January 10, 2000
New institute will support research on the global environment and planetary sciences
By Tim Stephens
UC's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP), a multicampus research
unit, is expanding to include a branch on the UCSC campus. The UCSC branch of the
institute will address fundamental questions relating to Earth's environment, global
change, and planetary sciences.
The IGPP supports a wide range of basic research on the origin, structure, and evolution
of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe. One of the goals of this research
is to predict future changes in global systems that may affect human life.
"The establishment of an IGPP branch at UCSC provides important support for
our strong programs in planetary and environmental sciences that will allow them
to move to an even greater level of excellence," said David Kliger, dean of
the Division of Natural Sciences.
Initially, the UCSC branch will include two interdisciplinary research centers: the
Center for Origin, Dynamics, and Evolution of Planets (CODEP) and the Center for
Dynamics and Evolution of the Land-Sea Interface (CDELSI). A subsequent expansion
is planned that will add a Center for Remote Sensing and a Center for Massive Computing
Thorne Lay, professor and chair of earth sciences, spearheaded the proposal for the
new IGPP branch at UCSC. "Our basic strategy was to capitalize on our strengths
by identifying key areas of interdisciplinary excellence and building on those areas,"
The two interdisciplinary centers, both established about a year ago, serve to create
bridges between different departments and heighten the focus on collaborative research
efforts, Lay said.
The Center for Dynamics and Evolution of the Land-Sea Interface brings together faculty
from six areas: biology, earth sciences, ocean sciences, environmental toxicology,
anthropology, and environmental studies. Researchers in these departments are at
the forefront of efforts to understand the complex processes and interactions occurring
at the continental margin.
"The land-sea interface, where the continent meets the ocean, is one of the
most dynamic and important interfaces between natural systems," said James Zachos,
professor of earth sciences and director of the center. "This is a region where
marine and terrestrial systems are coupled through atmospheric and hydrologic processes."
A primary concern of the center's researchers is the impact of global and regional
climate change on key processes in the coastal environment, such as atmospheric circulation,
ocean temperature and currents, nutrient cycling, and the geological processes that
shape the continental margin.
The Center for Origin, Dynamics, and Evolution of Planets brings together faculty
from UCSC's Institute of Tectonics and the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics,
Earth Sciences, and Physics. The interests of CODEP researchers include Earth's internal
dynamics, the formation of planets, how planetary systems evolve, and the discovery
of new planets outside the solar system.
"This is a joint effort to understand as much as possible about planets in general,
both in our own solar system and around other stars," said Gary Glatzmaier,
professor of earth sciences and director of CODEP.
The center encourages earth scientists and astronomers to bring their different perspectives
to bear on the same problems. For example, Glatzmaier's computer simulations of the
internal dynamics of planets have focused mostly on Earth's core and how Earth's
magnetic field is generated. Now, with the help of two graduate students, he is studying
the dynamics of the interiors of giant planets, such as Jupiter and the Jupiter-sized
planets that UCSC astronomer Steven Vogt and his coworkers are discovering around
Glatzmaier was involved in the IGPP when he was a researcher at Los Alamos National
Laboratory before coming to UCSC. "A strong institution like IGPP, with a long
history and a lot of good people associated with it, is a valuable addition to the
campus," he said.
The IGPP was established in 1946 at UCLA. Other branches are located at UC San Diego,
UC Riverside, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
A key objective of the IGPP is to encourage and support cooperative projects that
bring together researchers from different disciplines and institutions, said the
institute's UC systemwide director Jean-Bernard Minster, a professor of geophysics
at UC San Diego.
"The new branch will result in enhanced collaboration between UCSC researchers
and researchers at other campuses and the national laboratories," Minster said.
"This is the first new branch of the IGPP on a UC campus since 1968, and its
approval shows considerable momentum on the part of the faculty at UCSC."
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