Research Groups

The Environmental Studies Program at UCSC is engaged in cutting edge interdisciplinary academic and policy relevant research. We have world class facilities, including a state of the art GIS lab. We also have a vibrant research colloquium and topical research groups - many of which conduct their own seminars and other events. Please explore the web pages of our faculty and graduate students, and of the various Research Groups and facilities.


The Center for Tropical Ecology, Agriculture, and Development (CenTREAD) is a consortium of faculty and graduate students who are actively pursuing research on agroecology, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable rural development in the neo-tropics.

Major goals of CenTREAD include:

  • Improving training opportunities for students in tropical countries
  • Enhancing exchange of scholars between UCSC and tropical countries
  • Expanding opportunities for our students to conduct research in tropical countries

Center for Agro-Food Sytems

Center for Agro-Food Systems is an organizational initiative that provides a forum of UCSC social science expertise in interdisciplinary agro-food studies and seeks to establish links with academic, professional and public groups in this arena. It complements and extends the work of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) and focuses on relationships between political-economic processes, institutional forms of agri-environmental governance, and progressive social change.

Research foci include:

  • New forms of agri-environmental governance associated with the rapid expansion of commercial organic agriculture in the Monterey Bay region
  • Urban growth and development and impacts on farmland and rural communities on the urban edge
  • Migrant agriculture workers, community food security, and social justice issues
  • Changes in federal agricultural policy, including the regulation of organic agriculture, the implications of genetically engineered food organisms, and US-European Union agricultural trade wars
  • The impacts of NAFTA on bi-national production structures, rural communities, and migration in Mexico and California

Political Ecology Working Group

The Political Ecology Working Group of UC Santa Cruz is a graduate student-led forum for the discussion of the foundational work and innovative research in the broadening field of political ecology. We define political ecology to be a critical recognition and exploration of the dynamics, properties, and meanings of 'politicized environments'. The format consists of a combination of weekly readings, speakers, and graduate student presentations. The group explores and debates the core issues of the field with the goal of strengthening and sharpening political ecology's conceptual, methodological, and theoretical tools for creating a more sustainable and just society. The broad foci of the group includes an inquiry of human/environment relations through the lenses of gender, race, class, livelihoods, hazards, resistance and resilience, environmental discourses and social movements, agroecology and food, health and embodiment, governance, science and technology, urban/rural issues, climate change, geographies of ethics and morality, and the polyvalent connections between production and consumption.

Precipitation and Ecosystem Change Network

PrecipNet is a Research Coordination Network focusing on the impacts of anthropogenic climate change precipitation timing, magnitude, and variability on biological communities, ecosystem processes, and human society.

The mission of PrecipNet is to promote communication, intellectual exchange, and integration of methods and results across ecological, geographic, and disciplinary boundaries. Participants include climatologists, plant and ecosystem scientists, and social scientists.

For more information on PrecipNet, contact Professor Michael Loik.