As for the for ward view on the scientific front, this fall Scripps professor David Checkley will head out on the Sally Ride’s inaugural research cruise. A bio- logical oceanographer, Checkley’s primary area of focus is on fisheries,
including the ongoing impact that climate
change is having on marine populations.
Checkley, who will be retiring to emeritus this year, also is the current director
of the California Cooperative Oceanic
Fisheries Investigations, or CalCOFI. The
multi-agency organization was founded
in 1949 to investigate the collapse of the
sardine population in California, an event
famously documented in John Steinbeck’s
classic novel Cannery Row. The research
conducted since continues to prove invaluable for resource management and fisheries
A CalCOFI team heads out to sea quarterly to take a variety of measurements at
114 stations set up in a grid stretching from
the California coast to nearly 300 miles
offshore. Scientists look at temperature,
salinity, pressure, oxygen concentration
and more, in addition to netting samples of
plankton and other sea life from the water
column. All of the routinely collected data
is publicly accessible for anyone to analyze.
“We’ve used smaller ships until now, so
my group is very much looking forward to
sailing on the Sally Ride,” says Checkley,
who also weighed in on the ship’s design
as part of the UNOLS Fleet Improvement
Committee. “The craftsmanship of the ship
impressed the heck out of me. The welding
is extraordinary. Looking at it, you have real
confidence that this ship was built well.”
“The craftsmanship of the ship
impressed the heck out of me.
The welding is extraordinary.
Looking at it, you have
real confidence that this ship
was built well.”
I T ALL COMES TOGE THER
With stints at sea that will last up to 40 days, physical space on board the Sally Ride must be
perfectly in order, with every inch of the vessel serving a purpose.
Scripps distinguished professor Lisa
Levin, a marine ecologist, does much of her
benthic-zone research on biodiversity and
ocean acidification onboard larger global
ships that can accommodate additional
scientists and submersible vehicles, but she
too is eager for the Sally Ride’s arrival for
a reason equally important to a research
institution: the profound educational opportunities it affords for her students.
“It’s an incredibly unique opportunity,”
says Levin. “In just one day, students get to
see many of the concepts we’ve discussed in
class. It’s their first and possibly only expo-
sure to communities in the open ocean.”
This exposure is made possible by the UC
Ships Funds Program, which affords ship
time to students and early-career scientists.
Since 1995, UC Ship Funds have supported
an average of 57 days at sea per year on
cruises that range from one-day field trips
to months-long expeditions, all for those
students who make up the future of oceanographic research.
“One of the great pleasures of my job is
administering this program,” says Appel-
gate. “It’s rewarding to see the quality of
work that our young scientists perform on
In addition to hands-on experience, stu-
dents and teachers around the world also
will be able to take part in ocean explora-
tion by interacting with scientists at sea via
the ship’s robust satellite telepresence.
R/V Sally Ride will interface with UC San
Diego’s existing K– 12 outreach efforts, to
demonstrate how STEM fields are exciting,
meaningful and accessible for everyone.
While technology can bring the ocean-
going experience to those on land, there’s
no substitute for field work when it comes
to oceanographic research. And with a field
as vast and still mysterious as the world’s
oceans, the ability to make an impact is en-
tirely dependent on what can get you there.
“Climate change and ocean acidification
are real and happening because of things
we as a society do,” says Appelgate. “It’s the
key area of research of our time. When you
send someone to sea, there’s no telling what
For Appelgate, all that remains unknown
is the most exciting part of oceanography.
“We scientists sometimes sound like we
know it all, but we really don’t. You have
to go out there and take samples and make
observations and be continually surprised.
Ocean research will always require a
human presence, even as we develop more
robots and autonomous tools. We’ll always
need women and men out at sea, and that’s
what the Sally Ride will make possible.”
Learn more about the ship and view the
slide show at tritonmag.com/sallyride
—Professor David Checkley