James Estes appointed interim director of STEPS Institute

James Estes

Marine biologist and ecologist James Estes has been appointed interim director of the STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research at UCSC. Estes, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and ocean sciences, is based at the Center for Ocean Health at Long Marine Laboratory. He is expected to serve as STEPS director for at least two years, according to vice chancellor for research Bruce Margon.

Estes is best known for his groundbreaking research on the ecological role of sea otters in coastal ecosystems. His ongoing research projects deal with the ecology of coastal marine communities in the Aleutian Islands, Central California, and the Channel Islands. He also studies strategies for marine conservation, including research on the effects of marine reserves on rockfish populations in Central California.

A fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, Estes's awards and honors include a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship and the USGS Shoemaker Award for Distinguished Achievement in Communication. He earned a B.A. in zoology from the University of Minnesota, M.S. in zoology from Washington State University, and Ph.D. in biological sciences and statistics from the University of Arizona.

Estes replaces former STEPS director John Thompson, who is currently on sabbatical. Thompson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, had served as director since the founding of the institute in 2002.

STEPS stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Policy, and Society. The goal of the STEPS Institute is to foster interdisciplinary research that will help society cope with the rapid changes occurring in all major ecosystems. Much of the work concentrates on ecosystems along California's Central Coast, but funded projects have also included research in areas as diverse as New Zealand, France, Japan, and Central America. Over the past five years, the institute has helped fund the research of more than 80 graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty at UCSC, with projects spanning 11 departments and three divisions.

Additional information is available on the STEPS web site.