2021 SURF Research Projects - Descriptions

Sarah Aarons - Assistant Professor, Geoscience Research Division Research Areas: Geochemistry, Polar Science

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 2021 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. Previous SURF mentoring: Rain Blankenship (2020) “Preliminary Characterizations of Aeolian Dust Transport to the San Jacinto Mountains.”

Octavio Aburto Oropeza - Associate Professor, Marine Biology Research Division Research Area: Marine Ecology, Marine Conservation

The Aburto Lab focuses on issues related to marine conservation and resource management in Latin America (primarily Mexico), with a general focus on the interactions between marine biodiversity, ecosystems, people, and climate change. This spring/summer, we will conduct an multiple-stressors aquarium experiment focused on the effects of El Niño and marine heatwaves on Mexican geoduck clams (Panopea spp.). Geoduck -- known for their delicate flavor versus indelicate appearance -- are found in various soft-bottom habitats throughout the world and sprang to commercial importance in Mexico in the early 2000s. Essentially all regional production of geoduck is subject to changing climate conditions, including long-term climate phenomena and severe weather events. To successfully achieve any of the solutions proposed for the conservation and continued production of geoduck in Mexico, an enhanced understanding of their survival, growth, and reproduction under various climate conditions is required. We’d love to host a SURF student motivated to learn more about marine conservation, global change, invertebrate zoology, and/or fisheries science, who will lead a separate but supporting research project. The exact project will depend on the interests of the SURF student, but could include feeding trials, metabolic experiments, or a synthesis of “press” versus “pulse” stress. Prior experience working with aquaria would be useful (though certainly not necessary), and the ideal candidate will share an enthusiasm for detail, animal care, and all things seawater.

Lihini Aluwihare - Professor, Geoscience Research Division Research Area: Marine Chemistry

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 Research Area: Marine Microbiology

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,” and Raul Gutierrez (2020) “Comparative Genomics Analysis of Halophilic and Xerophilic Microbes To Elucidate Adaptations To Chaotropic and Low Water Activity Environments.”

Simone Baumann-Pickering - Associate Professor, Marine Physical Laboratory Research Areas: Marine Ecology, Acoustics

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,” Chelsea Field (2020) “Evaluation of a Neural Network for Automated Classification of Beaked Whale Echolocation Clicks,” and Kelly Bishop (2020) “Diel Patterns of Bocaccio Rockfish Communication.”

Anela Choy– Assistant Professor, Integrative Oceanography Division Research Areas: Oceanography, Marine Ecology

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 predator-prey interactions within deep sea food webs; 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 and bio(geo)chemical tracers. Previous SURF mentoring: Rachel S. Chen (2020) “Temporal variability of cephalopods in the diet of longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox) across the central North Pacific.”

Cathy Constable– Professor, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics Research Area: Geophysics

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 paleomagnetic 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 have been controversial, in part because it has not been clear what physical process could have caused them. Recent work comparing results from computer simulations with global reconstruction of the geomagnetic field for the past 100 ky reveal rapid changes in both direction and intensity have occurred, but in different locations and at different times. This SURF project will be focused on identifying and understanding geographic variability in these rapid changes and their relation to geomagnetic spikes in intensity and geomagnetic excursions.

Julia Diaz – Assistant Professor, Geoscience Research Division Research Area: Biogeochemistry

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.

Helen Fricker – Professor, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics Research Areas: Polar Sciences, Geophysics

Work in the Fricker group focuses on understanding the processes driving changes on the Antarctic ice sheet. One of the main unknowns is Antarctica’s current contribution to global sea level rise, & predicting how that will change in the future. Because Antarctica is so large, & the time scales on which it changes are so long (decades to centuries), the only viable way to monitor it is with satellites. The main technique in use is satellite altimetry (radar altimetry from ESA’s ERS-1/ERS-2/Envisat (1994-2012) or laser altimetry from NASA’s Ice, Cloud & land Elevation Satellite (ICESat 2003-2009) & ICESat-2 (launched 15 Sept 2018)); these multiple missions have provided ice sheet height data for ~25 years. Using the long, continuous altimeter records we can learn about the processes that are leading to accelerated mass loss. The lab focuses mainly on two key dynamic components of the Antarctic ice-sheet system: (i) floating ice shelves & (ii) active subglacial lakes.

Jeff Gee – Professor, Geoscience Research Division Research Area: Geology, Geomagnetism

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 (https://www.pitodeep.org/). 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,  Physical Oceanography Research Areas: Physical Oceanography, Polar Science

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 (http://soccom.princeton.edu/), 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.”

Jamin Greenbaum, Assistant Researcher, Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics Research Areas: Geophysics, Polar Science

Dr. Greenbaum's research seeks to understand the drivers of glacier change in the Arctic and Antarctic to enable improved predictions of global sea level rise. We apply a variety of observational techniques to address several fundamental questions, including: What processes are responsible for coastal glacier thinning and retreat? How will these processes evolve in a warming climate? Where is our knowledge of boundary conditions (e.g. glacier thickness, seafloor bathymetry) inadequate for numerical ocean circulation and ice dynamics models to provide realistic simulations of future behavior? Where data are inadequate, what platforms and approaches are best applied? Our work is highly interdisciplinary and international; we are currently engaged in collaborations with researchers and logistical personnel based in Australia, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the UK. Potential SURF projects for 2021 include analysis of airborne-deployed ocean sensor data for understanding ocean properties and inferring seafloor shape near glaciers, analysis of geophysical data for inferring seafloor shape and the tectonic configuration of the Antarctic continental shelf, and interpreting ice-penetrating radar data for glacier thickness and basal character, and ice shelf morphology.

Paul Jensen - Professor, Center for Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine Research Area: Marine Natural Products

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,and Ivan Chavez (2020) “Characterizing new Pseudoalteromonas genomes and their natural product potential.”

Lisa Levin, Professor of Biological Oceanography, Integrative Oceanography Division  Research Areas: Biological oceanography, deep-sea ecology

Levin and her students are interested in ecology of coastal and deep- sea benthic ecosystems. Current research focuses on the ecology of animals in living on mineral-rich hardgrounds in the deep sea off southern California. Our research combines basic principles of community ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function, often with a conservation or climate change focus. Research options include a video-based study of benthic faunas inhabiting depths of 100 to 1800 m, or possibly a microscope-based study of benthic fauna associated with giant, deep sea protozoans (xenophyophores)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 Physical Oceanography Research Areas: Climate Change, Polar Science

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; https://scripps.ucsd.edu/expeditions/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 Physical Oceanograph Research Area: Climate Science

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. Previous SURF mentoring: Kylie Kinne (2020) “Investigating How Land Surface Properties Control Relative Humidity Over Land.”


Deirdre Lyons  – Assistant Professor, Marine Biology Research Division Research Area: Developmental Marine Biology

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,” Milagros Esmerode (2018) “Shell formation in the marine gastropod, Crepidula fornicate,” and Abegail Bigasin (2020) “Transcriptomic analysis to determine genes involved in the sequestration of nematocysts from Exaiptasia pallida by Berghia stephanieae.”

Matt Mazloff – Associate Researcher, Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography Research Areas: Physical Oceanography, Polar Science

Mazloff’s research aims to further understanding of the ocean and earth system by utilizing model-observation syntheses. Mazloff has current projects estimating the ocean state in the California Current System, the Red Sea, the Southern Ocean, and the Tropical Pacific (some info at http://www.ecco.ucsd.edu/).  Providing quantitative ocean baselines allows detecting past and future climate shifts, and enables understanding the underlying dynamics controlling the system. Analyses using these state estimates spans a broad range of topics including air-sea exchanges, the carbon cycle, the ocean circulation, and the dynamical balances governing this circulation. Improving methodologies for data assimilation, data mapping, and observing system design are also primary research efforts. Some examples of student projects include 1) using models and data to understand how the Southern Ocean circulation impacts the Antarctic cryosphere and biogeochemical processes and 2) small-scale dynamics of the California Current System in preparation for the upcoming launch of NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission. Specific student research projects are always be designed to align with student interests within Mazloff’s general research topics.  Previous SURF mentoring: Winnie Chu (2020)  "Optimizing Observational Arrays for Biogeochemistry in the Tropical Pacific by Estimating Correlation Lengths.”

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

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. Previous SURF mentoring: Travis Davis (2020) “Using Computational Models to Predict Reversals in Earth's Axial Magnetic Dipole.”

Richard Norris – Professor, Geoscience Research Division Research Areas: Paleobiology, Paleoceanography

Richard Norris is a paleobiologist and paleoceanographer 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.   â€‹ 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," and Verenis Lucas (2020) “’Bloom and Bust’ behavior in oceanic plankton: range-expansions are rare and short in fossil foraminifera.”


