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San Diego Chemist On Globetrotting Trip To Study Surfers’ Microbiomes

Photo caption: UCSD graduate student Clifford Kapono in Cornwall, England in November 2016. ...

Photo credit: Cliff Kapono

UCSD graduate student Clifford Kapono in Cornwall, England in November 2016. He is on a worldwide research trip to study microbes found on surfers' skin and in their guts.

San Diego Chemist On Globetrotting Trip To Study Surfers' Microbiomes


Cliff Kapono, chemistry graduate student, UC San Diego


Surfers spend a lot of their time in the ocean and a UC San Diego doctoral student is on a worldwide trek to find out how much of the ocean winds up in surfers.

Cliff Kapono, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate, is launching the Surfer Biome Project to collect samples of the chemicals and microorganisms on surfers' skin and in their guts. He left for England in September and will visit Spain, Morocco, Chile, Indonesia and Hawaii before returning to California in June.

The Surfer Biome Project

The Surfer Bio Project Teaser from cliff kapono on Vimeo.

There are millions of different bacteria in a liter of ocean water and many get into surfers bodies when they swallow water or through their noses and ears. British scientists found that surfers have more antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their guts compared to non-surfers. Kapono's research will help determine whether surfers have different "microbial profiles" in different countries. Depending on the results, Kapono said the work could lead to new ocean-based therapies and inspire new approaches to conservation.

"In grad school, you spend a lot of time in the lab. Something in me felt that if I wasn’t constantly surrounded by what I’m trying to protect, I’d be falling short," said Kapono, who is a native Hawaiian. "Culturally, I was raised that we belong in nature and we also have a responsibility to be a steward of that environment."

Kapono joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday to discuss his early findings.


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