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Heal the World

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Spring 1999

Heal the World
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my impression is that Southern California is moving strongly that way. In a sense, the public has always been out in front of the decision-makers. And it's the public's priorities that ultimately determine whether the political will exists to carry out these programs."

One current study, funded by the U.S. EPA and headed by IoE founding director Richard P. Turco, provides what may be the best illustration of the IoE's raison d'etre. The Los Angeles Basin Watershed Project is an effort to understand, in a more comprehensive way, the processes that control water availability in a major urban setting. Turco, an atmospheric chemist, is joined by eight IoE colleagues in an ambitious effort to synthesize data and create a predictive model that encompasses all aspects of water quality, availability and management; regional meteorology and climatology; basin hydrology, vegetation and land use; human water consumption and disposition; runoff sources of sediments, toxins and nutrients; air pollutant transport, transformation and surface deposition; downstream wetlands ecology and impacts; and coastal water circulation, biogeochemistry and sediments.

"It is one of the best integrated projects I've seen," says Brian Sidlauskas, an environmental-protection specialist in the EPA's Office of Research and Development, who assists the project director in administering the grant. "In the past, a lot of these studies have been very disciplinary. By working together in a more integrated way, these
professors can examine what's happening in the watershed around Los Angeles as a whole."

The SCAQMD's Wallerstein notes that environmental pollutants tend not to respect the boundaries of land, water and air that traditional higher education has drawn. "Putting together multidisciplinary teams is critical to ensure that our solutions don't simply transfer the pollution from land to air or water, or vice versa," he says.

Wallerstein, along with one of his key deputies and several staffers, is a product of UCLA's 25-year-old Environmental Science and Engineering program, an interdepartmental doctoral-degree program -- among only a handful of programs of its kind in the nation -- whose mission is to prepare professionals for environmental leadership positions by giving them the well-rounded training that is increasingly required. That educational philosophy has more recently been extended at the undergraduate level, where the IoE began team-teaching a yearlong freshman course, "The Global Environment: A Multidisciplinary Perspective," in Fall Quarter 1997.

Now, IoE faculty hope the Report Card and the visibility afforded by the SEJ conference and other high-profile events will help bring the institute to the attention of those in government, industry and the general public who have an interest in environmental issues. "I'm very interested in letting people know that UCLA has knowledgeable faculty covering all facets of the environment," says Berk, "and that, through the IoE, we are anxious to work with these leaders so that everyone can benefit."

Dan Gordon is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

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