February 25, 2002
Long Marine Lab's new Center for Ocean Health emphasizes the integration of
science and policy
By Tim Stephens
UCSC dedicated the Center for Ocean Health at the Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory
with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Thursday, February 21. The 23,000-square-foot
state-of-the-art research facility was completed last spring and has been occupied
since June 2001.
The Center for Ocean Health serves as a focal point for scientific research, education,
and policy programs that address ocean conservation and management issues. By fostering
interactions between university researchers, government agencies, and conservation
organizations, the center encourages the integration of research and policy efforts
to protect and manage marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
|The Center for Ocean Health is the latest addition to UCSC's marine science campus.
Photo: Tim Stephens
"While we are celebrating the opening of a new building, what is more important
is that the work our scientists are doing here will leave a legacy for our children
and grandchildren by helping to ensure a healthy future for the ocean environment,"
said Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood.
The keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony was Terrie Williams, who played a
key role in planning the Center for Ocean Health and is now the Ida Benson Lynn Professor
of Ocean Health. Williams said the scientists who work in the new building are motivated
by their love for the ocean environment and the sense that it desperately needs protecting.
"The bottom line is, these scientists are trying to save the oceans and they
have dedicated their lives to it," she said.
Williams is one of about a dozen faculty and researchers in the Institute of Marine
Sciences (IMS) who moved their offices and laboratories from the main campus to the
Center for Ocean Health last year, bringing with them postdoctoral researchers, graduate
students, and technical support staff. The researchers in the center are primarily
involved in studies of marine vertebrates and coastal biology. The center gives them
easy access to the other research facilities at Long Marine Lab, including tanks
and pools for marine mammals and seawater laboratories for fish, plankton, and marine
"We are targeting scientific questions that have strong policy implications,
where there is a need for solid research to address issues of great importance to
the region and the state," said Peter Raimondi, an associate professor of ecology
and evolutionary biology.
Two nonprofit conservation groups have offices at the Center for Ocean Health: the
Nature Conservancy's Coastal Waters Program and the Island Conservation and Ecology
Group. Also located nearby are the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, with a university
teaching lab and public education programs; the National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) Santa Cruz Laboratory, where federal scientists are studying major West Coast
fisheries; and a marine wildlife center run by the California Department of Fish
and Game (CDFG).
"Having all these other groups around us has led to a lot of dynamic and healthy
interactions. It's a really vital and vibrant place to work," Raimondi said.
"It's been exciting to see the synergy that's developed at the new center,"
added IMS director Gary Griggs. "Bringing the scientists down here where they
can be close to their research and interact with each other has paid off in a lot
of ways. This is the first new university research building at the laboratory in
20 years, and combined with the other new state and federal facilities that have
relocated to the site, we are becoming a well-recognized center for innovative marine
research and education focused on the health of the oceans."
Raimondi and Mark Carr, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology,
lead UCSC's participation in the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal
Oceans (PISCO), a large-scale research program that focuses on understanding the
nearshore ecosystems of the U.S. West Coast. In many ways, PISCO exemplifies the
aim of the Center for Ocean Health to integrate science, policy, and education. The
project's findings are applied to issues of ocean conservation and management, and
are communicated and shared through public outreach and student-training programs.
(Recent findings from PISCO will be presented at a public symposium on March 10 at
CSU Monterey Bay.)
"Some of the most urgent issues in California and throughout the world involve
these linkages of science and policy in the coastal zone, because that's where most
of the people are and where so many conflicts occur between people and the coastal
environment," Raimondi said.
Michael Beck, director of the Coastal Waters Program for the Nature Conservancy,
said his organization's partnership with UCSC is mutually beneficial.
"I'm able to transfer important new knowledge about marine science from UCSC
researchers to the people working at our field sites. We have marine conservation
practitioners on the ground in more than 25 countries, from Indonesia to coastal
sites throughout the United States, and it's important to connect them with sources
of knowledge and expertise," Beck said.
In return, Beck gives feedback to UCSC scientists about what kinds of information
are most needed to improve marine conservation and management efforts. UCSC graduate
students and interns work on Nature Conservancy projects, gaining firsthand experience
with marine conservation issues.
"There are few places in the world where there is such good synergy between
scientists, managers, conservationists, and public educators working to understand
and preserve marine diversity," Beck said.
The Island Conservation and Ecology Group (ICEG) also has a close relationship with
the IMS. Founded in 1994 by Donald Croll, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary
biology, and IMS researcher Bernie Tershy, ICEG is primarily concerned with problems
caused by introduced species on islands. For example, the group is helping to save
breeding colonies of marine birds that are threatened by introduced rats and other
exotic species on coastal islands of Mexico and California. ICEG works with UCSC
scientists, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students involved in research
projects related to the group's goals.
"From the university's perspective, it gives students an opportunity to do conservation
science, and for ICEG, it enables us to do studies that we wouldn't otherwise be
able to do," Croll said.
UCSC researchers and students also work with scientists at the state and federal
laboratories adjacent to Long Marine Lab. Churchill Grimes, director of the NMFS
lab, noted that cooperative research projects involving NMFS and UCSC scientists
are currently supported by $1.2 million in federal funds.
The NMFS lab, overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
is also home to NOAA's Institute for Marine Protected Area Science, established as
part of a national effort to create a scientifically based, comprehensive national
system of protected areas representing diverse U.S. marine ecosystems.
"We are in the middle of the nation's largest marine sanctuary here in Monterey
Bay, with a national center at the NMFS lab that's looking at how to use protected
areas to conserve marine resources, and the IMS is doing research that's helping
them understand how to do this. All these things are complementary," Griggs
The Center for Ocean Health draws on the full range of expertise in the Institute
of Marine Sciences. With 43 affiliated faculty and over 50 professional and postdoctoral
researchers, the IMS is known for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in environmental
toxicology, marine mammal biology, nearshore ecological processes, marine biogeochemistry,
paleoceanography, and continental margin geology.
Construction of the Center for Ocean Health was largely funded by a $5 million grant
from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
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