Kristen Davis, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering. secures instruments to a coral reef in the South China Sea. Courtesy of T. DeCarlo

Irvine, Calif., March 24, 2015 – UC Irvine is set to embark on one of its boldest experiments yet: a brand-new research and education initiative called UCI OCEANS (Oceans, Changing Environments, Arts and Nearshore Societies).

“People really love the ocean,” said Adam Martiny, a UC Irvine professor who specializes in ocean plankton and who will lead the initiative. “The UCI OCEANS committee shares this love of the ocean and feels like there are so many things we could do together.”

The idea, he said, is to form tight bonds between the university and the public through the prism of ocean issues. The effort also will break new ground in another way: forging unprecedented links among science, social science and the arts, as well as governance and law, to improve the natural coastal environment and the well-being of those who live there.

“We want to engage with the community, and we hope they’ll engage back,” Martiny said, adding that the goal is to change public perception of local marine challenges.

His innovative approach will include not only traditional scientific research but also hands-on K-12 educational programs at Crystal Cove State Park and other local coastal facilities, as well as “citizen science” cruises for adults who want to get their feet wet collecting data for ocean research projects.

In addition, Martiny pledges enthusiastic support of artists inspired by UCI OCEANS to portray relevant issues through theatrical performances or visual displays.

And initiative participants want to test new ways to protect the recently restored, historical beach cottages at Crystal Cove against climate change and sea-level rise.

They also may create a Web portal for all things ocean – one that would offer visitors a tour of UCI’s marine research and education programs.

Martiny said he hopes this broad palette of engagement efforts will help energize funding from local organizations and donors to advance ocean scholarship.

The initiative will begin as a three-year endeavor, though it’s meant to continue far longer, solidifying UCI’s connection to a community that is itself powerfully connected to the ocean.

UCI OCEANS also is helping organize the Building Partnerships for Ocean Health in Southern California event – part of the Toward a Sustainable 21st Century series – on May 8 at the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences & Engineering. The daylong conference will be open to the public.

“I hope that over the next couple of years, local people will become excited about and interested in a lot of these ocean-related issues we’re all facing,” Martiny said, “but also will be looking at them with new eyes, through the arts and the intersection between science and the urban ocean.”

UCI OCEANS will join Family Violence, Data Science, Exercise Medicine & Sport Sciences, Medical Humanities, Sustainability and Water UCI as provost-sponsored multidisciplinary initiatives that foster cross-campus collaboration on concerns that transcend traditional academic boundaries.

For more information about UCI OCEANS, visit

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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