Scripps Institution of Oceanography

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Coordinates: 32°51′56″N 117°15′13″W / 32.865437°N 117.253626°W / 32.865437; -117.253626

A view of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2011, taken from the Birch Aquarium.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography (sometimes referred to as SIO, Scripps Oceanography, or Scripps) in San Diego, California, founded in 1903, is one of the oldest and largest centers for ocean and Earth science research, public service, undergraduate and graduate training in the world. Hundreds of ocean and Earth scientists conduct research with the aid of oceanographic research vessels and shorebased laboratories. Its Old Scripps Building is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. SIO is a department of the University of California, San Diego. The public explorations center of the institution is the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Since becoming part of the University of California in 1912, the institution has expanded its scope to include studies of the physics, chemistry, geology, biology, and climate of Earth.

Dr. Margaret Leinen took office as Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Dean of the Graduate School of Marine Sciences on Oct. 1, 2013.[1]

Scripps publishes explorations now, an e-magazine of ocean and earth science.

Mission statement[edit]

"To seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment."[2]

Research programs[edit]

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers at sea

The institution's research programs encompass biological, physical, chemical, geological, and geophysical studies of the oceans and earth. Scripps also studies the interaction of the oceans with both the atmospheric climate and environmental concerns on terra firma. Related to this research, Scripps offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. (see for more information.)

Today, the Scripps staff of 1,300 includes approximately 100 faculty, 300 other scientists and some 240 graduate students, with an annual budget of more than $180 million.[3]

The institution operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels and the research platform R/P FLIP (FLoating Instrument Platform) for oceanographic research. A fifth ship, R/V Sally Ride (named for the late astronaut and former UC San Diego professor), is scheduled to be launched in 2015.[4]

The Integrated Research Themes [5] encompassing the work done by Scripps researchers are:

  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • California Environment
  • Earth and Planetary Chemistry
  • Earth Through Space and Time
  • Energy and the Environment
  • Environment and Human Health
  • Global Change
  • Global Environmental Monitoring
  • Hazards
  • Ice and Climate
  • Instruments and Innovation
  • Interfaces
  • Marine Life
  • Modeling, Theory, and Computing
  • Sound and Light in the Sea
  • Waves and Circulation

Organizational Structure[edit]

Scripps Oceanography is divided into three research sections, each with its own subdivisions:[6]

  • Biology
    • Center for Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine (CMBB)
    • Integrative Oceanography Division (IOD)
    • Marine Biology Research Division (MBRD)
  • Earth
    • Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP)
    • Geosciences Research Division (GRD)
  • Oceans & Atmosphere
    • Climate, Atmospheric Science & Physical Oceanography (CASPO)
    • Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL)


Scripps Institution of Oceanography was founded in 1903 as the Marine Biological Association of San Diego, an independent biological research laboratory, by University of California Zoology professor William Emerson Ritter, with support from local philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps and later her brother E. W. Scripps. They fully funded Scripps for the first several years. Scripps began institutional life in the boathouse of the Hotel del Coronado located on San Diego Bay. It re-located in 1905 to the La Jolla area on the head above La Jolla Cove, and finally in 1907 to its present location.

In 1912 Scripps became part of the University of California and was renamed the "Scripps Institution for Biological Research." The name was changed to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in October 1925.[7] During the 1960s, led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography director Roger Revelle, it formed the nucleus for the creation of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) on a bluff overlooking Scripps Institution.

The Old Scripps Building, designed by Irving Gill, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1982.[8][9] Architect Barton Myers designed the current Scripps Building.

Research vessels[edit]

Scripps research vessel Roger Revelle

Scripps owns and operates several research vessels and platforms:[10]

Previous vessels larger than 50 ft (15 m)
  • 1906 - R/V Loma
  • 1907 - 1917 R/V Alexander Agassiz
  • 1918 - 1918 R/V Ellen Browning
  • 1925 - 1936 R/V Scripps
  • 1937 - 1955 R/V E. W. Scripps
  • 1955 - 1965 R/V Stranger (Operated as USS Jasper from 1941 to 1947 for the UC Division of War Research)
  • 1947 - 1956 R/V Crest
  • 1947 - 1969 R/V Horizon
  • 1948 - 1965 R/V Paolina-T
  • 1951 - 1965 R/V Spencer F.Baird
  • 1955 - 1969 T-441
  • 1956 - 1962 R/V Orca
  • 1959 - 1963 R/V Hugh M. Smith
  • 1959 - 1970 R/V Argo (Official Navy name was Snatch)
  • 1962 - 1976 R/V Alexander Agassiz
  • 1962–present R/P FLIP
  • 1962 - 1974 R/V Oconostota (The Oconostota was known as "The Rolling O" because of its unpleasant motion.)
  • 1965 - 1980 R/V Alpha Helix (Transferred to University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 1980 (UAF sold vessel in 2007 to Stabbert Maritime)
  • 1965 - ???? R/V Ellen B. Scripps
  • 1966 - 1992 R/V Thomas Washington (Transferred to Chile and renamed Vidal Gormaz in 1992 (still operating in 2010)
  • 1969–present R/V Melville (AGOR-14)
  • 1973 - ???? R/V Gianna
  • 1978–present R/V New Horizon
  • 1984–present R/V Robert Gordon Sproul
  • 1995–present R/V Roger Revelle

Birch Aquarium at Scripps[edit]

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, with the Village of La Jolla in the background

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center for the institution, features a Hall of Fishes with more than 60 tanks of Pacific fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and the IndoPacific, a 13,000-gallon local shark and ray exhibit, interactive tide pools, and interactive science exhibits.[11]

Notable faculty members (past and present)[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

In 2014, the institution and its Keeling Curve measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were featured as a plot point in an episode of HBO's The Newsroom (U.S. TV series). [12] In 2008, Scripps Institution of Oceanography was the subject of a category on the TV game show Jeopardy!.[13] Scripps has been a story element in numerous fictional works.[14]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]