The Urban Ocean Program

The Sea Grant Program at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles is part of the national network of 34 programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)’s National Sea Grant College Program. It is a federal-state-university partnership that integrates research, education, and outreach with a specific focus on the ‘Urban Ocean’ and solving issues arising out of managing people and natural resources in an intensely urban and developed coastline.

USC Sea Grant funds marine and coastal research, communicates research results to leaders in government and local communities, and is a leader in integrating current research with new education initiatives to increase science literacy among urban students and to encourage teachers to adopt science education curricula. USC Sea Grant is recognized as a leader in coastal hazard planning, training, and technical assistance.

The University of Southern California, one of the largest private universities in the United States, has participated in the National Sea Grant College Program for over 50 years and has more than a 100-year history of marine science research in Southern California. USC’s facilities, research, and curricula make it the principal university in the Los Angeles region for ocean studies, and it has demonstrated excellence in marine research and education from the beginning of the 20th Century. The establishment of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies (WIES) in 1995 to connect to USC’s environmental science community makes it an optimum site for a Sea Grant program. WIES operates on the USC campus and at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island and is growing rapidly.

The University of Southern California’s location in the middle of Los Angeles has made the Sea Grant Program at USC an important regional resource, concentrating on issues arising out of the necessity of managing people and resources in an intensely developed coastline. Compared to other Sea Grant programs, USC Sea Grant serves one of the largest (nearly 19 million) and most diverse populations in four coastal counties of Southern California (Orange, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura) and two adjacent inland counties (San Bernardino and Riverside). Southern California is the most populous and diverse metropolitan region in the United States, with more than 10 million residents speaking over 140 languages, making this a prime region to study the effects of urbanization on our coastlines and the impact of the ocean on the diverse, urbanized environment.  For this reason, in the 1980s the USC Sea Grant program adopted as its programmatic theme the “Urban Ocean,” a theme that continues to best characterize our focus on the needs of this unique region.

The National Sea Grant College Program champions diversity, equity, and inclusion by recruiting, retaining and preparing a diverse workforce, and proactively engaging and serving the diverse populations of coastal communities. USC Sea Grant is committed to serving diverse Urban Ocean communities by building inclusive research, extension, communication and education programs. The problems found in the “Urban Ocean” environment of Southern California are not unique to the region. In addressing the range of issues found here, we will continue to provide information and models serving our own as well as other urban coastal regions in the U.S. and around the world. 

Our Vision and Mission


USC Sea Grant envisions a resilient and thriving Urban Ocean supported by a diverse, environmentally-literate public and informed decision-makers who protect and enhance our regional coastal and inland communities and economies in a changing climate.



USC Sea Grant’s mission is to contribute to solving the problems of the Urban Ocean; foster the public’s understanding of coastal, ocean, and social science; recognize opportunities for the blue economy, coastal commerce, and recreation; solicit and fund relevant, innovative science to inform better decision-making, and improve the quality of life in coastal regions across Southern California.