SEA Days: Century Celebrations

SEA Days: Century Celebrations

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days!

As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Name: Melissa Carter

Hometown: Claremore, OK

Schooling Background:

Undergraduate: B.S. in Oceanography, Minor in Fisheries from Humboldt State University

Graduate: M.S in Marine Science from University of San Diego

1 word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: Curiosity

Scripps Pier is a center for coastal oceanographers like Carter to conduct research.

Scripps Pier is a center for coastal oceanographers like Carter to conduct research.

How did you get involved in marine science?

As a kid I loved the water and spent every moment I could either in a pool, river, or lake. Every summer, my mom and grandmother would take my brother, my cousins, and me on a canoe trip down the Illinois River. It was a beautiful river that had clear, blue water. It was a wonderful experience, but as I got older we stopped going because the water wasn’t clear and had lots of algae growing in it from the nearby chicken farms. Losing this natural treasure made me want to study water quality and environmental issues, so I started my undergraduate degree in Chemistry. The extended periods in the lab without nature or the outdoors was difficult until I learned about Oceanography, which is field based, multi-disciplinary science.  Changing my major to Oceanography and starting my path as a scientist in this field has been the best decision I have made.

Why is the Scripps Pier important? 

The Shore Stations Program is celebrating 100 years of ocean observations of temperature and salinity that started in 1916 at Scripps Pier. This program is one of the few that have been continuous over the history of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the longest running temperature time series in the Pacific Ocean.  The value of the data collected for this program increases every year with regards to understanding climate change, local drivers for plankton dynamics, kelp forest ecology, and fisheries studies.

Instruments attached to Scripps Pier collect data that helps researchers evaluate changes in ocean conditions.

Instruments attached to Scripps Pier collect data that help researchers evaluate changes in ocean conditions.

How does the Scripps Pier affect your research? 

My research, like many of my colleagues and some of the early scientists at Scripps, is focused on coastal oceanography, so it provides a perfect platform to study long-term changes in the nearshore environment. The Shore Stations Program, with the help of the Birch Aquarium Staff, collects daily measurements of temperature and salinity right off Scripps Pier.  Another program that I work with, the Automated Shore Stations Program, collects high frequency measurements (four minute data) of temperature, salinity, and fluorescence, and the instruments are attached to one of the pier pilings.  These two programs complement each other since one program provide the long-term perspective on how the ocean is changing while the other provides real-time data of ocean conditions.


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego