Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Department of University of California at San Diego

scrippsScripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean, earth and atmospheric science research, education, and public service in the world. Research at Scripps encompasses physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical studies of the oceans, Earth, and planets. Scripps undergraduate and graduate programs provide trans-formative educational and research opportunities in ocean, earth, and atmospheric sciences, as well as degrees in climate science and policy and marine biodiversity and conservation.


Historic photo of Scripps FleetThe Scripps Fleet of four oceanographic research vessels and the research platform FLIP make up one of the largest academic fleets in the world.  A new ocean-class research ship that will be operated by Scripps on behalf of the Office of Naval Research is under construction and will join the fleet in 2015.       


Famous Scripps Pier, Year Built: 1987-1988, Architect:
Ferver Engineering, Construction firm: Kiewit Pacific

Scripps Institution of Oceanography famous pier in San Diego from the airCurrent use: As one of the world’s biggest research piers, the Scripps Pier it is used for boat launching and a variety of experiments. Data on ocean conditions and plankton taken from the pier since 1916 provide an unparalleled source of information on changes in the coastal Pacific Ocean.

The pier also provides a supply of fresh seawater, a critical resource for a marine institution, to an array of laboratories and aquaria. Seawater is pumped up from the end of the pier, then filtered and stored in holding tanks. Scripps pumps about 1.8 million gallons of seawater each day.

Halfway down the ramp north of the pier is the Diving Facility, used since 1958 by Scripps divers to house their compressors and equipment for recharging scuba tanks and as a site for inspection and maintenance of diving equipment. The training program for scientists using underwater breathing apparatus began at Scripps in 1951; it is the oldest program of that kind in the country, and has established many of the rules for safe diving with underwater equipment.

Namesake: Named for Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932), the most significant donor to the institution in its formative years. Born in London, Ellen emigrated to the United States with her father in 1844, and grew up on a farm in Illinois. She attended Knox College in Illinois. In 1866, she joined her brother James in his newspaper business, and later she worked with her younger half-brother E.W. Scripps in his newspaper business. E.W. settled in the San Diego area about 1890, and Ellen built a house in La Jolla soon after that.

Never married, and wealthy from funds derived from the family newspaper businesses and from inheritance from another brother George, she became a major benefactor in La Jolla and elsewhere. In its earliest years, Ellen provided generous funds for the Marine Biological Association, served on its board, and gave it a large endowment. An unassuming person, she preferred that the institution be named for her brother George, but the University of California chose the overall Scripps surname in 1912. Finally, in 1988, the pier was named for this remarkable woman.

History: The original Scripps Pier, built in 1915-1916, was a 1,000-foot-long facility for acquiring clean seawater for the campus laboratories and the public aquarium. Ellen Browning Scripps provided all of the money ($36,000) for its construction. That structure—well built for its day, with reinforced concrete and wooden pilings and a wooden deck—survived many years and storms, but extensive repairs were made to it in 1926 and 1946.

Major concerns about the soundness of the old pier finally led to its total replacement. The modern pier, which is 1,090 feet long, was built of reinforced concrete alongside the original pier, which was then removed.

Pier Facilities and Access Requests: Description of available spaces and capabilities and/or to request access for research purposes, scientific diving, sampling, or instrument testing. Requests for access are subject to approval.

About the Collections

The Scripps Oceanographic Collections at UC San Diego are world-renowned repositories supporting scientific research, educating current and future generations, stimulating curiosity, and supplying information to governmental agencies and public policy makers.

These collections provide the basis for understanding the ocean’s biodiversity, the evolutionary history of life on Earth, and the rates and characteristics of climate change. The holdings of the Scripps collections are irreplaceable because they record the state of the ocean environment at specific points in time.

This newly discovered polychaete worm from Belize, part of the Scripps Oceanographic Collections, will be named goodhartzorum after the family of Jeff Goodhartz, Scripps’s first Name-a-Species donor.The collections are archives of information concerning the present and past states of the world ocean, which furnish the foundation for predicting the future. This newly discovered polychaete worm from Belize, part of the Scripps Oceanographic Collections, will be named goodhartzorum after the family of Jeff Goodhartz, Scripps’s first Name-a-Species donor.

Scripps Name a Species Program

Scripps Hydraulic Laboratory

The Hydraulics Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography provides expertise, space, facilities, and equipment for physical and biological oceanographic research.

