The first thing you notice about UC Santa Cruz’s brand-new Coastal Biology building are the waves.
Wave patterns sculpted from wood roll across the face of the building, and more ripple in undulating shapes along the lobby ceiling.
The flowing decor complements the ever-restless waves moving just a short walk away, at the bottom of the cliffs. And it’s clear that the coast—a deep love of it, an appreciation of its beauty and bounty, a concern for its health, a passion for it and its creatures, and the unending mystery of it—is what brings students, professors, researchers, and community members to the new building and the 100-acre Coastal Science Campus perched above the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Groundbreaking for the new building began in 2015, and the building is now open for business. Donor funds complemented state investment in this new, coastal campus laboratory and lecture facility. The construction also incorporated a number of major infrastructure upgrades, including paths for walking and biking, overlooks with interpretive panels, and improvements to underground utilities.
“The idea is that the buildings, the landscaped areas, and the Natural Reserves talk to each other,” said Beth Howard (Kresge ‘01, environmental studies/biology), Younger Lagoon Reserve director.
In addition to the new Coastal Biology building, the Coastal Science Campus encompasses Younger Lagoon Reserve, UC Santa Cruz research and education facilities, and state and federal research laboratories.
Of the Coastal Science Campus’s 100 acres, 72 are designated as Natural Reserves.
The adjacent Younger Lagoon Reserve provides opportunities for students to learn about the environment, do field work, get hands-on experience, and become involved in research and stewardship projects.
Younger Lagoon Reserve staff and student interns are working to restore approximately 47 acres of former agricultural land to native grassland, scrub, and seasonal wetland habitats. Each quarter, the reserve sponsors dozens of undergraduate interns who participate in all aspects of restoration and stewardship activities.
“It’s like farming and gardening, but in a wildland setting,” said Howard.
Current faculty research projects there include studies of the eco-evolutionary dynamics of freshwater and coastal ecosystems, as well as studies looking at the lagoon as a source of monomethylmercury.
Another current research project is the the International Drought Experiment (IDE), in which students and interns erect structures that simulate 100-year drought conditions on the ground below them in order to study the effects of drought on various plants.
“That’s extreme,” said environmental studies graduate student Justin Luong of the harsh conditions, “but it’s what we’re predicting in the future.”