphere.  The lab’s research approach combines organic and analytical chemistry with molecular biology and isotope geochemistry. Potential projects include (1) examining nitrogen cycling in lakes and the ocean by focusing on the types of nitrogen containing organic compounds (amino acids, nucleic acids, pigments) that accumulate in the water column, (2) identifying signaling molecules in dissolved organic matter in the context of different bacterial-algal interactions, and (3) examining the photochemical transformation of carotenoids and other conjugated lipids and the potential formation of refractory organic matter.  Previous SURF mentoring: Khanh Dam (2011) “What can we learn from marine mammals lipids?” Keifer Forsch (2011) “Investigation on lipid composition and abundance across metabolically diverse environments; GC-MS Analysis of particulate samples of the Santa Barbara Basin water-column,” Carlos Alva (2014) “Investigating the concentration of Halogenated Organic Compounds in California Market Squid,” Jonathan Behrens (2015) “Fatty Acids as Biomarkers for Food Web Structure in the Eastern Northern Pacific Ocean,” Irazema Islas (2017) “The effect of domoic acid on growth rates of phytoplankton.” and Carmen Castillo (2019) "Analysis of different environmental metabolites by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry."

Doug Bartlett - Professor, Marine Biology Research Division

The Bartlett laboratory studies the characteristics of microbial communities present in some of the most remote areas on the planet, deep-ocean trenches and deep subsurface environments. Potential projects include the opportunity to explore the phylogenetic breadth of deep microbes, their genomic characteristics, their “extremophilic” growth properties, physiological characteristics and genetic adaptations.   Previous SURF mentoring: Laura Filliger (2012) “Culturing piezophilic marine actinomycetes from the Deep Sea,” Alexandra Wheatley (2013) “Pressure adaptation of deep subsurface sulfate-reducing bacteria,” Oladayo Osuntokun (2014) "Characteristics of microbial communities within the sediments, seawater, and animals of deep-ocean Kermadec Trench near New Zealand," Michelle Pombrol (2015) “Exploring microbial diversity in one of the world's deepest oceans,” Micah Mills (2016) “Growth and survival of marine microbes under different chemical conditions at high pressure” and Josefa Muñoz (2017) “Pressure and temperature effects on the gram-positive genus Carnbactierum.”

Simone Baumann-Pickering - Assossiate Researcher, Marine Physical Laboratory

The Scripps Acoustic Ecology Lab investigates biological and ecological questions that range from a basic understanding of short and long-term behavioral patterns and geographic distribution of animals, to questions like habitat preference and quality, predator-prey interactions, or adaptations to anthropogenic impacts and a changing environment. A broad range of invertebrates and vertebrates use sound for communication and sensing of their environment. Each ecosystem contains a unique symphony of sounds, a soundscape, that informs us about its species composition, possibly abundance, and together with information about the physical environment leads to the characterization of the ecology and behavior of the species producing and interpreting sound. The group is using active and passive acoustic methods, optics and auxiliary environmental measurements to monitor and understand ecosystem adaptations. Previous SURF mentoring: Alexis Cugini (2018) “Passive acoustic monitoring of odontocetes at the California Current Ecosystem (CCE-1) site.”

Jeff Bowman - Assistant Professor, Integrative Oceanography Division

The Bowman Lab explores many aspects of marine microbial ecology.  We use sequence data (RNA and DNA) to assess the structure and function of marine microbial communities, flow cytometry and other approaches to describe microbial physiology, and models to tie it all together.  Much of our work is focused on understanding the flow of carbon and energy through marine ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctic.  The dynamic microbial communities that occupy these ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and poorly studied due to logistical challenges.  Available projects include (1) isolating, culturing, and characterizing marine bacteria and phytoplankton to develop appropriate model systems needed to expand our culture collection of ecologically significant phytoplankton.  (2) experiments to test the physiological response of the coastal phytoplankton community to anthropogenic stressors, including nutrients (3) the application of machine learning algorithms to predict ecological outcomes associated with changes in phytoplankton community structure.  This project will provide an opportunity to learn or improve skills in data analysis and programming.  Some prior experience with the programming language R, or a background in computer science, applied math, or statistics will be helpful (but is not required).  ​Previous SURF mentoring:  Tia Rabsatt (2017) “The effects of eelgrass on the abundance of marine microorganisms in San Diego Bay, CA.”

