Spring 2012

[Alumni News]

Bruce Appelgate

From Surfer Boy to Science Maven

Bruce Appelgate Submitted Photo

WHEN ALUMNUS BRUCE Appelgate (‘85, Geology) first arrived on campus, he was undecided about a career and listed himself an undeclared major. One of the things he chose to do amid his uncertainty was to take a geology class, and it went well. In fact, he remembers, “It went so well, I thought I’d take another one!” He did, and discovered a passion for geology “by accident” under the tutelage of professors Lori Dengler and Bud Burke. Appelgate took his bachelor’s degree in the subject, with a minor in oceanography. This led to graduate school and a doctorate in marine geology & geophysics, and today Appelgate is associate director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, in charge of Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support.

A specialist in seafloor mapping, he has managed the Scripps fleet of oceanographic research vessels since he assumed the post in 2008. Scripps is known for its expeditionary oceanographic research. “My job is to make sure the Scripps research fleet continues to provide all scientists with the best possible access to the sea,” Appelgate says. He directs four research vessels, one of the largest academic fleets in the world, and was principal investigator on Scripps’ recent successful bid to operate the newest ship in the U.S. research fleet, an $88 million vessel funded by the U.S. Navy now under construction for delivery to Scripps in 2015. He also oversees the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility, the homeport for the Scripps fleet in San Diego’s Point Loma community.

A veteran of more than 90 oceanographic research cruises, Appelgate now laughs when he recalls getting seasick on his maiden Pacific voyage as an HSU undergraduate, even though he’d been an avid surfer while growing up in San Diego. He also surfed off the Redwood Coast as a student, wearing a five-millimeter wet suit. “You do what you have to do!” he smiles. “I am where I am today because of the great undergraduate education in science that Humboldt State provided. I’m grateful for that.” He still enjoys surfing—and his career as a marine geologist enables him to enjoy it all over the world.