Portrait of UC Santa Cruz Dean of the Division of Physical & Biological Sciences Paul Koch

Paul Koch is a Distinguished Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences.

Paul Koch is internationally known as an innovator in the use of chemistry as a forensic tool to determine the diets, habitats, and physiological states of individual fossil or living animals. With this information, he has explored how physical and biological factors drive extinction and evolutionary changes in vertebrates, both past and present. This includes the extinction of large animals at the end of the last ice age, the pulse of evolutionary and ecological change triggered by a dramatic global warming event 55 million years ago, the rise of prairie grasslands in North America, and the ecology of the transition from land to sea in whales, sea cows, and crocodiles. More recently, his work has focused on gleaning information that is useful for conservation efforts from the fossilized remains of living species, including California condors, the lemurs of Madagascar, the seals and sea lions of the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica, coyotes, sperm whales, and sharks.

Paul has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in journals and books and received a number of honors for his research, including the Charles Schuchert Award from the Paleontological Society and election as a fellow of the Paleontological Society, the Geological Society of America, the California Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Paul was Dean of the Science division from 2011 to 2023. During that time, he focused on attracting a diverse group of high-caliber faculty, supporting student diversity and inclusion in STEM, developing world-class facilities, providing high-impact student research experiences, and building innovative research and teaching programs that tear down the walls between academic disciplines. Thanks to these strong investments, the Science Division has transformed how UC Santa Cruz approaches teaching, especially for first-generation college students and students from less-privileged backgrounds.

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