UCSC Currents online

Front Page Accolades
Classified Ads
Making The News
New Faculty
PublicationsTake Note

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 Simulations.

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," Lay said.

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 nearby stars.

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."

Return to Front Page

  Maintained by pioweb@cats