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.

Under the direction of Dr. Charles Lester, 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 has expertise in integrated coastal management and California coastal law and policy. He has extensive experience in California, including managing and directing 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.

Headshot of Samantha Rozal

Samantha Rozal is a staff research associate at UC Santa Barbara’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center (OCPC) where she is working on developing an inventory of sea level rise adaptation planning documents for the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management with focuses in environmental entrepreneurship & innovation and strategic environmental communication & media. While a master’s student at UCSB she worked at OCPC on the center’s multicampus climate resilience initiative in collaboration with researchers from across the UC system. She also co-led the Bren School’s environmental justice club where she helped organize the club’s yearly symposium. Prior to studying at UCSB, she graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies/Biology where she conducted research on marine debris.

Miranda Scalzo headshot

Miranda Scalzo is a graduate student researcher with the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center. She is currently pursuing a Master of Environmental Science and Management degree at UCSB's Bren School. Miranda brings a love for the ocean and is specializing in Coastal Resources Management at Bren. She also brings a passion for international environmental service projects. She has studied and volunteered in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Spain. For the last 4.5 years she worked for the Washington chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). She developed many skills including strategy development and project management as an Executive Assistant. At her chapter, she managed the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities working group, enhancing her commitment to environmental justice and Indigenous led conservation. Through research and collaboration, Miranda intends to protect coastal and marine ecosystems, while also working to empower and inform communities. 

Jaden Harding headshot

Jaden Harding is an undergraduate student intern with the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center, where she assists with projects related to sea level rise, coastal resilience, and other aspects of coastal law and policy. Jaden is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Aquatic Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Her primary interests lie in ocean conservation, environmental justice, and climate change law and policy. Throughout her undergraduate career, Jaden has worked as a research assistant in five marine science labs on campus and participated in a research-intensive Marine Biology program through the University of Queensland, Australia, gaining crucial research and writing skills along with significant fieldwork experience. Some of her work has included the programming and deployment of oceanographic instruments in French Polynesia as an NSF-funded REU intern; conducting SCUBA surveys to assess the long-term effects of MPAs on the Channel Islands’ marine populations; and performing lab assays to study ecophysiology trends in a local fish species. Jaden recently got certified as a NAUI Divemaster and plans to use her certification to travel the world before returning to the US to pursue a dual degree (JD and MA) in public policy and environmental management. Ultimately, she plans to center her career around international environmental policy with the intent of negotiating global solutions to the climate crisis.

Julie Iverson Headshot

Julie Iverson is an undergraduate intern at UC Santa Barbara’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center (OCPC). She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with an outside concentration in Urban Planning and Civil Engineering at UC Santa Barbara. She hopes to learn more about coastal planning through hands-on experience by contributing to UCSB’s coastal trail planning project in the summer of 2024. She is also a part of the Field-based Undergraduate Engagement through Research, Teaching, and Education (FUERTE) program where she continues to learn and develop skills in environmental research, specifically pertaining to climate change effects on coastal ecosystems. On campus, she is heavily involved in the Japanese Student Association where she coordinates professional and recreational events for the Japanese student body at UCSB.

Seth Swenson headshot


Seth Swenson is an undergraduate student intern with UC Santa Barbara’s Ocean and Coastal Policy Center assisting with the planning and implementation of the California Beach Resiliency Plan. Seth is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Aquatic Biology at UC Santa Barbara and is interested in conservation biology through fisheries management. Seth’s interests outside of school include surfing, running, and hiking. Seth has been frequently making trips down to Baja California, Mexico for the last 4 years to volunteer for a non profit organization which helps fund college education to those who wish to pursue it. He is thrilled to be a part of the team at the UC Santa Barbara’s OCPC and further his understanding of California Coastal resilience and sea level rise.