About the Ocean & Coastal Policy Center

The coast is a place of profound beauty, complex ecology, and immense social value. It is also a place where we struggle to contain the impacts of increasing human use, pollution, and development. And with the threat of global climate change, our desire to protect the coast now frames a more fundamental, existential question:





how can we live sustainably, and equitably, in the face of unprecedented environmental change?

UC Santa Barbara’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center (OCPC) is tackling this question by engaging some of our most pressing coastal policy challenges: adapting to sea level rise, assuring universal shoreline access, and protecting the coast's unique ecology. Working at the intersection of coastal stewardship, governance, and justice, OCPC provides expert science and policy analysis to governments, NGOs, and citizens working for sustainability and equity along our coasts.

The OCPC is part of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, where it seeks to leverage the extensive expertise of the University’s marine and coastal science faculty and programs, as well as the adjacent Bren School of Environmental Management and UCSB’s Environmental Studies Program, one of the nation’s first undergraduate programs in interdisciplinary environmental studies.

With the recent appointment of Dr. Charles Lester as OCPC Director, the Center is developing projects addressing coastal resilience, the protection of public trust lands, and examining the legacy of California coastal protection. Dr. Lester is also advising conservationists and working with faculty at Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, as part of the Chile California Conservation Exchange, bringing knowledge and experience from California coastal management to the mission to promote sound coastal management of Chile's coast.

Charles Lester

Dr. Charles Lester is the director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center in the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, where he researches, writes, and advises about sea level rise, coastal resilience, and other aspects of coastal law, policy and management. Charles previously worked for the State of California and the California Coastal Commission for twenty years, including serving as the agency’s fourth executive director from 2011 to 2016. Previously, Charles was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he taught environmental law and policy, with a focus on public lands governance and coastal zone management. He received his Ph.D. and J.D. from UC Berkeley, and a B.A. in Geochemistry from Columbia University.

Charles is an expert in integrated coastal management and California coastal law and policy. He has extensive experience in California, including managing or directing hundreds of coastal planning and regulatory projects for the Coastal Commission. In 2015, he led the agency's completion of California's first comprehensive land use guidance for addressing sea level rise and coastal protection on the outer coast (Sea Level Rise | Adopted Policy Guidance). Charles speaks regularly on coastal management, adaptation and resilience, including recently as part of a Congressional briefing on “west coast resilience” (EESI Speakers: Charles Lester).