Tahoe Science Logbook: What is TERC?
“All visitors to this beautiful lake are struck with the extraordinary transparency of the water.”- John LeConte, 1883.
The clarity of Lake Tahoe has been significant for both literary and scientific notables, alike. Mark Twain’s historic literary love for the clarity of Lake Tahoe is well known. But, the first scientist on Lake Tahoe became quite enamored with its deep blue hues as well.
In 1873, the first professor hired by the University of California, Dr. John LeConte, lowered a white dinner plate into Lake Tahoe to determine a depth of light transparency of 108 feet. Little did he know that the same type of measurement would still be used 100 years later from a research vessel named in his honor, and his first measurements would become the standard by which we measure change.
In 1959, the Tahoe Research Group (TRG) was created by world-renowned limnologist Dr. Charles Goldman who had recently arrived at UC Davis. Goldman was concerned about the impacts of increased development in the Tahoe Basin. The early measurements were similar to those of LeConte, but within a decade the decline of clarity was evident.
In 2004, the TRG was expanded to create the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC), and UC Davis named civil and environmental engineer Dr. Geoffrey Schladow as its founding director. In 2006, TERC moved into its current LEED platinum laboratory in Incline Village, Nevada. The following year, TERC completed the historical renovation of the Tahoe City Field Station.
Over this time, the data record has increased beyond lake clarity, to embrace the overall health of the entire basin ecosystem. This includes nutrients, fine particles, algae and fish in the lake, plus the factors that drive the health of the watershed, air, forests and streams.
In collaboration with resource agencies, this body of research has helped shape the policies that are in place to protect and restore Lake Tahoe.
Today, TERC is both a vibrant research center and an interactive education hub. Every year thousands of visitors flock to TERC to discover and explore the intricacies and majesty of the Lake Tahoe environment and the impacts of UC Davis research over the decades. Visitors, students and professionals from around the globe come to utilize the wealth of TERC data, work out of the renovated Tahoe City Field Station or the Incline Village laboratory facility, and take advantage of the magnificent natural laboratory that the Lake Tahoe basin provides.
TERC researchers are on the lake and the beaches, and within the forests and urban areas around the lake most weeks of the year. If you see them, they will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Come discover the UC Davis Tahoe Science Center (www.tahoesciencecenter.com). Uncover the Tahoe Basin’s ecological challenges through 3-D movies and interactive exhibits. Family friendly fun for kids ages 8 and up. Drop-in tours are Tuesday through Friday from 1-5 p.m. For school groups, we offer inquiry-based field trips. Check out our monthly lecture series on various scientific topics. To learn more about the Tahoe Science Center and TERC, visit tahoe.ucdavis.edu. The scnience center is located at 291 Country Club Drive Incline Village, Nevada. Call us at 775-881-7566.