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Biological Sciences

Research Centers

California Center for Algae Biotechnology (Cal-CAB)

The focus of Cal-CAB is the sustainable production of liquid transportation fuels from algae to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide independence from foreign oil supplies.

Food & Fuel for the 21st Century (FF21)

Food & Fuel for the 21st Century (FF21) facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle significant research objectives regarding the use of photosynthetic organisms for enhanced food production and energy independence. It supports the development of innovative, sustainable and commercially viable solutions for the renewable production of food, energy, green chemistry and bioproducts using photosynthetic organisms.

UC San Diego Natural Reserve System (UC San Diego NRS)

Part of the University of California, the Natural Reserve System, is a network of protected natural areas throughout California. Its 36 sites encompass approximately 135,000 acres, making it the most extensive university-administered reserve system in the world.

Research Areas


Biogeochemistry studies the chemical interactions between living things and the natural environment, ranging from how organisms incorporate and respond to elements in their environment to the alterations biological systems make to the chemical environment of the Earth.

Biological Impacts of Climate Change

Studying past and current climate change impacts on individual organisms, species and ecosystems. Includes observational, experimental and theoretical research of the effects of changing climate patterns, pollution, ocean acidification and related processes.

Conservation Ecology

Studying the impact of resource and land use on vulnerable species and ecosystems.

Ecosystem Dynamics and Theory

The practical and theoretical study of how communities of living organisms change over time.

Fisheries Biology and Management

Studying marine environments and the monitoring and management of their living resources. The field includes ecological studies and analysis, population modeling, data collection and working with communities to ensure sustainability.

Ocean Acidification

Studying the fundamentals and effects of ocean acidification, including biological and biogeochemical consequences.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

100 Island Challenge

The 100 Island Challenge is a collaborative effort based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, working on describing the variation of coral reefs from across the globe. The program combines classical field surveys with innovative imaging and data technologies to archive reefs digitally and observes how populations change through time.

Aburto Lab

Researchers in the Aburto Lab analyze the interactions among marine ecology and biodiversity, fisheries, socioeconomics, climate change and more.

Décima Lab

Researchers in the Décima Lab study zooplankton ecology, gelatinous zooplankton, trophic dynamics and effects on biogeochemistry and the effects of climate change on pelagic communities.

Levin Lab

Researchers in the Levin Lab study effects of ocean acidification and ocean deoxygenation on the continental shelf and slope ecosystems, ecology of deep-sea reducing environments such as oxygen minimum zones and methane seeps, wetland ecology and restoration.

Sandin Lab

Researchers in the Sandin Lab study coral reef ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem change over time.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Andrew Barton

Assistant Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Andrew Barton is learning what structures and alters diversity in marine phytoplankton, organisms that play crucial roles in carbon and oxygen cycling as part of our planetary lungs.

Elsa Cleland

Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Elsa Cleland evaluates the potential for ecological theory to predict how plant communities and ecosystems respond to global environmental changes, such as climate change and species invasions.

David Holway

Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

David Holway studies biological invasions and the ecological effects of drought.

Sara Jackrel

Assistant Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Sara Jackrel is learning how plants, phytoplankton and microbiomes regulate freshwater systems' carbon cycles.

Carolyn Kurle

Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Carolyn Kurle uses stable isotopes to understand food web interactions in vertebrates living in and around the oceans.

Lisa Levin

Distinguished Professor, Biological Oceanography and Marine Ecology

Lisa Levin researches how environmental conditions shape deep-sea communities on continental margins and how climate change impacts vulnerable ecosystems in the deep sea through ocean deoxygenation.

Stanley Lo

Lecturer, Cell and Developmental Biology

Stanley Lo is teaching an Introductory Biology Laboratory that provides an undergraduate research experience that engages over 2,000 students each year. Students examine soil microbiomes and track longitudinal differences due to climate change.

Aspen Reese

Assistant Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Aspen Reese studies how global change alters hosts and their microbes and the implications for terrestrial animal conservation.

Diana Rennison

Assistant Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Diana Rennison is studying what shapes biodiversity, focusing on freshwater fish.

Stuart Sandin

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Stuart Sandin studies how coral reef ecology changes over time.

Julian Schroeder

Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

Julian Schroeder studies the molecular mechanisms by which plants respond to and mount resistance to climate change-linked stresses, focusing on drought and heat stress.

Jennifer Smith

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Jennifer Smith studies coral reef ecology, emphasizing marine algae and how they could help cut methane emissions from cattle.

Jonathan Shurin

Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

Jon Shurin focuses on the food web and energy connections between animal and plant communities in marine and freshwater environments. 

Sustainability and Resilience

Omar Akbari

Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

Ethan Bier and Omar Akbari focus on reducing the impact of insect-borne diseases using cutting-edge genetic techniques.

Ethan Bier

Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

Ethan Bier and Omar Akbari focus on reducing the impact of insect-borne diseases using cutting-edge genetic techniques.

Alexandra "Jazz" Dickinson

Assistant Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

Jazz Dickinson is investigating small molecule function in plant development and stress resilience.

Stephen Mayfield

Professor, Molecular Biology

Steven Mayfield is engineering freshwater algae to provide sustainable food, fuel and materials. The research in the Mayfield lab focuses on molecular genetics in green algae and the production of therapeutic proteins and biofuel molecules using algae as a production platform. To develop algae as a biotechnology platform, the group is developing molecular tools to produce either recombinant proteins or engineered biofuel molecules.

James Nieh

Associate Dean, Biological Sciences; Faculty Equity Advisor, Biological Sciences; Professor, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution 

James Nieh is helping us understand how pesticides, pathogens and poor nutrition reduce honey bee health and what we can do about these growing problems.

Martin Yanofsky

Emeritus Professor, Cell and Developmental Biology

Martin Yanofsky is improving our food sustainability by reducing canola pod shattering.