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

Dr. Ralph is the Director for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E, cw3e.ucsd.edu).  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 Research Area: Climate Science

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. Previous SURF mentoring: Marshall Dean (2020)Dynamic Impacts of Spatial Aerosol Forcing Gradients.”

Lynn RussellProfessor of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences Research Area: Atmospheric Chemistry

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."

Amina SchartupAssistant Professor, Geosciences Research Division Research Area: Biogeochemistry

The Schartup group works at the intersection of marine biogeochemistry, and environmental and human health. Specifically, the research is focused on how mercury and associated elements (e.g., sulfur, selenium) cycle in the environment. To do this, the lab uses a variety of field, experimental, and modeling approaches and work at regional and global scales. You can find out more about the group on our website www.aminaschartup.com or Instagram @optima_grade. Possible student projects this summer include working in a trace metal clean lab and learning how to process samples and operate instruments, and/or developing Python algorithms to simulate metal particle aggregation and settling in the water column.

Brice Semmens  – Associate Professor, Marine Biology Research Division Research Area: Marine Ecology

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)," and Charles Hendrickson (2020) “Using Diver Operated Stereo-Video to Assess Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) Spawning Aggregation Demographics.”

Peter Shearer – Professor,  Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics Research Area: Seismology

Research in the Shearer lab uses seismic records to study both earthquakes and Earth's internal structure.  He is particularly interested in developing new approaches to mining and analyzing large seismic datasets to address such questions as: (1) What information do the much more numerous small earthquakes provide regarding the nature of large earthquake ruptures in the same region?  (2) How can we best resolve sharp changes in Earth structure at depth, given the limitations of seismic data recorded only at the surface?    (3) What is the nature of the thick lithosphere underneath continents and how does it relate to continental growth and evolution?  This summer, we invite a SURF student to participate in analysis of USArray seismic data (http://www.usarray.org/) to image features in the crust and shallow mantle related to past and present tectonic activity beneath the contiguous United States. 

Fiamma Stranero – Professor,  Climate, Atmospheric Science and Physical Oceanography Research Areas: Polar Science, Physical Oceanography

The speed up and retreat of glaciers in Greenland, that has occurred over the last two decades, has led to significant ice loss and a major contribution to sea level rise. The rapidity of these changes has come as a surprise, revealing major gaps in our understanding of how ice sheets respond to a changing climate. Increased melting under floating ice shelves and at the edge of marine-terminating glaciers, associated with warming ocean waters, has emerged as a likely trigger for glacier speed up, making ice sheet-ocean interactions a scientific priority if we are to improve predictions of climate change and sea level rise. The Straneolab uses data, collected in iceberg-choked fjords using helicopters, icebreakers, fishing vessels, and autonomous vehicles, as well as models and theory to improve our understanding of the impact of ocean changes on the Greenland ice sheet and, viceversa, on the impact of the melting ice sheet on the ocean.  Potential SURF student projects for summer of 2021 include the analysis of oceanographic data from fjords in Greenland, analysis of changes in sea-ice around Greenland and analysis of atmospheric data and model output to characterize the regional changes and their link to the changes in the large-scale ocean and atmosphere. Previous SURF fellow Ezra El-Aton (2019).


Jennifer Taylor – Assistant Professor,  Marine Biology Research Division Research Area: Marine Biology, Biomechanics

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 Research Areas: Marine Ecology, Polar Science

The Vernet Lab studies polar phytoplankton ecology and long-term changes in marine ecosystems (see https://polar.center/vernet-lab/). This summer there is an opportunity for a student to contribute to our research on phytoplankton in the Antarctic coast. The project would involve processing DNA samples in the lab (pending COVID restrictions) and helping to analyze ocean data (salinity, temperature profiles), and dig in to some of the genetics results (coding in R/Python, bioinformatics). Potential research directions include helping to understand the relationship between phytoplankton and melting glacial water. This project is also run through a citizen science platform with tour ships -www.fjordphyto.org - so there is potential to be involved with science communication and social media. There is no previous experience necessary; the student participant will be trained in current methods and topics however, students with background/courses in general biology, ecology, or bioinformatics will be helpful. Previous SURF mentoring: Karina Halliman (2020) "Using Ecosystem Modelling to Explore Microplastic Pathways Through the Antarctic Peninsula Food Web."