Friday, January 28, 2011

Who Is Scripps?

Ever wonder just who Scripps is, whose name is all over buildings in San Diego? Wonder no more!

Let’s begin with the institute with the top doctoral program in the United States, Scripps Institute of Oceanography! (If you don’t believe me, check out this article released less than five months ago -
Photo courtesy of Phillip Colla
The first director of Scripps Institute of Oceanography was a Professor of the Department of Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley, William E. Ritter. Ritter came to San Diego for a research project on the animal life in the Pacific Ocean and the first building was constructed by the Marine Biological Association of San Diego. Two sibling subscribers of the Association and close friends of Ritter, Ellen Browning Scripps and Edward Wills Scripps, donated generous funds for construction and 170 acres to the Association. In 1912, the facility became Scripps Institution for Biological Sciences and then thirteen years later became Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California. In 1957, Regents approved the establishment to become part of the University of California at San Diego. Today Ritter Hall contains labs, offices, and conference rooms for various oceanic researchers.
The original Scripps Pier was finished in 1916 and was used for obtaining clean sea water for the aquarium and for the research labs. Ellen Scripps provided the funds for this project. The pier was completely replaced in 1988; an additional 84 feet was added, making it 1,084 feet long. It became known as the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier and her grand-niece, Ellen Clark Revelle, gave Ellen Scripps’ biography at the dedication ceremony. (By the way, Ellen Clark Revelle was global warming scientist Roger Randall Dougan Revelle’s wife.) The Scripps Memorial Pier is solely used for research. Data on oceanic conditions and plankton have been taken since 1916 and French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author, and researcher, Jacques Cousteau’s vessel, among many others, has been lowered from this pier.
Image courtesy of SIO
Something I always wondered was 'how did this Scripps person become so wealthy'? Let’s back up and tell that story. After graduating college in Illinois, Ellen Scripps taught before working with her brother (James) on the newspaper he founded- the Detroit Evening News. She invested her savings in this newspaper and eventually it became one of the most popular in the country. She then helped her half brother, E. W. Scripps, found other newspapers with her personal savings. As these enterprises grew, so did her wealth.
The Children's Pool at La Jolla Cove
Ellen spent the last thirty-five years of her life in La Jolla. Because she often donated anonymously, the exact endowment is unknown, but it was well into the millions. The donated money didn’t all come from her wise business practices; she obtained a large sum from her brother George’s will. She cared greatly in benefitting humanity and therefore funded wherever she saw fit.
Plans for the Scripps Memorial Hospital began while Ellen was recovering from a broken hip. She dedicated this facility to her sister, Annie. Meanwhile, one of Ellen’s doctors proposed a research facility to study diabetes in response to the discovery of insulin. Consequently, the Scripps Research Institute was completed in 1924. The founder-director, Dr. James Winn, was the first doctor to use insulin in the United States.
Other contributions from Ellen Scripps include The Bishop’s School, the North Grove and estuary of Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla Precinct, La Jolla Recreation Center, the original aquarium at Scripps, the football field and stadium at La Jolla High School, Scripps Park, Scripps Aviary at the San Diego Zoo, Scripps College in Claremont, California, Scripps Cottage at San Diego State University, and the Children’s Pool at La Jolla Cove. Ellen’s home was bought and remodeled in 1939 and is now the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The MCA in La Jolla is temporarily closed but is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 5, 2011. In case you didn’t know, admission for all students under 26 years are FREE! The address is 700 Prospect Street. Also, don’t forget to check out Birch Aquarium and all the tours they offer!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Zealand Christmas Tree at UCSD

Did you know we have a tree on campus that is famous for living to be 1000 years old? This tree is also an important holiday icon in New Zealand, much like mistletoe is in America.The New Zealand Christmas tree, also known as the mainland pohutukawa (pronounced like Po-Who-Too-COW-A) and Metrosideros excels, can be seen in the Chancellor’s Building’s courtyard. Upon first glance you will notice the bundles of ‘branches’ dangling down, completely perpendicular to the soil. These are called aerial or adventitious roots – yes roots! In its native habitat, the rocky northern coast of New Zealand, the New Zealand Christmas tree can thrive in barren, rocky coastal cliff-like environments where soil moisture can be rare.

Remember the trees are windblown on cliffs and coasts. This sucks moisture out much faster than a calm environment; moisture loss increases with wind speed. Take a look at the leaves. Notice how the tops of the matured leaves are dark and slick, which prevents moisture loss. The bottoms are light and fuzzy, also known as pupscent. This texture is produced by microscopic hairs that the tree has adapted as another way to keep moisture in. Even a minor slowing of wind velocity can have a significant effect on reducing moisture loss.

Now it is time for a brief lesson on New Zealand. The name New Zealand Christmas tree came to be not because New Zealanders (also known as 'kiwis') bring them into their homes and decorate them with ornaments for your cat to knock down, but because of its flowers. Christmas in New Zealand is widely celebrated outside because December is a summer month south of the equator. This tree provides gorgeous decorations of red blossoms that bloom profusely before Christmas and into January. The flowers color shorelines and hillsides; they are brought inside homes as ­­­­ornamentation and are commonly printed on holiday banners and cards, making these flowers an important part of New Zealand Holiday tradition.
Photo taken from
This tree and its flowers have held a prominent role in Maori (the native people of New Zealand) culture. According to legend, Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, attempted to climb to heaven to find his father. Unsuccessful, Tawhaki fell to earth. The red flowers are said to represent his blood. Furthermore, The New Zealand Christmas trees’ branches are believed to be the leaping place for departed souls entering the underworld.

The New Zealand Christmas tree is more than just visually pleasing. Maori and possibly early settlers used the leaves and bark of the New Zealand Christmas Tree for a variety of medicinal purposes. Its flowers and roots contain several antioxidants including anthocyanins - which are usually found in red colored fruits like blueberries - flavonoids, and chalcones. These have been studied and have shown positive results in diverse health effects, from anti-inflammatory properties to inhibition of tumors.

Now you know that this tree not only provides shade for Chancellor Fox's visitors, it is very important to Maori and New Zealanders, and is helping in cancer research (along with many other plants - but that is a different topic!).

By the way, if you thought a tree live 1000 years is a long time, you'll be surprised to know that the oldest living tree in the world has a root system dating back 9,950 years! Read the article here: