Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 8:07 pm | Fair 69º


UCSB Geologist’s New Book Explores Natural History of Santa Barbara

Edward Keller aims to help people develop a better understanding about where they live

For the past 25 years, UCSB geologist Edward Keller has researched and studied the natural landscape and environment of California from Camarillo to Gaviota. In a new book, titled Santa Barbara, Land of Dynamic Beauty — A Natural History, he narrows his focus to highlight the Santa Barbara area, from Goleta to La Conchita, and into the Santa Barbara Channel.

UCSB geologist and author Edward Keller with his wife,<br />
Valery Rivera Keller
UCSB geologist and author Edward Keller with his wife,
Valery Rivera Keller

Keller, a professor of earth science, environmental studies and geography at UCSB, described the book as both a labor of love and part of the university’s public service mission.

“I wanted to make a contribution to the community,” Keller said.

The book is a compilation of his research as a whole, combined with many of the journal articles he has written during the past few years, and his “History Naturally” columns.

“That was something else I did as public service for the university,” he said about the column.

While the book is a scholarly work, complete with references and citations, it is also accessible to a general audience. That was important to Keller, because one of his main goals with A Natural History is to help people develop a better understanding about where they live.

“It explains the familiar landscape we all drive through every day,” Keller said. “If you’re driving along U.S. 101 near UCSB and you look at the hill on your right, you’ll know that’s the uplift produced by the More Mesa fault. And if you look to your left, you can see the uplift of the Goleta Valley anticline. After reading the book, you’ll know what these things are — they aren’t just hills.”

An anticline, he explained, is an up-arch fold. “All our hills are anticlines, and all our low areas are synclines,” Keller said. “The city of Santa Barbara, Goleta slough and Carpinteria slough are downfolds,” he said.

Arranged in six chapters, the book begins with the geologic history of the Santa Barbara area; and natural hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides and wildfires. Keller then separates the area by geography — Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria-La Conchita, Goleta, Ellwood and the Santa Barbara Channel. He includes interesting aspects of the local landscape, such as the history of Mission Creek, the origin of Skofield and Rocky Nook parks, the origin of coastal lagoons and salt marshes, and long-term management of land and water resources. The final chapter is devoted to sustainability and how Santa Barbara connects to the global environment. Among the more significant topics are global warming, ecosystems, water supply, waste management, energy and ecotourism.

Keller also has included some of his own poetry — odes to the Earth, such as “We Are the Children of the Pleistocene” and “River Lover’s Creed” — as well as the outline of a children’s story about early California and the legend of Queen Califia.

“I hope people reading the book take away a better understanding of the landscape they see,” he said. “I try to teach people to listen to the Earth, to listen with all their senses — their eyes, their ears, their nose and even their feet — and let it speak to them.” When those various aspects come together, he continued, the imagination then can work out hypotheses.

“Geology is a science where we never have all the information,” Keller said. “We deal with bits and pieces and try to put them together into a coherent story that we can use numbers to quantify, and develop models to explain. That’s where the imagination comes in.”

A leading authority on rivers and earthquakes, Keller is a specialist in environmental geology and surface processes. His research interests include natural hazards, river processes, and habitat for endangered southern steelhead trout. He has authored more than 100 journal articles, as well as several books. Environmental Geology, a textbook he began writing as a graduate student at Purdue University, is now in its ninth edition and has become a foundation in environmental geology curricula.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >