Monthly Archives: April 2012

Looking Back to the Line Islands

Aboard the Hanse Explorer in the fall of 2010, researchers from San Diego State University (SDSU) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and other coral reef ecologists set out to the Line Islands and other regions of the central Pacific for a research cruise to study some of the most pristine coral reefs that still exist in the world.

The purpose of the expedition was to provide a quantitative ecological baseline of a pristine coral reef to use in comparison to degraded coral reefs more commonly found today.  The researchers conducted experiments and collected data to describe the diversity and structure of the reef communities, sampling all major taxonomic groups, including the microbes, algae, corals, other invertebrates, and fish.

To learn more about the 2010 Northern Line Islands Expedition you can check out the website or blog!


Thanks to PhD student Levi Lewis for creating a video to document all the adventures during the 2010 Northern Line Islands Expedition.

Smith Lab Prepares for the 27th Annual Oceans Benefit Gala!

Many members of the Smith Lab have been working with the San Diego Oceans Foundation in preparation for the 27th Annual Oceans Benefit Gala – Oceans for the Future: A Sustainable Seafood Celebration.

The gala will be held on April 26, 2012 at SeaWorld’s Turtle Reef & Shark Encounter Exhibits from 6pm – 10pm.  It will feature sustainable seafood tastings prepared by local celebrity chefs, live musical entertainment, silent auctions, raffles, live animal interactions, and much more.  You can purchase tickets online or by calling SDOF at 619-523-1903

Come join the Smith Lab and other SDOF sponsors for a night of fun and celebrating our mutual commitment to ocean stewardship.

If you would like to know more about SDOF you can check them out here!

I Can Harvest Light With No Chloroplasts


Last quarter, for my phycology (algae) class, I needed to create something artistic with an algal focus.  After pondering various types of foods, visual art, and algal-based food and drinking apparatuses (not “apparati”); I realized my moment.  I love writing poetry/song.  I love making movies.  I love music.  Thus spawned my music video:  “Chloroplasts”


Want to know more about Levi? Click here and find out!

His Holiness shares his views on science and compassion.

His Holiness is jovial and loves to laugh, but is very serious about his messages.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited UCSD yesterday and Scripps Institution of Oceanography today.  I was honored to serve as the student representative of SIO at the lunch and panel discussion in the Paine Forum.   I have not studied his teachings or read his books, but I have listened to some of his lectures.  Nonetheless, some of his messages are surprising (i.e., refreshing), and I had to pinch myself to remember that he is a religious leader.

Below I’ve listed some personal ‘take-homes’ from our UCSD sessions with His Holiness yesterday and today regarding climate, cognitive science & compassion:

  • Skepticism is necessary because it causes us to question, investigate & develop.  Science is the embodiment of both skepticism and progress.
  • If one’s teachings conflict with science, perhaps one should change his/her teachings.
  • Empathy may be natural and neurological, but we empathize most when we consciously pay attention to others.
  • The main barriers to neurological compassion is our ‘skin’ and philosophical compassion is our individuality or ‘soul.
  • Nothing & no one is independent; every action we take affects others.  It is our moral obligation to ensure our actions don’t cause harm to others.
  • Anger stems from natural selfishness and the concept of individuality; in contrast, compassion develops from training & and the concept of interdependence.  Selfishness is spontaneous while compassion requires study and practice.
  • Hidden secrets and lies create distrust and withdrawal.  Honesty and truth create openness, trust and friendship.  Even our pets know that.
  • Totalitarian/authoritarian people & regimes restrict & censor information in order to control & brainwash.  Free societies embrace truth, honesty, and openness.
  • The cure for conflict is study.  The cure for anger is study.  The source of compassion is study.  Education is the cure.

Maybe I should go back to school; oh, right…


*If you want to learn more about Levi, you can follow his blog!

Triton Day: Welcoming Prospective Students with Charismatic Critters!

Kathryn Furby and Maggie Johnson with some of the sea critters in the touch tank.

