Directors Statement

2015 was an exciting year for the Earth Research Institute.  In our 2014 Report, we discussed the process of preparing for the External five-year review and how the process had allowed us to revisit topics that we had discussed at the time we began the merge of Crustal Studies and the Institute for Computational Earth System Science.  The External Review was exceptionally positive, indicating we are meeting our mission of “Supporting research and education in the sciences of our solid, fluid, and living Earth. ” It also provided nine recommendations for ERI. We have been working to address many of the recommendations since receipt of the report. These recommendations range from academic planning to data curation to increasing collaborations to bridge funding.  Each recommendation impacts differing groups both within ERI and across campus.  Overall, the review process provided the opportunity to address various challenges faced by ORUs and we have been pleased with campus support to date.


As an ORU, ERI has never prepared an academic plan. Based upon the review report, ERI, in collaboration with the ERI Advisory Committee and colleagues in related departments, developed and submitted in March of this year the 2015 Earth Research Institute (ERI) Interdepartmental Academic Plan which included a FTE request for all of the environmental sciences. Campus support for these efforts exceeded our expectations, including a position given to ERI in Climate Dynamics for 2016-17.  We look forward to continuing these efforts in the future.


In prior reports, we have highlighted the need to move forward as a campus in addressing data curation needs.  The External Review Committee shared this view. In collaboration with the ERI Compute Committee and prior participants of the Data Curation @ UCSB pilot project, ERI drafted and submitted the (ERI) Data Curation Project proposal. The proposal addressed the committee’s recommendation that we take steps to make “data accessible, findable, and persistently identified and citable, while putting the data into a system supporting both present management and future curation by others.” We look forward to receiving a positive response from campus.


The External Committee also recommended that we address the challenges faced by soft-money Researchers through creating a bridging program. A committee has been established to create a proposal for campus consideration and we hope to have a proposal for a pilot project submitted to campus within the next few months.


In preparing for our review, feedback from our participants indicated the need to increase interactions amongst our various research groups. To address this concern, ERI partnered with related units (Bren, Earth Science, and Geography) and created a series of Rooftop Research Collaboration receptions. These events were well received and attendants were challenged to meet someone new and learn about their research program.  We received reports of new potential collaborations and look forward to these connections leading to new research efforts.


The research completed by ERI participants remains exceptional.  Research spans both local issues, such as the challenge of addressing the recent Refugio oil spill (Romero, Siegel) or determining the contaminants in local water supplies (Holden), and broader questions, including the early history of life and the Big Bang.  Highlights include Jim Boles’ discovery that leakage of 3He suggests that the Newport-Inglewood fault is deeper than scientists previously thought, and Michael Singer and colleagues’ paradigm-shifting research in flood hazard analysis that could change the way such risk is assessed in the future.  Arturo Keller was recognized his for credit-trading program to reduce nutrient-loading in the Ohio River basin and was awarded the 2015 United States Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance.  Matt Jackson was awarded the AGU’s Macelwane Medal for 2015 (given annually to up to four exceptional early career scientists each year).  The breadth of outstanding research is beyond what can be contained within the Director’s Statement but we hope you will enjoy reading the abstracts within this report related to these varying and noteworthy efforts.


We would like to thank the many outstanding individuals who contributed to ERI this year – both in terms of research and in terms of their contributions to the External Review and the follow-up responses. We have asked for a great deal from our participants this year and have been fortunate that so many have been willing to put forth the time and creativity to develop solutions to long-standing problems.  We look forward to continued follow-up to the recommendations of the external review committee and to a successful 2016.


            David A. Siegel, Director

            Susannah Porter, Associate Director