 Anela Choy– Assistant Professor, Integrative Oceanography Division

The Choy lab investigates how deep-sea and open ocean ecosystems function, and how this functioning shifts with global climate change and increased resource extraction (e.g., fishing and mining). We use a diversity of approaches to understand marine food webs and the primary feeding relationships that structure animal assemblages across shallow, mesopelagic or midwater, and bathypelagic depths. Many commercially-fished marine species feed on the diversity of life inhabiting the deep ocean, including fishes with “flashlights” on their bodies, color-changing cephalopods, and gelatinous animals longer than a school bus. In this specific way, humans are inextricably tied to these deep waters through our reliance on seafood. Anela and her team employ biochemical (stable isotopes, fatty acids, organic contaminants/trace metals) and traditional ecological approaches to examine the flow of carbon and energy through marine food webs. We are a sea-going research group that observes and samples deep-sea communities with remotely operated vehicles, imaging systems, and large trawls. Potential projects for SURF students include 1) food web ecology of important fish, cephalopod, crustacean and/or gelatinous animal groups; 2) examining the food web movement of microplastic debris and/or organic contaminants (heavy metals) through deep marine species; and 3) describing the diets of large open ocean fishes and other predators. Students can expect to acquire experience and training in statistical and computational analyses, as well as laboratory-based methods for gut contents, bio(geo)chemical tracers, and microplastics.

Cathy Constable– Professor, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics

The geomagnetic field is generated by movement of liquid iron in Earth’s core 3000 km below our feet and is a fundamental property of our planet. The field shields the surface environment and low-orbiting satellites from solar radiation and also provides a means to probe the structure, dynamics and evolution of otherwise inaccessible regions of the Earth. Constable’s research explores how Earth’s magnetic field has changed in the past, using a combination of paleomagnetic data with statistical and numerical modeling. Current research projects focus on decadal to million-year variations in the geomagnetic field, how quickly the magnetic field can change in time, and how the changing structure of the magnetic field and events like geomagnetic reversals can inform scientists about processes in Earth’s deep interior.  Establishing the fastest variations of the field is important for understanding its past evolution and predicting future behavior and has gained much recent interest with new research suggesting that field variations around 1000 BC and during the last polarity reversal 780,000 years ago were over 100 times faster than changes seen at the present day. However, these observational results are controversial, in part because it has not been clear what physical process could have caused them. Recent work used computer simulations of the field generation process to identify physical processes that could be the cause of the observed rapid changes. Interestingly these results indicate that rapid changes in field direction and strength reflect different processes at the top of Earth’s core. Extending this work will involve comparisons of the best paleomagnetic records and regional field models with syntheses results from numerical simulations.

Julia Diaz – Assistant Professor, Geoscience Research Division

The Diaz lab explores how the ocean’s smallest inhabitants, such as phytoplankton, interact with their chemical environment to shape the natural world in big ways, including impacts on ecosystem health, natural resources and global climate. We conduct this work using a combination of lab-based experiments with model organisms and field work in diverse ocean settings, from coastal to open ocean environments. Among other projects, the Diaz lab studies how marine phytoplankton cope with stress by obtaining the chemical nutrients they need from seawater, such as phosphorus, and converting chemical elements into forms that can be harmful or beneficial to life, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS).  This summer, we invite a SURF student to contribute to our research on phytoplankton-derived ROS. The project will involve culturing phytoplankton in the lab and sampling from the Scripps Pier in order to test the potential effects of ROS inhibitors on phytoplankton growth and photosynthetic health.  Students may also have the opportunity to conduct measurements of ROS in cultures and natural samples.

