Experts on the Salton Sea

By UCR News |


Salton Sea UCR Experts

Emma Aronson: Associate professor of microbiology and plant pathology. Microbiome of the Salton Sea; microbial ecology of dust; wind- transported microorganisms; environmental microbiology; soil microbial ecology.

Roya Bahreini: Associate professor of atmospheric science. Aerosol sources and composition; atmospheric processes that generate aerosols; aerosol effects on climate; air quality.

Ann Cheney: Assistant professor in the Center for Healthy Communities. Respiratory problems among migrant farmworkers living around the sea; structural inequalities in health; substance use; mental health issues; Latino immigrant health.

Marilyn Fogel: Wilbur W. Mayhew endowed professor of geoecology, director of UCR’s Environmental Dynamics and GeoEcology Institute, and member of the National Academy of Sciences. Fogel is studying how the Salton Sea has changed chemically over time, and how these changes have affected its ecosystem. Her work establishes predictive models that will help policymakers evaluate which of the various wetland restoration plans under consideration will protect not only the endangered bird species, but also the health of the people in the area.

Darrel Jenerette: Director of the Center for Conservation Biology and professor of botany and plant sciences. Desert ecosystems; ecological landscapes; various land uses; sustainability; air pollution and soil interaction.

David Lo: Director of the BREATHE Center and distinguished professor of biomedical sciences. Asthma; inflammation; immune system; health care disparities.

Todd Luce: Doctoral candidate in the Department of History. An environmental historian, Luce has shaped his doctoral thesis into what he calls an “eco-biography” of the Salton Sea. His research pushes back against the narrative that the sea’s creation was accidental, and his areas of interest include water conflict, land development and policy, disaster and society, and California history. In addition to his work at the Salton Sea, Luce has conducted National Park Service-funded historical research at Joshua Tree National Park. 

Tim Lyons: Distinguished professor of biogeochemistry. Lyons is an expert in sedimentary geochemistry, biogeochemical cycles and astrobiology. His work explores the evolving oceans and atmosphere, and their roles in the origin and evolution of life.  Lyons has examined the Salton Sea’s major chemical ingredients – including carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur and metals. Most of these elements exist in two or more forms, called isotopes. By measuring the ratios of these isotopes in microbes and animal bones, Lyons can determine how the lake has changed over time, and how these changes have affected its ecosystem. As director of UCR’s NASA-funded Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center, he is known for developing tools to reconstruct ephemeral landscapes of lost worlds using chemical fingerprints locked in ancient rocks.|

Tara Nordgren: Assistant professor of biomedical sciences. Lung health; lung inflammation; inflammatory disease.

Will Porter: Assistant professor of atmospheric dynamics and modeling. Air-quality modeling; atmospheric science; wind-speed fluctuations and dust migration; health and environmental impacts of land-use changes.

Kurt Schwabe: Professor of environmental economics and policy. Schwabe’s research focuses on economic issues associated with water use and reuse, agricultural production, urban water conservation, ecosystem services, and environmental regulation. He has studied the Salton Sea and associated policies since the early 2000s, and he advocates for short-term solutions such as field fallowing to redirect conserved water from farmers to the sea. He has co-organized two Salton Sea summits, bringing together representatives from local and regional water authorities, state and federal agencies, county and state governments, universities, and community advocacy organizations. 

Barry Wallerstein: Senior policy fellow in the School of Public Policy. Wallerstein served for nearly two decades as executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the regional agency charged with achieving clean air in Southern California. At his urging, the agency installed monitors at the Salton Sea to assess airborne levels of hydrogen sulfide, a potentially toxic gas created by decaying organic material in the lakebed and water that becomes agitated during storms, and help determine when and whether evacuation might be necessary for residents. Wallerstein has also testified about the sea before California’s Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, calling it an “environmental travesty.” 


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