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Research Centers

Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA)

The Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA) aims to build a more resilient future through the advancement of climate science, academic-community partnerships and adaptation strategies. The center’s work includes enhancing regional climate models, advancing research on natural variability versus climate change, applying scientific methods to inform adaptation strategies and pathways, providing science advisory services to at-risk communities, etc. In addition, CCCIA helps mobilize the many interdisciplinary researchers increasingly focused on climate impacts research throughout Scripps, UC San Diego and partner institutions to help communities better prepare for these threats and adapt to build a more resilient future.

Scripps Center for Marine Archeology

The Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) researches the relationship between the marine environment and human societies. The center focuses on understanding the complexity of the past to put the present into context. SCMA is a joint effort between Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps) and the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego. The center draws on expertise in various fields, including oceanography, acoustics, sedimentology, geomorphology, climate sciences, environmental sciences, anthropology and archaeology. The goal is to develop a greater understanding of maritime culture in its broadest sense.

Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

The Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography promotes interdisciplinary research and educational approaches to maintain the integrity of ocean ecosystems and manage their use in the face of rapid and inevitable global change.

Scripps Polar Center

The Scripps Polar Center brings together scientists from the three research sections of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. They investigate everything from ocean physics to the ecology of polar organisms. They address the complex questions of today's polar regions while training a new generation of scientists capable of interdisciplinary research.

Research Areas

Autonomous Ocean Platforms and Global Observing Systems

The use of sensor-equipped drifters or autonomous underwater vehicles and global-scale observing methods to study ocean and atmosphere systems.

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Understanding the geomorphology, sedimentation, stratigraphy, volcanism, structural geology, tectonics and geological history of the oceans and the forces that affect them.

Modeling and State Estimation of the Oceans, Atmosphere and Climate

Estimating and analyzing past, current and future states and trends in the climate system using high-performance computing systems.

Ocean Acidification

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

Remote Sensing and Satellite Oceanography

Satellite remote sensing provides global observations of Earth to monitor environmental changes in land, oceans and ice through electromagnetic radiation, diffraction, electro-optical and microwave systems.

Southern Ocean and High-Latitude Climate Studies

Studying climate fluxes in the uniquely challenging environments of the Arctic and the Subarctic Ocean and the Southern Ocean.

Tropical Meteorology and Oceanography

Studying the climate processes and ocean circulation particular to the tropical regions.

Labs, Projects, Programs and Collaborations

Aluwihare Lab: Chemistry & Biology of Ocean Organic Matter

Researchers at the Aluwihare Lab study organic molecules in natural waters to understand the global cycling of biologically essential elements like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.

California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI)

The California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) is a unique partnership of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries Service and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Formed in 1949, CalCOFI studies the ecological aspects of the sardine population collapse off California. Today our focus has shifted to studying the marine environment off the coast of California, the management of its living resources, and monitoring the indicators of El Nino and climate change.

California Current Ecosystem Long Term Ecological Research

The California Current System is a coastal upwelling biome found along the eastern margins of all major ocean basins. These are among the most productive ecosystems in the world ocean. This group investigates nonlinear transitions in the California current coastal pelagic ecosystem. They pay particular attention to long-term forcing by a secular warming trend, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and El Niño in altering the structure and dynamics of the pelagic ecosystem.

California Sea Grant

The California Sea Grant is a collaboration of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the State of California and universities to create knowledge, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of California.

Coastal Processes Group

The Coastal Processes Group at the Center for Coastal Studies focuses on observing and modeling coastal processes, including beach evolution, cliff erosion and nearshore waves. These observations have led to a better understanding of seasonal beach sand level changes, wave runup and flooding, the fate of beach replenishment projects, coastal impacts associated with El Niño, cliff erosion forcing mechanisms and improvements in coastal wave forecasting. Calibrated models can be used to improve coastal community resiliency both now and in response to changes in coastal sea level and storm characteristics.

Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems (CIMEAS)

The Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Systems (CIMEAS) is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The institute will conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research on climate, oceans and ecosystems to better understand the coupled systems and assess the physical and biological state of the oceans. CIMEAS will advance regional, national and global understanding of natural and human-caused impacts on ecosystems and the sustainable ways to strengthen our environmental and economic well-being.

Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystems and Climate (CIMEC)

The Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystems and Climate (CIMEC) is a partnership of ocean, climate and ecosystem research between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and several key universities in California. CIMEC’s reach extends from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. CIMEC’s products are used for near-term forecasts of the ocean and atmosphere and for assessing and predicting long-term change.

Gulf of California Marine Program

The Gulf of California Marine Program generates and disseminates scientific information that has a direct, positive impact on conservation and management issues and policies in the region.

Scripps Ecological Observatory

The Scripps Ecological Observatory is an effort to improve the discoverability and long-term viability of critical ecosystem measurements made at the Ellen Browning Scripps Pier.

Scripps Orbit and Permanent Array Center (SOPAC)

The Scripps Orbit and Permanent Array Center (SOPAC) researches, analyzes and archives high-precision geodetic and seismic data to study earthquake and tsunami hazards, tectonic plate motion, crustal deformation and structural monitoring.

Shore Stations Program

The Shore Stations Program collects and provides access to current and historical sea surface temperature (SST) and salinity (SSS) measurements observed at shoreline stations along the west coast of the United States. This program ranks as one of the world’s longest ocean time series and the longest on the Pacific Rim. From this time series, we can accurately pin down the nature of ocean seasonality for the entire coast of California and have begun to understand the anomalies caused by recurring equatorial El Niño conditions. This growing data bank provides us with one of the first opportunities to separate natural from anthropogenic changes in our coastal zone.


The Smartfin project is a community science initiative focused on collecting coastal water quality data and communicating critical ocean health issues. To collect data, surfers and other water sports enthusiasts use the cellular-enabled ocean sensor package integrated into high-performance fins developed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers.

Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System

The Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) is one of eleven regions contributing to the national U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®). The regional observing systems work to collect, integrate and deliver coastal and ocean observations to improve safety, enhance the economy and protect the environment.

U.S. Global Ocean Carbon and Repeat Hydrography Program (GOSHIP)

GOSHIP brings together scientists interested in physical oceanography, the carbon cycle, marine biogeochemistry and ecosystems. Working with other users and collectors of hydrographic data, they are developing a globally coordinated network of sustained hydrographic sections as part of the global ocean and climate observing system.

The Smith Lab

The Smith Lab is focused on understanding how humans impact marine ecosystems in both tropical and local environments and developing strategies for restoring or preserving these environments for future generations.

Featured Researchers and Professors

Andreas Andersson

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Andreas Andersson researches global environmental change due to natural and anthropogenic processes and the subsequent effects on carbon function, role and cycling in marine environments. His current research is mainly concerned with ocean acidification in coral reefs and in near-shore coastal environments. His research addresses the relative importance and control of seawater CO2 chemistry and environmental parameters (e.g., light, temperature, nutrients, flow-regime) on reef biogeochemical processes and the interactions between physics, chemistry and biology.

Mark Merrifield

Director, Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA)

Mark Merrifield has spent two decades studying global and regional sea-level change. A Scripps alumnus, Merrifield returned to campus from a 20-year stint as director of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center to direct the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCCIA). Merrifield's research areas include sea-level rise and climate variability, coastal oceanography and nearshore processes.

Richard Norris

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Richard Norris’s research focuses on the evolution of life in the oceans, emphasizing the mechanisms of extinction and speciation of plankton and the processes of assembly of marine ecosystems. He uses ecological, genetic and biogeographic studies of living plankton and pelagic fish and the extensive fossil record of marine plankton and fish preserved in deep-sea sediments. Other tools include sediment geochemistry to reconstruct the history of ocean productivity and climate. His research focuses on climate history and evolutionary dynamics during past intervals of hot periods in the Cretaceous, Paleogene and Neogene as analogs for modern global change.

Jennifer Smith

Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Jennifer Smith is a coral reef ecologist with primary expertise in benthic communities (marine plants, corals and other invertebrates). Her studies how various physical and biological processes affect the structure and function of marine communities. In addition, Jen has been interested in determining how human impacts affect or alter marine communities. Currently, Jen and her students are working on understanding how local stressors such as pollution, overfishing or the introduction of invasive species affect coral reefs. Jen’s lab is also working to determine how global stressors associated with climate change, such as warming or ocean acidification, will alter reef species. Much of the research in the Smith lab is focused on marine conservation and restoration of degraded habitats and often involves multidisciplinary activities. Jen and her students are actively working to develop effective management strategies for coral reef communities worldwide.