The Institute of Marine Sciences


The mission of the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) is to strengthen and promote coastal and marine science research and education. This includes the critical need to understand the human dimension with respect to its impact and how we can develop policies that ensure a sustainable ocean. This is best stated by the logo of the UN Ocean Decade, “The science we need for the ocean we want.” IMS meets this responsibility by building and contributing knowledge to better understand the world's oceans, the coastal zone, their complex processes, fascinating inhabitants, economic importance, and how people interface with this region. Most importantly, IMS facilitates the science and policies to maintain these environments for future generations.


The vision of IMS is to be a leader in innovative resources that crosses research boundaries in marine science, coastal sustainability, and policy. This vision is focused on centralized research themes aimed at understanding the processes that drive climate, ocean circulation, and biogeochemical processes in marine and coastal ecosystems. These themes are mechanisms that IMS uses to lay the groundwork for researchers to cross interdisciplinary boundaries that:

• Enhance research collaborations around the sustainability of our oceans,

• Enhance marine research and education opportunities,

• Enhance funding opportunities and donor cultivation,

• Enhance research knowledge, expertise, and cultivation,

• Enhance federal, state, and non-governmental partnerships,

• Attract junior-level researchers and postdoctoral scholars in emerging areas of marine research,

• Expand our public education and outreach programs, and

• Understand how people interface with marine resources and how their behavior is affected by and affects marine and coastal systems.

With this vision, IMS serves as a catalyst that keeps us at the forefront of marine research, policy, and education and propels us into unprecedented relevance in marine and coastal sustainability. Additionally, we foster mutually productive relationships between the University, federal and state government agencies, and other non-governmental marine organizations.


Santa Cruz is the only coastal campus of the University of California in the northern two-thirds of the state. From the earliest campus planning, marine science was identified as an area of particular strength for the Santa Cruz campus. The designation was apparent in the original 1964 academic plan approved by the Regents of the University of California. A proposal for establishing an Organized Research Unit (ORU), the Center for Marine Research, was submitted to the Office of the President in 1968. During 1970-72, the campus re-evaluated its marine activities and programs. The campus re-submitted a proposal for an ORU, the Center for Coastal Marine Studies, which was approved in November 1976.

The Center for Coastal Marine Studies was charged as the administrative unit on the Santa Cruz campus for marine and coastal activities. The responsibilities included research and development, instructional support, and public service. The original research focused on the coastal zone where complex geological, physical, chemical, and biological interactions occur, and also an area that has increasingly been impacted by human activity.

From 1965 through 1985, the campus, primarily through the departments of Earth Sciences, Biology, and eventually Ocean Sciences, gradually hired faculty with marine interests, which continued to expand the educational offerings and build research and graduate programs. The Center for Coastal Marine Studies played an increasing role in hiring additional support staff, the initial development of Long Marine Laboratory and its seawater system and research support facilities, and the development of a state-of-the-art multi-user Marine Analytical Laboratory on campus. In recognition of the expanding breadth and scope of activities, in 1985, the Regents approved the name change from the Center for Coastal Marine Studies to the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS).

The ORU supports researchers who are made up of faculty, Professional Researchers, Project Scientists, Specialists, Academic Coordinators, Postdoctoral Scholars, Visiting Scholars, and Research Associates. Association and affiliation to the ORU mean these researchers have their research concentrated in one of the eight distinct marine research areas or cluster groups: marine vertebrate biology; coastal biology; oceanography/ocean processes; marine and coastal geology; marine and coastal policy; paleoceanography and climate change; microbiology and environmental toxicology; and fisheries and fisheries management.