UCI News

UCI biologist named to Salton Sea science advisory committee

Professor Tim Bradley to aid efforts to save state’s largest lake

February 2, 2016
UCI biologist named to Salton Sea science advisory committee
A professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, Tim Bradley is director of UCI’s Salton Sea Initiative. Courtesy of the UCI Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 2, 2016 — The California Natural Resources Agency has named University of California, Irvine biologist Tim Bradley to the science advisory committee for the state effort to preserve its largest inland body of water.

As part of the Salton Sea Management Program, Bradley will work with other experts in areas such as air quality, engineering and environmental compliance to create a plan to reverse the degeneration of the massive saltwater lake.

“I’m pleased to be part of this process and that UCI can be included and try to provide expertise to aid the state,” Bradley said. “Dire consequences at the Salton Sea require a full hands-on effort by local, state and federal partners, and the Salton Sea Management Program is a positive step forward.”

The Salton Sea is facing an environmental and economic disaster that will affect the entire Southern California region. The lake has been slowly drying up in recent years, causing its salinity to increase and volume to decrease. As it shrinks, wind blowing across many square miles of parched shoreline will raise clouds of microscopic toxic dust – composed of salt, heavy metals and agricultural chemicals – that threatens the health of hundreds of thousands of Californians. In addition, elevated salinity is killing off fish, threatening the food supply of dozens of species of birds.

And in 2017, the situation will grow more urgent, as nearly 700,000 acre-feet of water per year currently being provided to the Salton Sea will be diverted to urban users. This will greatly accelerate its decline.

A professor of ecology & evolutionary biology, Bradley is familiar with California’s attempts to protect its lake environments. He is director of the UCI Salton Sea Initiative, which includes more than 20 faculty members and their students proficient in engineering, biology, public health, economics, real estate, regional planning, history, film studies and law. They are providing technical assistance to the Salton Sea effort through research, public education and aid to private industries involved in environmental mitigation.

Bradley said there have been longstanding plans to reduce dust creation and protect public health, maintain the biological productivity of the sea and restore the region’s economy. However, over the last 15 years, little of this has been achieved.

“Making progress will require expertise in engineering and biology. The greatest impediments, however, lie in the areas of public planning, economics and generation of political will,” he said. “UCI can play a vital role in assisting the federal and state governments and the private-sector firms that will carry out the restorative processes needed.”

Bradley’s research emphasis is the physiology and ecology of aquatic animals. He has extensive experience with California’s saline lakes and was part of the effort to save Mono Lake – work that led to legal protections for the lake, which is now on the road to recovery.

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 www.uci.edu.

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