Research Interests

My Ph.D. research involves addressing the impacts of predicted climate changes on planktonic ecosystems and carbon export in the ocean using both satellite remote sensing and numerical ecosystem modeling approaches. I am particularly interested in understanding the climate-physical-ecosystem interactions at the meso- and submesoscale. For example, we discovered that submesoscale frontal features enhance phytoplankton growth substantially in the oligotrophic North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Such result has significant implications, suggesting that the impact of global warming and future climate scenarios on marine ecosystems is complicated and can only be understood by addressing both large-scale and fine-scale bio-physical interactions.  As the fine-scale physical dynamics may intensify in future climate, its impact on phytoplankton may compensate the warming-induced weakening of the ocean carbon pumps.

Besides, I am also a fan of oceanographic technologies and believe that advances in technology are promoting the current front-line oceanographic research. I am a pilot of both 'Webb gliders' and 'seagliders' which are autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with hydrological and optical sensors. These gliders, and other AUVs, provide continuous measurements of key attributes in the ocean at high temporal and spatial resolutions.  These data are used to not only understand the fine-scale oceanic features and their variations, but also constrain the state-of-the-art global climate models, which explore the mechanisms for the impact of climate changes in the past and predict the future ecosystem responses to the projected changes.

Animation from

Global primary production estimated from satellite data. Animation linked from:

Our girl 'He Ha Pe' was just about to dive into the ocean. She transmits data back to us through satellite communications every time she surfaces.

Photo credit:

My links:

The Levine Lab Home Page

The Jones Lab Home Page

The Jones Lab Wordpress: glider data visualization


Integrative Observational Platforms (IOP) group: Focuses on observational investigations of ocean physics at a variety of spatial and temporal scales (Ocean Physics Department, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington).

Interdisciplinary Oceanography Group (IOG): Affiliated with the Institute for Computational Earth System Science (ICESS) based at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Maine In-situ Sound & Color Lab: Lab Specializes in the interpretation of optical and acoustical properties of aquatic environments (University of Maine).

Coastal Observing Research & Development Center: Focuses on the development of new technologies and their application for basic and applied sciences.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) - OurOcean Portal: Access to ocean science data, data assimilation models, data and model visualization.

Naval Research Laboratory - Ocean Optics: Conducts basic and applied research to understand and predict the dynamical evolution of ocean phenomena and processes (specifically related to ocean optics).

The Ocean Physics Laboratory (OPL): Part of the Department of Geography at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Orange County Sanitation District: Wastewater treatment.

The Robotic Embedded Systems Laboratory (RESL): Develops tools & techniques to design and understand large-scale, distributed, robotic systems (USC).

Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS): Brings together coastal observations in the Southern California Bight to provide information necessary to address issues varying from climate change to national security.

Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP): A research institute focused on the coastal ecosystems of Southern California from watersheds to ocean.

USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies: Supports marine and environmental science & education at USC.

  • Xiao Liu
  • University of Southern California
  • 3616 Trousdale Parkway, AHF B30
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089