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UC Santa Cruz 50th Anniversary

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Gary Griggs: a voice of reason amid coastal conflicts

Gary GriggsFights over California’s coastal land are as predicable as high tide, but for more than 45 years, geologist Gary Griggs has served as a voice of reason, offering scientific expertise and insight into coastal issues.

Griggs, a distinguished professor of Earth and planetary sciences and director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz, has been studying the coast of California for most of his career and is an expert on coastal erosion, sea level rise, and geologic hazards. Local, state, and national policymakers have tapped his expertise as they tackle issues such as beach sand replenishment, use of sea walls to protect homes and infrastructure, and planning for the impacts of sea level rise.

Griggs has been trying to bring attention to coastal hazards and geologic processes since the 1970s. He has witnessed continued development and migration to the coast, as well as severe storm damage and avoidable disasters. But it’s not in his nature to become jaded or cynical about human foibles. Griggs simply carries on teaching students, talking to the news media, serving on expert panels, and publishing articles and books.

Griggs' book Living with the Changing California Coast (first published in 1985, revised and updated in 2005) is an essential resource for coastal planners and residents. Coauthored with two former students, the book offers practical information and advice, as well as an appreciation for one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and the forces that have shaped it.

Griggs has written several other books since then, including Introduction to California’s Beaches and Coast, California Coast from the Air, and most recently Our Ocean Backyard: Collected Essays. In 2009, he was recognized by the California Coastal Commission and Sunset magazine as one of “California’s Coastal Heroes.”