The Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) conducts research to study and understand the relationship between the marine environment and human societies. The center focuses on understanding the complexity of the past to put the present into context. SCMA, a joint effort between Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps) and the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego, draws on expertise in a wide range of fields including oceanography, acoustics, sedimentology, geomorphology, climate sciences, environmental sciences, anthropology and archaeology. The goal is to develop a greater understanding of maritime culture in its broadest sense.

Our Mission

SCMA’s mission is to investigate, understand and communicate the intersections, interactions and interconnections between people and the sea through time, seeking a holistic, interdisciplinary understanding of marine, coastal, and environmental archaeology – and thus helping to advance marine archaeology as a field.

Our Vision

The center envisions serving as the central research authority and institutional platform for students, faculty and other researchers working on understanding the relationship between people and the sea, as well as climate and environments worldwide.


Scripps Institution of Oceanography has more than a century-long tradition of marine studies, including on how humans interact with the marine environment. The faculty of UC San Diego’s Department of Anthropology and Scripps Institution of Oceanography have continued this tradition over the past few decades with workshops and discussions aimed at fostering marine archaeology on campus. SCMA was initially created in 2015 through the initiative of Scripps professor Walter Munk, who secured seed donations and approval to begin center operations. Damien LeLoup was also instrumental in launching the center, and as a founding co-director he worked closely with Munk on networking and developing projects. In 2016, SCMA explored new ways of structuring the center and its research agenda to ensure its sustainability. With the departure of LeLoup from UC San Diego, Professors Tom Levy (Anthropology) and John Hildebrand (Scripps) were appointed as co-directors, with Munk serving as science advisor.

SCMA carried out its first major scientific expedition in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, under the direction of Levy and Richard Norris of Scripps. In its formative stages, SCMA also completed a white paper incorporating goals and objectives for the center. Going forward, the center plans to adopt a working plan that includes rolling out a series of five major faculty-driven projects in the period from 2017 through 2019, under the leadership of principal and co-principal investigators from Scripps, the Department of Anthropology and other UC San Diego and international collaborators with a stake in the future of marine archaeology (see EXPEDITIONS).

Goals and Objectives

As outlined in the SCMA white paper, we have four primary goals as research projects and expeditions get under way, along with programmatic efforts including a monthly lecture series, a town hall meeting, and a biannual International Conference on Marine Archaeology named in honor of Prof. Walter Munk to recognize his long-term contribution to the SCMA. Those goals include:

  1. To establish a UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography network of faculty and specialists to support SCMA.
  2. To establish seed activities focused on an interdisciplinary and holistic understanding of the relationship between people and the ocean / seas.
  3. To communicate the scientific understanding of that relationship for the benefit of society and the environment
  4. To establish SCMA as a research authority and institutional platform for students, faculty and other researchers.

To achieve these goals, the center aims to increase its visibility and secure public and private funding to support an ambitious research and education agenda. SCMA will also collaborate with Scripps/UC San Diego engineers to develop technologies and methodologies for deep and shallow-water archaeological research, including underwater surveying, mapping, sampling and excavation. Through its grant programs and expeditions, the center will also provide field and other opportunities for Scripps and UC San Diego students to do hands-on research related to marine archaeology as SCMA boosts the university’s level of marine and coastal archaeological research, education and publications.