Jeff Gee – Professor, Geoscience Research Division

Gee’s research focuses on the use of magnetic data, both remotely sensed magnetic anomaly data and the magnetization of rock samples, to understand a variety of geological problems. He uses the magnetic record in geological samples to study topics ranging from the formation of new crust at oceanic spreading centers to the processes of melt redistribution and cooling in large magma chambers. One possible project involve samples and magnetic anomaly data from a tectonic exposure of the lower oceanic collected during a cruise to Pito Deep in early 2017 ( The exposures span two reversals of the earth’s magnetic field and the goal is to use the magnetic signature of these reversals to understanding cooling of the lower oceanic crust. A second potential project would use samples from a 1.43 billion-year-old intrusion to construct a time series of geomagnetic field variations in the Precambrian. Previous SURF mentoring: Zoe Burns (2017) “Toward constructing a time series of geomagnetic field variations from thermal remanence in slowly cooled igneous rocks,” Michelle Gess (2017) “Magnetic constraints on the formation of fast-spread lower oceanic crust at Pito Deep,” and Mashammat Mijjim (2019) "Quantifying models of lower crustal accretion at fast spreading mid-ocean ridges." 

Sarah Gille – Professor, Center for Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography

Gille's research interests focus on the Southern Ocean and global satellite oceanography.  The student project could be related to the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (, which is a major multi-institutional effort deploying biogeochemical sensors on profiling floats throughout the Southern Ocean.  The student project will focus on analyzing physical and biogeochemical processes in the Southern Ocean using profiling float data and output from the Southern Ocean State Estimate.  Key science questions relate to upper-ocean processes and exchanges of heat, momentum, and CO2 across the air-sea interface.  The student will have the opportunity to work as part of the SOCCOM team at Scripps, with guidance from several members of the team.  Other potential student projects could include research in preparation for the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission due to launch in 2021.  Previous SURF mentoring: Angelica Gilroy (2011) “Oceanic heat sources near Pine Island Glacier,” Matthew Hurley (2014) "Spatial and Temporal Variability of the Upper Ocean in the Drake Passage," Anna Simpson (2015) "Remineralization ratios in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current using profiling float data," Phoebe Thompson (2016; co-mentored) “The seasonal cycle of macronutrients and net community production in the Southern Ocean,” Francisco Spaulding-Astudillo (2016, co-mentored) “The role of polynyas in ice export of Ross Sea,” Casey Brayton (2017, co-mentored) “Understanding preconditioning of the Maud Rise Polynya,” Maya Chung (2017, co-mentored) “Variability of ice production in the Ross Sea in 2006-2010 and its relationship to the Amundsen Sea Low,” and Hassan Mason (2018, co-mentored) “POP/CICE ocean model analyses: Antarctic Bottom Water production and advective heat exchange.”

Vicki H. Grassian – Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Research in the Grassian Lab aims to understand the atmospheric chemistry and global impacts of atmospheric aerosols. For example, it has become increasingly clear that all kinds of particles - including ice, sea spray and mineral dust - are present in the Earth's atmosphere and that the surfaces of these particles play a role in the chemistry of the atmosphere. The ozone hole is one example of how heterogeneous chemistry involving chlorine-reservoir species on ice particles can decrease ozone levels in the stratosphere. In the troposphere, the region closest to the Earth's surface, there are many more particles and the heterogeneous chemistry of these particles with trace gases such as nitrogen oxides, ozone and volatile organics is not well understood. In the Grassian research group, we are using a combination of spectroscopy, microscopy and particle analysis to gain a detailed molecular level understanding of these reactions. Reaction rate data measured in our laboratory are currently being incorporated into global chemistry models. We are also trying to understand how the particles can impact other global processes besides the chemical balance of the atmosphere. These processes include climate, biogeochemical cycles, ocean-atmosphere exchange and human health.  Previous SURF mentoring: Meagan Marciano (2016) “Phase transitions of biologically-derived components in sea spray aerosols” and Jimmy Ge (2017) “Analysis of atmospherically relevant glyoxal reactions using Raman spectroscopy techniques.”

Paul Jensen - Professor, Center for Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine 

Research in the Jensen lab addresses fundamental questions about the diversity and distributions of bacteria in the marine environment.  These studies frequently target bacteria such as the actinomycetes, which are capable of producing biologically active secondary metabolites.  The compounds produced by these bacteria represent an important resource for drug discovery and provide opportunities to explore the functional roles of secondary metabolites in marine systems.  Potential projects include 1) culturing marine bacteria and testing to see if they produce new antibiotics or other potential medicines, 2) testing the effects of bacterial natural products on other bacteria to determine if they play a role in chemical defense, and 3) developing new methods for natural product discovery using genome sequence data. Previous SURF mentoring: Allan Somers (2014) "Isolation and Identification of Halogenated organic compounds," Joe Rodriguez (2015) "Examining Secondary Metabolite Expression in the Marine Actinomycete Genus Salinispora," Neha Prasad (2016) "Modulation of secondary metabolite production in Salinispora via co-culturing," Magdalena Lara (2017) “Co-culture of marine bacteria induces increase metabolite production in Salinispora tropica,” Monica Cisneros (2018), and Itzel Lizama Chamu (2019) "The search fo specialized metabolite production by S. pacifica."

Lisa A. Levin, Professor of Biological Oceanography, Integrative Oceanography Division

Levin and her students are interested in ecology of coastal and deep- sea benthic ecosystems. Current research focuses on (i) the ecology of animals in chemosynthetic ecosystems (methane seeps) and on seamounts off Costa Rica and (ii) the effects of low oxygen on vision in fish and invertebrates.  Our research combines basic principles of community ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function, often with a conservation or climate change focus.   Research options include a microscope and video-based study of giant, deep-sea protozoans (xenophyophores) and their effect on invertebrates, analysis of experiments with fauna inhabiting carbonate rocks at methane seeps, and experiments examining effects of hypoxia on vision and light requirements in fish, squid, and crab larvae.  ​Previous SURF mentoring: Anai Novoa (2011) “Effects of ocean acidification on the growth and survival of sea urchin Strongylocentrotus Purpuratuslarvae”,  Milinda Thompson (2011) “A buyer's guide to deep-sea  homes: analysis of community composition on substrates at hydrothermal vents,” Jesse Andrews (2012) “Dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH effects on benthic mobile organisms along the continental shelf in the Southern California Bight,” Blanka Lederer (2012) “Macrofaunal colonization of wood substrates at hydrate ridge methane seeps,” Travonya Kenly (2013) “Size at Settlement of Mytilis californianus and Mytilis galloprovincialis,"  Kieu Tran (2014)“Biogeographic shifts and species density of echinoid (sea urchin) species along the Southern California Bight assessed using GIS,” Aissa Yazzie (2014) "Using stable isotope analysis to access cross-slope trophic patterns in benthic and demersal fish communities in an upwelling region,” Jackson Powell (2015) "Testing the feasibility of S. fragilis as a potential, climate change tolerant fishery through measurement of gonad color and texture characteristics,” Onyeweenu Ogene (2016) “Changes in deep-sea community composition with environmental conditions,"  Zandria Acosta (2016) “Biological communities associated with biofilters in Los Angeles," Jaxine Wolfe (2017) “Temporal dynamics of a demersal fish community residing within an oxygen limiting zone of the Southern California Bight,” Dante Capone (2018) “Relationship between ecosystem functioning and the gradient of geochemical activity in Costa Rican methane seeps,” and Shailje Gangrade (2018) “Visual liminoxyscapes of four invertebrate larval species in the nearshore Southern California Bight,” and Kathering Rigney (2019) “ Effects of methane seepage on macrofaunal biomass." 

