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June 8, 1998

National focus on oceans long overdue, say UCSC researchers

By Tim Stephens

The National Ocean Conference June 11-12 in Monterey will focus the nation's attention on critical ocean issues, including the health of marine ecosystems, sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources, ocean research, and ocean management. This level of attention has been a long time coming, say UCSC researchers in ocean science, who have spent decades studying a broad range of ocean-related topics.

Painstaking research in the ocean sciences has begun to establish a foundation of knowledge and understanding that can inform critical decisions about how best to manage our ocean resources. Yet much more research is needed to understand the many complex processes that govern the ocean environment, says Gary Griggs, director of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS).

"We still have a lot to learn about the ocean processes that support the incredible diversity of marine life, influence global climate, initiate El Nino events with their devastating coastal impacts, provide critical resources, and help sustain our economy. Increased funding for ocean research is essential, because we don't want to be making important management decisions based on inadequate information," says Griggs.

The IMS brings together researchers working in many different fields. It includes the Long Marine Laboratory, an internationally renowned center for research in marine mammal physiology and ecology, marine invertebrate ecology, and marine toxicology. IMS researchers also work in the Earth and Marine Sciences Building on the UCSC campus studying marine geology and geophysics, ocean processes, paleoceanography, and coastal processes and hazards.

UCSC is a key player in the emergence of the Monterey Bay region as a center of marine science research and education. Through partnerships with other institutions, the campus is building on regional strengths in a variety of collaborative endeavors, says Chancellor Greenwood, who will serve on a panel on oceans and commerce at the national conference.

"The economy of the Monterey Bay region is heavily dependent on ocean and coastal resources, and the way regional organizations have come together to address common concerns shows how committed this community is to living in harmony with the ocean," says Greenwood.

The diversity of IMS research reflects the many ways in which the oceans affect the global environment and the lives of people around the world, says Griggs, a marine geologist whose research deals with coastal erosion and hazard reduction. In describing the institute's diverse projects, Griggs often refers to contrasting extremes: From microscopic plankton to massive blue whales, from frigid Antarctic waters to tropical coral reefs, and from the depths of the seafloor to the coastal cliffs, UCSC researchers are expanding our knowledge of the oceans.

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