Earth Systems Science

Plumes and Blooms

Each year, winter rains wash sand, mud and other terrestrial debris into the Santa Barbara Channel. Then, during the spring and summer, phytoplankton populations increase dramatically and ultimately provide the primary energy source for the entire marine food web. These alternating patterns of brown terrestrial ‘plumes’ and green algal ‘blooms’ provide UCSB ocean color scientists with an excellent field laboratory for understanding and modeling the color of the ocean.

Geomorphic-Geodynamic Coupling at the Orogen Scale

One of the most provocative - yet largely untested - recent hypotheses concerning orogenic evolution is that regional variations in climate strongly influence spatial variations in the style and magnitude of deformation across an actively deforming orogen. Recent progress in quantifying rates of both tectonic and geomorphic processes and in modeling surface and lithospheric processes sets the stage for an integrated, quantitative, field- and model-based investigation of the interactions and feedbacks between geomorphic, climatic, and tectonic processes.

Snow Hydrology Research Group

The Snow Hydrology Research Group is part of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It is also a member of the ESIP Federation (Earth Science Information Partners). The primary research focus of this group is NASA's REASoN (Research, Education and Applications Solutions Network) investigation called "Multi-Resolution Snow Products for the Hydrologic Sciences." The group also works on problems of snow metamorphism, snow-climate interactions, and snowmelt runoff.

Biogeography Lab

Since 1991 the Biogeography Lab has conducted research on the ecology, distribution and conservation of species and ecosystems using field studies, geographic information systems and remote sensing.
Through our research we help planners and resource managers protect, manage and restore productive and diverse ecosystems in California, the U.S. and internationally.


Welcome to the Climate Variations and Change research group. CLIVAC is headed by professor Leila Carvalho from the Department of Geography at UCSB. Leila got her BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in Meteorology at the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The behavior of our climate is governed by complex processes and interactions within the Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land, biosphere and ice. CLIVAC is dedicated to further understand the Earth's present and future climates on different temporal and spatial scales.


The NEES@UCSB facility consists of permanently-instrumented geotechnical test sites designed to improve our understanding of the effects of surface geology on strong ground motion. The instrumentation at these sites includes surface and borehole arrays of accelerometers and pore pressure transducers designed to record strong ground motions, excess pore pressure generation and liquefaction that occurs during large earthquakes. An instrumented structure is also monitored to improve our understanding of soil-foundation-structure interaction (SFSI) effects.

Global CDOM Project

Chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM), the colored fraction of the dissolved organic matter (DOM) pool, plays an important role in and affects our interpretation of the biogeochemistry of the open sea. Light absorption by CDOM drives photochemical reactions affecting many radiatively important trace gases (CO2, DMS, COS, CO, etc.).  Further, light absorption by CDOM often hinders our ability to diagnose biogeochemical processes from satellite ocean color imagery. Our research is focused on CDOM cycling in the open ocean (surface and deep waters) far from terrestrial influence.

Bermuda Bio Optics Project

The Bermuda Bio-Optics Project (BBOP) is a long term study of the factors contributing to the regulation of the underwater light field in the open ocean and the resulting biogeochemical impact. These studies are done, on average, once a month in conjunction with the Bermuda-Atlantic Time Series (BATS) in the Sargasso Sea. The determination of underwater light availability in the open ocean is of importance because of its role in understanding climate-related biogeochemical cycles, including the carbon cycle, as well as its role in phytoplankton and bacterial productivity.

Andy MacDonald

Andrew MacDonald is a disease ecologist, a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology at Stanford University, and an Assistant Researcher at the Earth Research Institute. He received his PhD from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara in September 2016. His dissertation focused on the effect of land use and environmental change on tick-borne disease risk in California and the northeastern US.


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