Dan Lubin, Research Physicist,  Climate, Atmospheric Sciences and Polar Oceanography

The Lubin research group studies fundamental physical processes that govern climate change, with emphasis on observations and particular emphasis on (1) Earth’s polar regions and (2) effects of solar variability on terrestrial climate. There are two potential student projects this summer. First, there is data analysis from the US Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) West Antarctic Radiation Experiment (AWARE; The student will work with data from instruments such as micropulse lidar, scanning and Doppler cloud radars, spectroradiometers, pyranometers, pyrgeometers, and rawinsondes to investigate the surface energy balance at the Antarctic ice sheet surface as it relates to climate warming. The second project involves analyzing data from the three-meter telescope at Lick Observatory. The data set consists of high resolution spectra from two hundred stars very similar to the Sun, which will be analyzed to determine indicators of stellar cycling activity having climatic influence as well as photospheric abundances of refractory versus volatile elements related to planet formation. Previous SURF mentoring: Alexis Wilson (2016) “West Antarctica as a Natural Laboratory for Single- and Mixed-Phase Cloud Microphysics,” Caitlin Glennon (2017) “Influence of meteorological regimes on cloud microphysics over Ross Island, Antarctica,” Claire Mundi (2018) “Frequency of radiatively active liquid water clouds above the Greenland Ice Sheet,” and Emma Robertson (2019) "Detecting surface melt in the West Antarctic via passive microwave satellite imagery." 

Nicholas Lutsko, Assistant Professor,  Climate, Atmospheric Sciences and Polar Oceanography

Research in the Lutsko lab currently has two main goals: (1) improving the understanding of the large-scale circulation of Earth’s atmosphere, and (2) studying the climate system holistically in order to better predict how it will respond to increased CO2 concentrations. The lab is also interested in climate issues more broadly, including climate model development and evaluation, ocean heat uptake and climate variability on all time-scales. Possible projects include analyzing climate model data to better constrain Earth's climate sensitivity and developing new theories for what controls temperature and humidity extremes.

Deirdre Lyons  – Assistant Professor, Marine Biology Research Division

Why are animals shaped the way they are?  How can humans, starfish, and squids look and behave so differently, when they all begin as single-celled, fertilized eggs?  The Lyons lab is interested in understanding how changes in cellular processes, and their underlying gene regulatory networks, have led to the evolution of diverse animal shapes.  Cells are the fundamental units of all biological structures and phenomena—the evolution of novel phenotypes and physiologies is ultimately the result of changes in cellular characteristics, including fate specification.  The lab uses marine molluscs (snails, nudibranchs) and echinoderms (sea urchins, sea stars) as model systems, because they have unique, and complementary, advantages for studying the evolution of cell fate and behaviors in a phylogenetic context.  A range of techniques are available in these animals such as in vivo-imaging, cell-lineage analysis, gene perturbation, and construction of gene regulatory networks.  This summer, some possible student projects include, but are not limited to: 1) Comparison of cell shape, size, and asymmetry between early embryos of sea stars and sea urchins to understand how endoderm and mesoderm cell fates are segregated, and 2) using molecular biology to build fluorescent reported tags to study cell dynamics in vivo. Previous SURF mentoring:  Bryant Jew (2017) “Mouth formation in Crepidula fornicate,” and Milagros Esmerode (2018) “Shell formation in the marine gastropod, Crepidula fornicate.”

Mattias Morzfeld – Associate Professor, Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics

My research is focused on computational methods and algorithms and their application across the Earth sciences. I am particularly interested in geophysical inverse problems, data assimilation, Markov chain Monte Carlo, and other sampling algorithms. Examples of the application of the algorithms I work on include cloud microphysics, modeling the geomagnetic field and numerical weather prediction.It is well known that Earth's dipole field reverses: the magnetic north pole becomes the south pole and vice versa. For example, the last reversal occured 780,000 years ago. It is not well understood what mechanism lead to a reversal or what the field looks like during a reversal. In this project you will use machine learning methods (recursive neural networks and/or long short-term memory neural networks) to search for precursors of reversals of Earth's axial magnetic dipole field.

