Hancock Institute takes interdisciplinary tack under new leadership

by Phyllis Grifman and Eric Mankin
Patricia Kremer and Tommy Dickey have been named, respectively, executive director and director of the Hancock Institute for Marine Studies. Dickey: "We plan to build on the intellectual strengths of USC and regional oceanography at a time of increasing concern for our ocean environment."

Photo by Irene Fertik
Interdisciplinary and inter-university cooperation in exploringthe ocean environment and a renewed emphasis on the localoffshore area are the top priorities of the newly appointedheads of the Hancock Institute for Marine Studies (HIMS).

Tommy Dickey has been named director and Patricia Kremerexecutive director of the seven-year-old institute. Theappointments were announced last month by dean of research forthe College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Maria Pellegrini.

"I am confident that these two outstanding faculty members willbring added distinction to one of USC's premier research units,"Pellegrini said.

"Pat and I consider USC's excellent marine science faculty to beour greatest asset," said Dickey. "Our primary mission will beto serve them well locally, nationally and internationally. Weplan to build on the intellectual strengths of USC and regionaloceanography at a time of increasing concern for our oceanenvironment."

Marine sciences at USC began more than 80 years ago, with theestablishment of the Allan Hancock Foundation. HIMS was formedby the merger in 1988 of the foundation and the Institute forMarine and Coastal Studies. USC currently ranks in the top 12among institutions receiving funding from the National ScienceFoundation Ocean Sciences Division.

Dickey noted that the HIMS program has long embodied the idealsof USC's Strategic Plan, which stresses interdisciplinary,regional and international activities.

Representative studies involve biological, chemical, geologicaland physical oceanography in research areas ranging from marineecology to pollution studies, global climate change, oceanengineering, geochemistry, coastal processes and policy studies.USC's ocean-related research is sponsored by the NSF, the Officeof Naval Research, NASA, NOAA and other federal and stateagencies. As part of HIMS, USC Sea Grant - one of only threesuch programs in the country residing in a private university -sponsors marine research, outreach and education programs.

"This interdisciplinary focus will increase in the future,"Dickey said, "following the way that the field of marine studiesis developing, as well as the Strategic Plan."

Newly appointed executive director Kremer also serves asdirector of HIMS' new Graduate Program of Ocean Sciences (GPOS).This interdisciplinary program allows graduate students topursue research not traditionally encompassed in existingacademic departments. The GPOS roster includes more than 40 USCfaculty members with marine interests from two colleges and fiveacademic departments.

"GPOS training helps our graduates find jobs in a marketplacethat increasingly demands breadth as well as specializedknowledge," Kremer said.

HIMS has long fostered working relationships with themulti-institutional Southern California marine studiesscientific community, particularly in the use of affiliatedlaboratory and vessel facilities located at Catalina Island andSan Pedro.

Dickey said he will work to strengthen and formalizerelationships with other regional academic and researchinstitutions with common marine science interests, mentioningspecifically the Ocean Studies Institute of the Cal Statesystem, the Southern California Marine Institute, various UCcampuses and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"The Southern California Earthquake Center is an excellentworking model of inter-university cooperation," Dickey said. "Wewill attempt to emulate its success. We believe that HIMS willhelp position USC scientists to take advantage of opportunitiesfor imaginative and collaborative research with other scienceand educational institutions in Southern California, around thenation and internationally."

USC marine scientists work all of the world's oceans, from theequator to the poles. While this "blue water" activity willcontinue, Dickey said, renewed emphasis will be placed onresearch closer to home, as part of the existing Sea Grant"Urban Ocean" program and in new research.

"This is also consistent with USC's Strategic Plan commitment toserving the metropolitan region of which it is a part and theinternational community at large," Dickey said.

Dickey, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, earnedhis Ph.D. at Princeton University in geophysical fluid dynamics.He is internationally recognized for studies using innovativeinstrument packages - designed and built at USC - that he andhis group have deployed in most of the world oceans,contributing key data on global climate change and coastalpollution. He remains dedicated to teaching undergraduates, andinstructs more than 250 USC students annually.

Patricia Kremer is a research associate professor in theDepartment of Biological Sciences. She received her Ph.D. fromthe University of Rhode Island and has been at USC 18 years. Herresearch interests in gelatinous zooplankton - including work oncomb jellies and jellyfish - have taken her to Catalina Island,the Bahamas, Bermuda and the San Juan Islands of NorthernWashington.