Marine Sciences Research

Established in 1972, the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) supports research in marine biology, marine toxicology, marine geology and geophysics, ocean processes, paleoceanography, and coastal processes and hazards.

IMS researchers have earned international recognition as experts on marine mammals and birds, including dolphins, whales, sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions, and island-nesting seabirds. They have developed innovative techniques for studying these animals in the wild and for understanding their physiology and behavior. Their findings often help guide efforts to protect threatened and endangered species.

Many IMS research programs address the critical issues of ocean health and coastal sustainability. The coastal zone is one of the most biologically productive environments on Earth, but its accessibility also makes it the most heavily impacted marine environment worldwide. UC Santa Cruz has the resources as a preeminent international center for marine research, policy, and education to have a major and lasting impact on the health of our oceans and coastal regions.

Here are some highlights from among the scores of frontline research projects led by UCSC marine scientists:

  • Sea lionBiologists Dan Costa and Terrie Williams travel the globe to study dolphins, elephant seals, Hawaiian monk seals, albatrosses, and other marine mammals and seabirds, learning the secrets of their physiology and ecology and how they are adapting to changing environments.
  • Scuba DiverMark Carr and Pete Raimondi are leading efforts to understand California's coastal ecosystems and have been instrumental in establishing and assessing the California Marine Protected Area network.

  • Storm surgeGeologist Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences, is a national voice in helping coastal communities understand the implications of rising sea levels.

  • Green AlgaeRaphael Kudela is documenting factors that cause blooms of toxic algae and studying their effects up the food chain.

  • Sea OtterJim Estes, Tim Tinker, and their team continue UCSC's pioneering 30-year-long study of southern sea otters, a keystone species once near extinction and still facing many threats.

  • Drill ShipJim Zachos and his team use deep-sea drilling to investigate the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, a period 56 million years ago when global temperatures rose abruptly and melted most of the global ice.