Dick Norris – Professor, Geoscience Research Division

Richard Norris is a paleobiologist and paleoceanographer at SIO working on the recent fossil record of reefs and coastal environments to evaluate the impact of human activities on marine and terrestrial ecosystems. He also works on the fossil record of fish in the oceans and past ocean productivity.  Two potential projects are: (1) study of the impact of Roman fishing on fish populations in the Mediterranean. This project, using giant cores from offshore Italy, will determine whether the Romans and other pre-industrial societies managed to overfish the Mediterranean long before modern industrialized fishing began.   (2) Study the past 30 Ma of fish productivity in two deep sea cores--one from the tropical Pacific and one from the North Atlantic to act as a point of comparison.  This project will help determine when the rich fisheries appeared that currently support the rise of the great whales.   ​ Previous SURF mentoring: Christian Brown (2013) “Geochemical and ecological observations on coral reefs in the Caribbean Panama,” Raquel Bryant (2014) “An Early Cenozoic Ichthyolith Record from Demerara Rise (ODP Site 1258: Equatorial Atlantic Ocean),” Karissa Vincent (2016) “Calibration of Productivity Proxy Based on Fish Tooth Flux and Biogenic Barium in Pacific Deep-Sea Sediments,” Kevin Kelley (2017) “A new method for utilizing barite as an oceanic paleoproductivity indicator:  an examination of Eocene oceanic productivity,” and Race Cleveland (2019) "Estimating ocean productivity through the Cenozoic Era with ichthyolith accumulation rates."

Brian Palenik – Professor of Marine Biology, Marine Biology Research Division

Palenik studies the ecology, physiology and genomics of marine microalgae. His laboratory participated in the first whole genome sequencing projects for several isolated microalgae and currently employs environmental metagenomics techniques to understand strain diversity in situ. His lab is currently using microarray and proteomic analyses to characterize the effects of environmental stressors on growth rates and gene expression in marine microorganisms. This has led to recent work on microalgae with biofuel production potential. Diverse projects involving marine cyanobacteria or eukaryotic phytoplankton are possible.  Previous SURF mentoring: Amanda Hodo (2012) “Characterization of Tetraselmis isolates and their use for algal biofuels,” Natalia Gutierrez (2014) "Investigating the presence of polyhydroxybutyrate, in cyanobacteria, using fluorescent microscopy and bioinformatics for its potential use in constructing biodegradable plastics," Courtney Swink (2015) "Raffinate waste as a nitrogen replacement to increase the self-sustainability of using marine microalgae for biofuel production," Morrie Lam (co-advised; 2015) "Identification and Characterization of a Novel Algal Pathogen," Ivan Moreno (2017) “Characterizing the thermophilic microbial community of hot springs in the Black Canyon of the Colorado,” Chris Souflis (2018) “Investigations of seafoam formation and associated microbial communities in San Diego, CA” and Gabrielle Meza (2019) "Synechococcus spatial and temporal abundance in the San Diego Bay."

Ross Parnell-Turner – Assistant Professor, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics

Parnell-Turner’s research investigates how new oceanic crust is created, by analyzing geophysical data collected at sea using research ships, submersibles and instruments on the seafloor.  For example, observations of earthquakes from ocean bottom seismographs are used to understand deformation at mid-ocean ridges, while high-resolution data from autonomous underwater vehicles are used to reconstruct fault slip and submarine volcanic eruptions.  Possible projects include (1) Reconstructing the eruption history of a chain of poorly understood submarine volcanoes in the remote eastern Pacific Ocean near 8°20'N, using high-frequency chirp profiles collected by a submersible robot in 2018; (2) Investigating the effects of noise from oil exploration on migrating whales in the Atlantic Ocean, by analysis of data recorded by an array of autonomous hydrophones spanning the equatorial Atlantic Ocean.  ​Previous SURF mentoring: Klara Perkins (2019) "Quantifying a 2006 lava flow at the East Pacific Rise using and autonomous submersible."