The staff is available to assist in the design, fabrication, and calibration of laboratory and field instruments, oceanographic and biological research devices, and other engineering projects including those which use the Laboratory’s unique suite of facilities

Hydraulics Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Hydraulics Laboratory at Scripps 

A recent donation by a Scripps Oceanography emeritus professor is aiding the exploration of unknown occurrences in the ocean. Over the past two months, Charles “Chip” Cox has donated almost $10,000 to the Hydraulics Laboratory Technology Application Group at Scripps. 

This donation is a prime example of how Scripps maintains strong relationships with its professors and alumni. Cox received a Ph.D. in oceanography from Scripps Oceanography in 1955. Upon graduation, he took a position as an assistant research oceanographer at Scripps, and eventually worked his way to becoming a professor of oceanography and a researcher.

Scripps Oceanographic Institute Hydraulics LaboratoryThroughout Cox’s extensive career, his research focused on ocean waves, the transfer of heat through the oceans, and electromagnetic processes in and below the sea. Although currently retired, he still holds an interest in the current research being conducted at Scripps. Through his recent donation, Cox is working with the Hydraulics Laboratory at Scripps to better understand how an oil film on the sea surface affects the wind as it flows over waves.

Scripps Hydraulic Laboratory in panoramic view. According to Cox’s article Suppression of Breakers in Stormy Seas By an Oil Film, to be published in August 2015 in The International Journal of Marine History, the best information on the ability of an oil film to stop breaking seas in storms can be found in an incident that occurred in 1883, when crew members of a sinking vessel were saved by use of a small open boat in a storm. In an account of the event by Thomas Greenback, the master of the rescuing ship, five gallons of fish oil spread windward of the ships had a “magical” effect in stopping breakers so that the small boat could be launched and rowed to-and-from the sinking vessel several times safely.

scripps-oceanographic-hydraulics-laboratory-conducting-experiements“It is astonishing that a weak film of oil has such remarkable effects,” said Cox. “It appears that the oil film on the water worked its magic by altering the wind in such a way that big storm waves stopped growing.”  

With no modern studies having been conducted in stormy conditions, Cox believes it is important for the scientific community to pursue research with modern tools.

In the Hydraulics Laboratory at Scripps, equipment is being developed to help find answers to this oceanic mystery. Douglas Alden, senior development engineer at the Hydraulics Laboratory, said that researchers are working “to design and build an instrumented raft to measure winds very close to the ocean surface.”

scripps-hyraulic-laboratory-in-1967-uc-san-diegoThese researchers aim to gain insight into how the oiled sea affects the flow of wind. Three ultrasonic anemometers will sample the wind at heights of a few inches to a few feet while the raft follows the waves. An Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and a GPS receiver will keep track of the anemometer positions. A radio modem will transmit data to an accompanying boat. 

“The IMU allows us to measure the raft motion and will help interpret the changes in the wind,” said Alden.

The Scripps Hydraulics Laboratory has an extensive history of doing research on physical oceanography and meteorology, offering its facilities and equipment to help further those studies. In order to make the most of the donation provided by Cox, the Hydraulics Lab is using supplies from its own inventory to work on this project.

Thanks to this gift, laboratories and researchers at Scripps can continue to further research on important questions being asked by the scientific community. Scripps is thankful to have incredible donors such as Cox to help continue the exploration of unknown mysteries of the ocean.

mpl-shop-header-image_0Marine Science Development Center

Mission Statement: Support the research community with the highest quality custom hardware.

teamMSDC specializes in the design, development, fabrication, and assembly of oceanographic, space, and general scientific hardware from minute laser components to large-scale integrated systems. MSDC serves SIO, UCSD, various other institutions, and the private sector.


Services: Truly a one stop shop, we offer our customers a wide range of services that include, but are not limited to, the following: Engineering, Machining, Fabrication – in house and in the field, X-ray certified welding, Inspection, Assembly, Pressure testing (In house Only), Surface coating, High vacuum expertise and Field support. Also as the development center for a leading Oceanographic Institution, we of course offer worldwide shipping.

In addition to the above services we occasionally offer a forklift training and certification class during the Fall season for a charge of $25.00. UC staff and students who are certified forklift drivers are welcome to utilize our forklift during business hours by providing a recharge index. Rates are $80/hr and $100/hr for a manned forklift. Office hours are Monday thru Thursday, Friday, 8:00-3:30. Closed on University Holidays. Map

History: In continuous operation since the earliest days of Scripps, the historical records indicate that our first completed project was the prototype of dirt. If you wish to reproduce an old or tried and true piece of sea going research equipment, the original drawings are probably in our archives, dating back to the 1930’s.