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Environmental Research Institute Announced

Environmental Research Institute at UCR Puts Research to Work for Public Policy

The institute will distill data from various sources and use computer modeling
to develop alternatives from policy decisions

(February 1, 2006)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — — Policy-makers in Southern California have a new tool at the University of California, Riverside that will show how their decisions affect complex and important environmental issues.

UC Riverside has created an Environmental Research Institute (ERI), an umbrella organization that brings together several of the campus’ top research centers to provide a comprehensive approach — based on data collection and computer models — to dealing with the nation’s air quality, water resources, transportation, energy and endangered species issues.

The ERI merges the expertise of UCR’s Center for Conservation Biology, the College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), the Air Pollution Research Center, the Center for Water Resources, and the Edward J. Blakely Center for Sustainable Suburban Development.

“The research done at these centers represent a unique set of skills in the areas of technology, energy and applied research that are unmatched anywhere else in the world,” said ERI director Joseph Norbeck, who previously headed CE-CERT and is the Yeager Families Professor of Environmental Engineering. “We want this institute to serve as a national model.”

Norbeck said one advantage of coordinating existing research centers is to harness the power of computer modeling to give policy makers a preview of how decisions will affect complex environmental systems.

The ERI’s newly formed Integrated Modeling Center (IMC) is located at both the campus in Riverside and at UCR’s satellite campus in Palm Desert, and will serve as the institute’s hub. The IMC is now beginning to collect and analyze data from the Center for Conservation Biology, the Blakely Center and CE-CERT.
The IMC is also collecting information from regional, county, state and federal governments.

Initially, the ERI will focus its efforts on issues related to the Coachella Valley, the fastest growing area in the state and one of the fastest growing in the nation.

“The Coachella Valley provides us with a unique setting in which to launch this initiative because it is an area that exemplifies most of the environmental and growth problems that are being faced in other rapidly developing regions in our nation and the world,” said Norbeck. “It is small enough to allow us to work on the holistic approach to our research but big enough to test our modeling capacity.”

UCR faculty from across the campus will provide guidance to the institute, which will fulfill a role that UCR has long played in the region as an honest broker on a wide variety of topics.

“We are not going to dictate policy but we hope to provide those who do make the decisions with the tools and information they need to understand how one area of environmental policy can affect other areas of environmental policy,” said Norbeck. “It is a way to make practical use of existing research on our air, our water, our energy consumption, and our growth and development.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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