The first professor hired by the University of California (UC) was the physicist John LeConte. In 1873, he initiated the first scientific measurements in Lake Tahoe, including the first clarity measurement of 108 feet.
UC Davis research at Lake Tahoe began in 1959 with Dr. Charles Goldman. In 1968, Dr. Goldman formed the Tahoe Research Group (TRG) and began regularly monitoring Lake Tahoe and measured 98 feet of clarity during that year. In 2004, following a public fund-raising campaign, UC Davis launched the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) to succeed the TRG, and named Dr. Geoffrey Schladow as the founding director. In 2006, TERC moved into its new LEED Platinum laboratory in Incline Village, NV (the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences) and the following year completed the historical renovation and restoration of its Field Station in Tahoe City, CA (the former Fish Hatchery).
Over 50 years of UC Davis investigations provide clear evidence for the onset of cultural eutrophication in Lake Tahoe. Clarity at Lake Tahoe has reduced from more than 98 feet (1968) at its deepest to 64 feet (1997) at its lowest. TERC publishes the annual State of the Lake Report that ties the recent data collected from the previous year to the long-term changes in Lake Tahoe clarity, physics, biology, and chemistry. TERC’s extensive and internationally renowned continuing investigations have served as the underlying basis for nearly all major policy decisions regarding water quality in the Tahoe basin, including exportation of sewage and solid waste, strict building codes, installation of major erosion control projects, protection of wetlands, establishment of water quality thresholds, control of nonpoint source pollution, controls on dredging, and many others.
The Tahoe basin landscape is constantly changing and significant portions of this once pristine region are now urbanized. Studies from the early 1960s to the present have shown that many factors such as land disturbance, increasing resident and tourist population, habitat destruction, air pollution, soil erosion, roads and road maintenance, and loss of wetlands have all contributed to the degradation of the basin's air quality, terrestrial landscape and streams, as well as the lake itself. Fine sediments and nutrients are the major constituents that must be controlled to meet desired conditions for lake clarity and algal growth.
Today TERC is both a vibrant research and interactive education hub. Every year thousands of visitors flock to TERC education centers in California and Nevada to discover intricacies of the Tahoe environment and the impacts of UC Davis research. Students, professionals, and researchers from UC Davis and other institutions around the country and the globe, come to utilize the wealth of TERC data, work out of the Tahoe City Field Station or the Incline Lab facility, and to take advantage of the magnificent natural laboratory that the Lake Tahoe basin provides.