Department Directory







Department Chair: Rita Mehta Department Manager: Stephanie Zakarian
Graduate Program Coordinator: Judy Straub Department Assistant: Eva Chudnow
Undergraduate Program Coordinator/Lead Advisor: Rexton Lynn Undergraduate Advisor: Aubrie Tait
Biology Teaching Laboratory and Facilities Support Technician: Nicole Hack
Department Office: (831) 459-5358 Administrative Office: CBB, Room 207, 209
Donald C Potts
  • Title
    • Professor
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department
    • Institute of Marine Sciences
  • Affiliations Crown College, Environmental Studies Department
  • Phone
    831-459-4417 (Office), 831-459-5063 (Lab)
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • CSC Coastal Biology Building, CBB 213
    • CBB 147 (lab)
    • LML Doyle Bldg 115
  • Office Hours Thursday 2:00 - 3:00 (other days or times by appointment)
  • Mail Stop CBB/EE Biology
  • Mailing Address
    • 130 McAllister Way
    • Santa Cruz CA 95060

Research Interests

Coral Reef Ecology; Marine Biodiversity; and Remote Sensing

Because coastal environments involve the land-sea-air interfaces in proximity to land masses, where they are especially vulnerable to changes in any of these three environmental components, our research is based on the premise that coastal systems are already changing in response to the combined effects of natural and anthropogenic processes. That these changes will accelerate in coming decades, and that the ecology of these systems is likely to be substantially different within the working lives of today's students. Work in my laboratory involves three, closely related themes that I see becoming even more integrated in future:

* Coral Reef Ecosystems: These are probably the fastest changing marine ecosystem because of their limited area, their concentration close to many of the world's most rapidly growing human populations, and their sensitivity to regional and global climatic, atmospheric and land use changes. We are studying the ecology, genetics, evolution and biogeography of the coral family Poritidae as a model for exploring a 50 million year history of successful responses to geological, tectonic, physical, climatic and biological change culminating in the disruptions of the Plio-Pleistocene glaciations.
* Marine Biodiversity: Intra- and inter-specific diversity is not only another consequence of past environmental change and of adjustments to prevailing conditions; it also represents the potential for short and longterm ecological and evolutionary responses to present and future environmental change. We are working with the California Academy of Sciences to develop a strong taxonomic and phylogenetic dimension for ecological and environmental change studies in coastal California and on reefs of the western Pacific.
* Remote Sensing: Many ecological and environmental processes operate on spatial scales much greater than those available to ground-based biologists using traditional methods. We are developing high resolution, aerial, remote sensing techniques to gather ecological scale biological and ecological data (ca. 1 m) simultaneously over entire systems (e.g. estuaries, watersheds, whole reefs) as a way to define and work on functional units, not just isolated subsets of them. We are using hyperspectral imaging from aircraft to detect, map and monitor biological communities and environmental stressors in geothermal regions of eastern California and coastal margins around Monterey Bay. This is now being extended to coral reefs in Fiji and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands in collaborations with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other agencies.

While I am especially interested in students whose interests fit in one of these themes, and preferably with overlapping interest in others, I try not to direct students towards a particular thesis topic, since I believe that defining one's own research topic is an essential part of graduate student training.

Biography, Education and Training

B.Sc. (Hons), University of Queensland, Australia

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara
1971-72 Lecturer, Bishops University, Quebec, Canada
1972-73 Lecturer, Flinders University, South Australia
1973-78 Research Fellow, Australian National University