Directors Statement

The mission of the Earth Research Institute (ERI) is to support research and education in the sciences of our solid, fluid, and living Earth. In the past fiscal year, ERI-affiliated faculty and researchers from across campus submitted 118 proposals requesting almost $48 million in funding. In addition, ERI PIs, researchers, and staff participated in campus efforts to respond to the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flows, worked with a record number of undergraduate students as researchers and volunteers, contributed to campus efforts to build research cyberinfrastructure, and administered the on-going restoration of North Campus Open Space.


The past year was heavily impacted by the twin tragedies of the Thomas Fire and the Montecito debris flows. These natural disasters impacted ERI faculty, researchers, and staff both personally and professionally.  Our communities will be recovering from the effect of these events for years to come, and I’m proud of the way that ERI scholars are providing their expertise to both analyze what happened and to help ensure we are better prepared going forward.  Within a month of the Montecito debris flows, ERI was able to sponsor a workshop organized by Professor Leila Carvahlo which sought to open a dialogue between operation and science through a review of the events leading to the mud and debris flows. The workshop also discussed pathways to enhance collaboration between research and operation, and ultimately increasing resilience to extreme events in our local community. This workshop has already led to a suite of new faculty partnerships with local agencies as well as with community organizations focused on sustainable adaptation of Santa Barbara communities to future fire and debris flow threats.


As part of a broader initiative to improve UCSB’s cyberinfrastructure, ERI is collaborating with the Library to create a general-purpose campus repository for research data. The repository will be operated by the Library’s Data Curation Program; ERI’s IT group is taking the lead in designing, procuring, and configuring the underlying storage systems. These storage systems will be distributed across campus for safety and redundancy, and as a consequence this work also involves establishing new collaborations and resource sharing arrangements between campus departments and datacenters.  In an additional partnership with the Library and ETS, ERI continued to implement its two-year campus networking infrastructure upgrade.  This $481.7K NSF project, CC* Networking Infrastructure: UCSB Network Upgrade to 100 Gigabit, has allowed for the update of the campus backbone from 10Gb to 100Gb, and for ERI to move from 1Gb to 40Gb. This project lead to a campus commitment to increase building switches across campus to 40Gb.


The North Campus Open Space (NCOS) project - led by CCBER and detailed in the CCBER Director’s Annual Statement - has continued to transform our campus through the restoration of 125 acres of wetlands and upland habitat. Due in large part to NCOS, over 350 undergraduate student volunteers participated in ERI-affiliated efforts over the past year. In addition, a record number of undergraduate researchers (148) conducted research while supported on ERI grants. This dramatic increase in both student volunteers and student researchers is an excellent sign that ERI-science is having a broad impact across campus and providing new training and educational opportunities for UCSB’s campus. We look forward to sustaining this increase, and drawing even greater numbers of UCSB students into ERI-affiliated research.


The ERI fellowship program was modified this year, decreasing the number of awards in order to increase the impact of our support for each awardee.  Four exceptional graduate students were awarded fellowships for the projects: Olivia Anderson (Earth Science), “Mantle Heterogeneity Recorded by Sr Isotopes in Mauna Loa Olivine-hosted Melt Inclusions with Unusual Trace Element Fingerprints”; Alex Johnson (Earth Science), “Metamorphic Evolution of the Kathmandu Complex, Central Nepal Himalaya”; Trevor Romich (Geography), “Impact of Solar Radiation on Plant Litter Decomposition”, and Ying Wang (Bren School), "Carbonaceous Nanomaterial Effects on Soybean Metabolism and Nitrogen Economy”.


As we near a decade of operation as an institute, we are pleased to see that our impact across campus continues to grow. In the past year, ERI welcomed ten new PIs (seven faculty and three researchers) from across campus who either made their first submission or received their first award. Looking forward, we are excited about the emerging opportunities we see to contribute to campus-wide efforts related to data science and cyberinfrastructure, and to continue to support UCSB’s world-class faculty and researchers engaged in Earth and Environmental Science. This annual report provides a snapshot of the Earth Research Institute in 2017-2018, the research we do, and the impact of these efforts.


    Kelly Caylor

    Director, Earth Research Institute