The formation of a new marine institute at University of California, Davis is poised to add a degree in marine sciences to a university largely known as a leader in the agricultural sciences.
The new institute, whose formation was announced Thursday, will be called the Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute.
That institute will act as an umbrella organization that will use the university's current research efforts at its Bodega Marine Laboratory - a coastal satellite campus at Bodega Bay - as a key component in offering a new interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in marine sciences that's expected to launch in 2014.
The formation of the institute is viewed as a timely given the increasingly important role that coastal ocean issues have become to the global economy and climate change, such as sea level rise and the prevalence of endangered marine ecosystems.
"The the university has led many efforts in marine science and policy in the last few decades, especially coastal ocean sciences in California," said Rick Grosberg, a UC Davis ecology professor who will be the first director of the institute.
The institute is also expected to become a platform for researchers, policymakers and government agencies to share information in the new Center for Coastal Ocean Issues at the institute.
Currently the university employs roughly 70 scientists in the marine sciences, with that number expected to rise as new graduate and professional training programs are implemented. The research and classroom activity at the institute are meant to dovetail with other research aims at the university, said Grosberg.
"People don't think about Davis as being strong in the marine sciences because we're in the middle of the Central Valley, said Grosberg. "However, we are strong in the marine sciences and policy, but people do not see the connections."
Most of the work has been done at the university's Bodega Bay lab - one of the largest marine labs in California. The lab recently oversaw the first successful captive spawning of the endangered white abalone in nearly a decade.
During the summer, 160 staff members and students work at the center, and during the school year 100 staff or study the lab. The facility offers an undergraduate and graduate curriculum, and also has housing for its students. The lab, originally affiliated with UC Berkeley, became a UC Davis-run facility in the mid 1980s.
"My goal is to put together an institute that puts together the individual strengths in the natural sciences and the social science as well as policy and law and put those together in a package where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," Grosberg said.
Call the Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter: @edwardortiz