I had the pleasure spending my Saturday as an ambassador of SIO’s marine biology program to the UCSD and San Diego community this past weekend at UCSD’s annual Triton Day.  The Triton Day experience is an open house that is intended to bring prospective UCSD students and the community together in a fun-filled day of entertainment and education.  The campus was peppered with excited prospective students, families, and curious community members, and library walk was lined with booths representing a variety of departments and programs across all disciplines at UCSD.

Maggie Johnson talks to prospective UCSD students about local sea critters in the touch tank.

I was happily accompanied by fellow first-year marine biology student Kathryn Furby of the Sandin lab, and a posse of charismatic sea creatures local to San Diego.  With crowds of people itching to catch a glimpse of our critters, I definitely would not have been able to do it alone!  We brought our glass touch tank up the hill from SIO to UCSD’s main campus, and let the critters speak for themselves.  I was thrilled to find so many people from the community interested in our local sea creatures which included sea stars, purple sea urchins, a wily hermit crab, and an extra squishy sea cumber.  The rock star of the show was our Spanish shawl nudibranch, Flabellina iodinea.  Second to seaweeds of course, the Spanish shawl is one of my favorite sea critters.  Many of our visitors thought that this critter hailed from the tropics because of its vibrant purple body and neon orange cerata.  They were surprised to learn that the Spanish shawl nudibranch is in fact local to San Diego.

The Spanish shawl nudbranch, Flabellina iodinea, was the highlight of travelling touch tank. Photo credit:

I spent the day talking with prospective students about the incredible opportunities afforded by Scripps.  It was not only a beautiful sunny day spent with our charismatic critters, but it was also incredibly rewarding to spread my love for marine biology to the greater community.  Talking with aspiring young marine scientists and tidepool lovers alike I was reminded just how lucky I am to be able to experience the joys of the ocean every day!

Smith Lab Members Share Research with SIO Donors!

On Monday, April 2, the Smith’s Lab’s very own Ph.D. student Emily Kelly was a featured speaker at the annual reception for SIO donors and fellowship recipients. Emily Kelly, and fellow PhD. Smith Lab students Levi Lewis, and Jill Harris also presented posters and had the opportunity to mingle with donors and other students at a reception at the Birch Aquarium.
Emily did a fantastic job as one of three students to share her research and experiences with the audience. Even though the aquarium is our next-door neighbor, it feels special to attend celebrations there. And we are especially thankful for the generous donors who not only make our work financially feasible, but who also always take a keen interest in our latest scientific discoveries and triumphs.
You can check out the posters on the wall outside of our lab located at 2255 Hubs Hall.

New Ocean Acidification Sensor Installed at Scripps!

Dr. Andi Haas & PhD student Brian Zgliczynski volunteered to install the new system

On Tuesday, March 13th 2012, members of the Smith Lab and the Scripps Diving Safety Office excitedly directed SCUBA divers (Andi Haas and Brian Zgliczynski) as they permanently installed the first ocean acidification monitoring program on the Scripps pier. The monitoring system is attached underwater to a Scripps pier piling and will record seawater pH, salinity, temperature, oxygen and chlorophyll a every 15 minutes for the foreseeable future. The sensor package (engineered at Scripps), will be recovered and downloaded every month by volunteer Scripps divers. A collaborative team of ocean acidification researchers, led by Drs. Jennifer Smith and Nichole Price, will use this data to monitor local changes in ocean chemistry over time.

The OA monitoring system before installation

Ocean acidification is the lowering of seawater pH, caused by the burning of fossil fuels and subsequent increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans. Ocean acidification could have a major ecological impact on our coastal ecosystems, but will likely affect particular species differently. Researchers are attempting to understand the extent of the effects on marine communities and determine who will acclimate or adapt and survive and who will suffer consequences of lower pH. This ocean acidification monitoring system will equip Scripps scientists with vital information about the natural annual, seasonal, and daily fluctuations in seawater chemistry necessary to answer these questions.

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