Sarah Purkey- Assistant Professor, Center for Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography

Purkey’s research focuses on the use of in-situ ocean observations to assess variability in the large-scale global ocean circulation to further our understanding of the feedbacks between the strength of the circulation and climate. Her primary interest is on the formation and circulation of the cold, dense waters formed in polar regions and found throughout the deep ocean basins around the world.  Student projects could focus on a large array of topics around observational physical oceanography ranging from the deep ocean to the surface.  A student project could be built around looking at the recent data collected using the new Deep Argo floats, capable of profiling the full water column (up to 6000 m!). These floats have been deployed in both the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean and offer an exciting new platform for deep ocean observations.  Purkey is also interested in understanding how ocean circulation effects the biogeochemistry of the global oceans.  In particular, looking at the role ENSO plays in carbon outgassing in the Equatorial Pacific. ​ Previous SURF mentoring: Carissa DeRanek (2018, co-mentored) “Quantifying upper ocean biogeochemical variability in Drake Passage.”

Marty Ralph – Research Meteorologist, Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography

Dr. Ralph is the Director for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E,  CW3E aims to revolutionize the physical understanding, observations, weather predictions and climate projections of extreme events in Western North America, including atmospheric rivers and the North American summer monsoon as well as their impacts on floods, droughts, hydropower, ecosystems and the economy. The research interests of the group span multiple disciplines, including meteorology from micro- to synoptic scale, hydrology, air-sea interactions, drought, aerosols, machine learning, numerical weather prediction, and data assimilation. This summer, possible student projects include, but are not limited to: 1) evaluating the hydrological, ecological, and/or economic impacts of extreme precipitation on California watersheds, 2) investigating how any number of physical processes (e.g. mesoscale frontal waves, teleconnections) and/or climate change modulate atmospheric river intensity and duration, and 3) statistical and/or case study based analyses using observational datasets collected by CW3E and CA DWR to support research goals. Students working in the CW3E will be paired with an additional senior and junior researcher from the center for enhanced mentoring and project guidance.

Kate Ricke – Assistant Professor of Climate Science and Policy

The Ricke Lab is a group of climate change scientists applying tools from the natural and social sciences to understand the impacts of climate change and how to mitigate them. Our group is co-located between Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego. Our work combines quantitative Earth system modeling and large data set analysis techniques to study how uncertainty and heterogeneity in the projected impacts of climate change intersect with people's diverse preferences for how to address them in order to better understand climate policy and decision making. We currently work on a number of topics including climate geoengineering (deliberate interventions in the Earth system to counteract climate change), quantitative estimation of past and future human migration due to climate hazards, and the projection of the economic impacts of climate change. Potential SURF projects would involve analysis of output data from climate model simulations and/or environmental observations of temperature, precipitation and sea level rise in order to support any of the above projects.​

Lynn RussellProfessor of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences 

Russell is interested in aerosol chemistry and physics, aerosol-cloud interactions, air-sea exchange, organic aerosols, and atmospheric nanoparticles.  Her work focuses on the role of atmospheric aerosols in climate.  Two proposed summer projects are 1) Organic functional groups in atmospheric aerosol particles and 2) Atmospheric aerosol composition at Pismo Beach.  Students will be trained in sample preparation, analysis, and collection of atmospheric aerosols and will have the opportunity to study the chemical composition of atmospheric aerosols, learn about the impacts of aerosol particles on climate and air quality. Previous SURF mentoring: Grace Wiessner (2012) “Organic composition of atomized seawater from the eastern Pacific during EPEACE 2011,” Emily Kraemer (2014) “Comparison of aerosol composition relative to clouds events on Mt. Soledad determined by HR-ToF-AMS,” Jeramy Dedrick (2017) “Analyzing hydroscopic particle growth of West Antarctic Boundary Layer aerosols,” Joanne Chung (2018) “Particle budget and chemical comparison of seabird guano aerosol during different campaigns,” and Nicole Posadas (2019) "Quantifying organic functional group composition of aerosol particles from Pismo Beach, CA."

