> Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Working to understand and protect the planet

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego works to understand and protect the planet. Its researchers investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Since its founding in 1903, Scripps has become one of the most important centers for global earth science research and education in the world. In addition, it has helped UC San Diego, which Scripps leaders helped to launch in 1960, emerge as a global technology hub.

Scripps Oceanography is comprised of world-class scientists and researchers. It includes Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering among its faculty. Scripps understands that interdisciplinary research to advance our understanding of the earth system is strengthened by team members with diverse backgrounds and talents. The institution actively works to recruit and support diverse students, staff and faculty, and are focused on training the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders.

Cutting-edge research programs are under way on every continent and in every ocean, and scientists develop, initiate, and maintain long-term environmental observation programs from regional to global scales. Scripps operates a fleet of four research vessels—including R/V Sally Ride, America’s newest and most technologically advanced academic ship— and a research platform FLIP.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography offers nine graduate programs (Masters and Ph.D.), and four undergraduate programs in earth science, environmental systems, marine biology, and oceans and atmosphere. Since 2012, undergraduate enrollment in our majors has increased 54 percent, and enrollment in undergraduate courses increased 67 percent. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves more than 50,000 pre K-12 students with nearly 24,000 students receiving financial support to participate in our programs. This year, Birch had more than 500,000 visitors.

San Diego’s Blue Economy is estimated to encompass 14,000 companies, 46,000 direct employees, and over $14 billion in revenue. This year, private industry and utility providers sponsored nearly $20 million of early-stage R&D at Scripps Oceanography relevant to their product development and services. Scripps facilitates research translation and workforce development locally, with leadership positions in San Diego industry associations The Maritime Alliance (TMA) and Cleantech San Diego. In addition to on-campus programs that support spinout businesses, Scripps supports local startups by collaborating with incubators – TMA’s BlueTech Incubator and the Port of San Diego’s Blue Economy Incubator.

Several active Scripps Institution of Oceanography programs and initiatives stand at the forefront of innovation. They bring cutting-edge science to the decision-making process that helps officials create the most effective policies possible. Among them:

  • ALERTWildfire: Geoscientists at Scripps developed the ALERTWildfire network of state-of-the-art cameras and data infrastructure in fire-prone areas to help firefighters and first responders in the western U.S. monitor, prepare for, and better fight wildfires. During the 2016-2018 fire seasons, ALERTWildfire provided critical information on more than 600 fires.
  • Scripps has collaborated with San Diego Gas and Electric and other utilities throughout the West to bring an increasing number of backcountry regions online. There are now more than 160 cameras now in operation with several dozen more in development.
  • Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA): This center leverages expertise in marine and atmospheric science with engineering, policy, social science, and business. Its goal in combining these fields is to create interdisciplinary partnerships to advance climate change science and test adaptation solutions.

An example is the Resilient Futures project initiated by CCCIA in San Diego Bay. San Diego Bay is home to 15 military facilities, a port, airport and other valuable businesses, recreational assets, and ecosystems. The project is developing a bay-wide model to improve site-specific predictions for high-water events, waves, and sea-level rise in the bay. This will serve as a key step in prioritizing and investing in adaptation strategies. Support for this project was provided by the Port of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the San Diego Airport Authority.


  • Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes: Atmospheric rivers storms account for up to half of California’s annual precipitation and 90 percent of flooding events. This center provides 21st century water cycle science to improve atmospheric river forecasts.
  • Major initiatives include Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO), in which Scripps collaborates with reservoir operators to create a perfect balance between flood protection and storage that helps municipalities get through dry summer months with adequate water supply. One Southern California county has estimated that improvements in atmospheric river forecasting could translate to Officials in one Southern California county estimate that such an improvement in water supply reliability could enable them to meet the needs of 165,000 more people in its jurisdiction annually.
  • Keeling Curve: The Keeling Curve is a precision measurement of concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since its start in 1958, the record has become known as the foundation of modern climate change science. It stands as a record of human influence on nature in charting levels of CO₂ that have not been seen for at least 800,000 years.
  • Oceans and Human Health: Scripps Oceanography marine biologists established the world’s most advanced center for marine biomedicine and biotechnology to develop cures from the sea. Currently a Scripps-discovered compound with potential anticancer properties, Salinosporamide A, is in phase 3 clinical trials being led by San Diego company Celgene. California Seaweed Company was launched by Scripps marine ecologists. The venture produces consumable algae for sales to restaurants and food suppliers.
  • In addition, Scripps researchers track the origin and repositories of  industrial and household chemicals such as DDT that have made their way to marine environments. Researchers at the Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health study the toxicity of these compounds, which can be found in the tissue of fishes, marine mammals, and shellfish.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

(858) 246-5511
[email protected]
9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, Calif. 92093-0210

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