The mission statement for the Earth Research Institute (ERI) is “Supporting research and education in the sciences of our solid, fluid, and living Earth”. This mission reflects the union of several academic emphases and their symbiotic interactions, in particular:

  • Natural Hazards - Impacts of Earth processes on society: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, droughts, storms, wildfires, erosion, and other natural processes.
  • Human Impacts - Impacts of humankind on Earth: pollution assessment and remediation, land use and land-cover change; food and freshwater security; anthropogenic forcing of climate changes, erosion, and fire; biodiversity conservation; and natural resource management (forestry, fisheries, etc.).
  • Earth System Science - The science of Earth's subsystems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere/mantle, cryosphere, biosphere and anthroposphere) and their interactions.
  • Earth Evolution - Evolutionary mechanisms and history of Earth’s tectonics, climate, and biota from Earth’s formation to the present.
  • Environmental Data - Integrated digital “collaboratory” where data, models, metadata resources, etc., are shared among investigators within ERI, across campus, and with colleagues throughout the world.

The Earth Research Institute is located on campus at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) on the 6th floor of Ellison Hall and in Girvetz Hall. ERI was established in fiscal year 2011 via a merge of the Institute for Crustal Studies and the Institute for Computational Earth System Science.  As an organized research unit, ERI is a department-level entity dedicated to supporting extramurally-funded research. Professor Kelly Caylor is the Director and Professor Susannah Porter is the Associate Director of the unit. Seventy-eight independent research groups conduct and administer their research using the facilities and resources of the Institute. ERI partially supports thirteen administrative employees and three computer system administrators, all from university resources. 

ERI fulfills its mission in three primary ways. First, it provides research support through shared facilities, including computational facilities for intensive simulation modeling and for terabyte scale data storage and access; staging facilities and dry laboratories for readying equipment for field deployments; and access to a wide variety of satellite and aircraft remote-sensing data. Second, ERI provides contract and grant support from proposal preparation through close-out and strives to reduce administrative burden in order to allow PIs to focus on research.  Efforts to reduce administrative burden are both internal and external to ERI.  Some examples include: 1) providing business process feedback and testing of the departmental system (GUS) utilized to manage awards and provide PIs with real-time financial information; 2) serving on various campus committees in order to assess and address potential impacts of systems changes on PIs. Third, ERI is home to two research centers. The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Restoration (CCBER), fulfills the UC Santa Barbara mission of research, education, and public service through stewardship and restoration of campus lands, preservation and management of natural history collections, and through learning experiences and programs that offer unique opportunities for students of all ages. The second center is the NSF and EPA-funded University of California Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), renewed in 2013 for five years and currently operating under a no-cost extension. The UC CEIN studies the effects of manufactured nanomaterials on a range of biological systems in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments. Its mission is to use a multidisciplinary approach to conduct research, education, and outreach that ensures the responsible use and safe implementation of nanotechnology. 

The great span of research accomplishments in ERI is due to the diversity and quality of participants.  ERI involves faculty members and researchers from the Bren School, Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB), Earth Science, Geography, Marine Science Institute, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Computer Science, Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Chemical Engineering, Economics, the Natural Reserve System, and Physics.  ERI-administered research is being published in top journals across the fields of Earth & Environmental Sciences. As ERI has grown over the past decade, our research has grown well beyond Earth Sciences, with faculty working across the entire suite of domains in Earth and Environmental Sciences. In terms of research publication topic areas, Earth Science and Biological Science fields represented an almost equal number of contributions during the review period (Figure 1). These two areas contributed more than 50% of all ERI publications, with additional major contributions from Environmental Science & Management, Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Economics, Information/Computer Sciences, and Chemical Sciences. Overall, despite the increasing breadth of ERI science, we remain a unit that is focused on Earth and Environmental Sciences. Since 2017, NSF has identified 10 “Big Ideas” that will define emerging opportunities for U.S. research leadership. Four of these ideas -  “Harnessing the Data Revolution”, “Growing Convergence Research”, “Navigating the New Arctic”, and “Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure” - are ideally suited to ERI’s strengths and the talents of our PIs. 

The faculty members and researchers participating in ERI are simply excellent – and they have received the awards and accolades to prove it. Over the past five years, U.S. National Academy Member Roberta Rudnick joined the Earth Science Department, increasing our number of NAS members to five (including Galen Stucky, David Tilman, and emeriti Doug Burbank and Thomas Dunne). Matt Jackson and Francis Macdonald were both awarded the James B. Macelwane Medal, the American Geophysical Union’s highest honor for early career scientists. As such, they were named Fellows of the AGU, joining existing Fellows Brad Hacker, John Melack, Dar Roberts, Roberta Rudnick, David Siegel, Toshiro Tanimoto, and emeriti Ralph Archuleta, Douglas Burbank, Jeffrey Dozier, Thomas Dunne, and Bruce Luyendyk.  Five ERI faculty (Doug Burbank, Brad Hacker, Ed Keller, Francis Macdonald, and Roberta Rudnick) are Fellows of the Geological Society of America, eight (Craig Carlson, Richard Church, Frank Davis, Jeff Dozier, Thomas Dunne, John Melack, Galen Stucky, and David Tilman) are Fellows of AAAS, and five  are fellows of the Ecological Society of America (Carla D’Antonio, Frank Davis, Douglas McCauley, Josh Schimel, and David Tilman). Faculty members have been honored with many additional awards from academic societies over the past five years, including John Cottle (Distinguished Lecturer, Mineralogical Society of America; GSA Early Career Award, Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Petrology, & Volcanology Division); Matt Jackson (the Geochemical Society’s Clarke Award; AGU’s Kuno Award); Scott Jasechko (GSA Kohout Early Career Award); Susannah Porter (Fellow, Paleontological Society); Roberta Rudnick (AGU Hess Medal); and Frank Spera (Fellow, Mineralogical Society).  Several faculty have served in high-visibility positions in their profession (e.g., Roberta Rudnick, President of the Geochemical Society).