Brice Semmens  – Associate Professor, Marine Biology Research Division

The Semmens Lab focuses on applied questions in marine ecology, conservation biology, and fisheries management. Our approaches to these questions are varied and typically involve fieldwork, labwork, and modeling. The lab has particular strength in quantitative theory and tools, including mark-recapture analysis, stable isotope mixing models, stock assessment, and time series analysis. Possible projects include (1) Advancing Bayesian stable isotope mixing models used in trophic ecology (2) Using genetics and stable isotopes to investigate the recovery of a Nassau grouper spawning aggregation and (3) Estimating movement patterns, population abundance, and mortality of coastal marine fishes (acoustic telemetry, mark/recapture models).  Previous SURF mentoring: Bethany Fowler (2015) "Passive Acoustic Monitoring of Grouper in the Cayman Islands," Jarvon Stout (2015) "Fingerprinting Fish: Computer- aided pattern matching of the Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus," Lauren Arnold (2016) "Identification of Nassau grouper eggs in the plankton: is size a valid metric?" Brian Cohn (2016) "Using in-situ length data to test a data-poor stock assessment model and asses stock status of protected aggregating fish species Epinephelus striatus," Kayla Martinez-Soto (2017) “Egg morphometrics and fertilization rates from recovering and unexploited populations:  Nassau Grouper and Tiger Grouper in the Cayman Islands,” Mary Cozy (2018) “Assessing the effectiveness of the facial recognition software, i3s, on the Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus),” Joe Molina (2018) “Estimating the effort required for generating a photographic database on Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus): recommendations for potential mark and recapture studies,” and Youssef Dous (2019) "A small foray into the realm of giants: Investigating the movement ecology of Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas)

Dave Stegman – Associate Professor, Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics

Professor Stegman uses high-performance computing and advanced four-dimensional visualization systems to explore the intricate details of how planets evolve and why plate tectonics are unique to Earth.  Current research projects in his lab investigate both global and regional scale mantle dynamics and associated volcanism and tectonism for the modern Earth, Early Earth, and Venus.  Previous SURF mentoring: Molly James (2016) “The role of viscous coupling in determining subduction style within numerical models of mantle convection,"  Amrit Bal (2017) “Using geodynamic models to investigate how sediments influence subduction,” and Madeleine Kerr (2018) "Factors controlling topography at ocean-continent convergent margins using 2D numerical models of subduction zones."

Jennifer Taylor – Assistant Professor,  Marine Biology Research Division

Research in the Taylor lab focuses on the biomechanics of marine invertebrates. We combine biology with engineering and physics to explore the form and function of animals and their adaptations to various environments. Some of the research questions pursued in the lab include: how is the structure of the crustacean exoskeleton adapted for functions such as locomotion, defense, and acoustic communication? How are invertebrate skeletons built and adapted for different physical and chemical environments? We use a range of microscopy, materials testing, and experimental physiological, biomechanical, and behavioral approaches to answer these questions. Some possible focal projects include tree climbing mechanics of crabs and  mechanical properties of skeletal materials.  Previous SURF mentoring: Jasmine Gilleard (2013) “Effects of ocean acidification on the structure and function of Red Rock Shrimp’s, Lysmata Californica, exoskeleton” and Amanuel Weldemariam (2014) "Physiological Effects of Ocean Acidification on the Striped Shore Crab,Pachygrapsus crassipes", Jorge Rivera (2015) "Biomechanics of climbing in the striped shore crab Pachygrapsus crassipes,”  Anya Byrd (2016) “Locomotion biomechanics of the tree-climbing mangrove crab, Aratus pisonii, and the intertidal shore crab, Pachygrapsus crassipes,” Nina Scott (2018) "The mechanical properties of Mantis Shrimp telsons," and Nyazia Sajdah-Bey (2019) "The biomechanics of climbing Grapsid crabs."

Maria Vernet – Researcher, Integrative Oceanography Division

The Vernet Lab studies polar phytoplankton ecology and long term changes in marine ecosystems (see This summer there is an opportunity for a student to learn exciting new lab techniques while contributing to our research on microplastics in the Antarctic food web. The project would involve processing collected Antarctic zooplankton (krill) and penguin-derived samples for microplastic abundance and polymer type. Potential research directions include  developing microplastic methodology, such as automated image analysis, spatial or temporal trends in microplastic abundance or trends in krill demography, investigating male to female microplastics ratios. There is no previous lab experience necessary. The student participant will be trained in current microplastic extraction methods, state-of-the-art imaging and spectrometry equipment and/or automated image analysis software. ​