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Jane Teranes: 1969-2022

Teaching professor regarded as a mentor and inspiration to countless students

Jane Teranes: 1969-2022


  • Robert Monroe
  • Brittany Hook

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  • Robert Monroe
  • Brittany Hook

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Jane Teranes, a teaching professor and paleoclimatologist who provided a bridge for UC San Diego undergraduates to engage with Scripps Institution of Oceanography science, died July 2, 2022 after a brief illness. She was 52.

Teranes was the architect of several programs designed to nurture college undergraduates to continue their studies in ocean, earth, and atmospheric sciences at the graduate level. Among them were the Environmental Systems (ESYS) program for which she served as program director, the Scripps Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, the Scripps Geosciences Educational Opportunities (Scripps-GEO) program, which links community college students to Scripps science education through on-campus internships, and the Teaching Climate Across the Curriculum program, which provided faculty across the university the scholarly and financial resources to add climate-related units to their courses. In the case of SURF, Teranes revived Scripps’ participation in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program after a long absence, said her husband, UC San Diego Biology Professor David Holway.

“She loved helping people,” Holway said. “She loved bringing out the best in people. In the ESYS program, that skill was incredibly important. They have interests that they couldn’t fully express, so she helped them realize them. That’s just who she is.”

Friends and family members noted that throughout Teranes’ career, students thought of her as a mentor and colleagues looked at her as a wise sister or life coach to whom they could turn for counsel. In so doing, she was “making people the best people they can be,” said her sister Amy Snow.

Teranes was born Nov. 10, 1969 in Detroit, Mich. and grew up in Grosse Pointe, Mich. Her mother Barbara Teranes remembers her babysitting children with mental and physical handicaps and teaching neighbors how to play piano.

“She loved working with kids of all ages,” said Barbara Teranes.

Jane Teranes attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Mich. as a high school student before receiving a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in Ohio and finally a PhD from Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland in 1998. She returned to the United States to serve as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan before coming to Scripps Oceanography as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of geoscientist Chris Charles in November 1999.

Holway said Teranes’ research interest was in paleoclimate as knowledge of climate conditions from pre-history could inform studies of present-day climate change, a topic about which she was especially passionate, given the universal stake society has in the outcome.

“She thought all education should be climate change education,” Holway said.

In 2003, Teranes was hired as associate director of ESYS, a newly launched environmental major at UC San Diego that was designed to be interdisciplinary, folding in expertise from departments across campus including chemistry, Scripps Oceanography, biology, economics, political science and engineering. Mark Thiemens, creator of the ESYS program and its head for more than a decade, recalled the challenging search to find someone to help run the program—a seemingly impossible task until he met Teranes.

“I was lucky that Jane Teranes applied, and she was absolutely perfect. She was able to work with a broad campus-wide group of occasionally cantankerous faculties and organize them for teaching required courses and advising on the program,” said Thiemens, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Chancellor’s Associates Chair at UC San Diego. “Most importantly, the students just loved working with Jane as their adviser and getting her help to find positions for their year-long project. The program grew in large part because of her leadership, mentoring, and kindness.”

Thiemens called Teranes a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of person for her ability to interact with and guide students, many of whom have gone on to pursue cross-disciplinary careers ranging from SeaWorld to the U.S. Senate.

“Jane will be missed by many and most importantly she will be remembered by hundreds of students and faculty as to how much she contributed to their lives, education and careers,” he said.

Teranes went on to helm the ESYS program, overseeing its transition from management under the School of Physical Sciences to Scripps Oceanography in 2017. She also worked with colleagues across campus to create a new climate change studies minor, which debuted at Scripps during the 2019-20 academic year. The minor is designed to help students from any major develop knowledge of climate science, understand the human and social dimensions of climate impacts, and find opportunities to develop and implement solutions.

Among her many roles at Scripps, Teranes served as the institution’s first teaching professor. Through this position and its focus on undergraduate education, she taught courses on paleoclimate, climate change, and environmental systems.

“As the leader of our largest undergraduate program, and a very active teacher in that program, Jane has touched more undergraduate students’ lives than any other person at Scripps Oceanography. She loved seeing the transformation of students interested in the environment, the ocean and climate to students that are committed to action based on their knowledge,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. “As I represent Scripps Oceanography at alumni events around the country, I literally have hundreds of alums tell me about their outstanding experiences with Jane. A few faculty come to be loved by students and she was one of those.”

Sarah Gille, professor and department chair at Scripps, said Teranes had a "real vision for what was required to run a program effectively,” and was impressed by her work that set many students on a path to success.

“Jane had a great sense of what undergraduates would need, and what would give them a sense of accomplishment and shape their lives,” said Gille.

In a video produced in 2019 by a group of Scripps MAS MBC students, Teranes spoke about her shift to working primarily with undergraduates and her work spearheading an  interdisciplinary climate change curriculum.

“In thinking back, I’m really happy that I made this transition to education,” said Teranes. “Working in climate change and understanding the facts about climate change can sometimes feel overwhelming. Working with undergrads makes me feel like I’m doing something useful and I see the potential for solutions, and that gives me hope.”

Teranes played a major role in shaping and leading the SURF program, which relaunched at Scripps in 2011 after a long hiatus. Funded largely by the NSF Division of Ocean Sciences, this summer program engages undergraduates from around the country in cutting-edge research alongside a scientist mentor at Scripps. Teranes assisted geoscientist Lisa Tauxe with writing the initial proposal, first serving as co-principal investigator and academic coordinator and then taking over as principal investigator and program director in 2014.

“She ran the whole thing, pairing students with mentors, running seminars for the students, organizing the symposia and keeping the network of former SURF fellows alive and vibrant,” said Tauxe.

Over the past decade, Teranes oversaw more than 170 SURF students who participated in the program, with 75 percent of the fellows coming from demographic groups that are traditionally underrepresented in ocean and earth sciences, and many continuing on as admitted graduate students.

Teranes also lent her expertise to help develop the curriculum for Bending the Curve, a University of California-led course series that empowers anyone to help find solutions to the climate change crisis. Additionally, she supported other programs across UC San Diego, leading the Scripps-GEO program that officially launched in January 2022, serving as chair of the Undergraduate Council, collaborating on a DEI program, and working towards a new climate crisis requirement, among other efforts.

“Jane brought a student-centered perspective to many important initiatives,” said John Moore, dean of undergraduate education at UC San Diego. “Through all of this, she brought wisdom and heart—her participation in endless meetings was always thoughtful and optimistic. It has been an honor to collaborate with her; her loss is devastating on many levels.”

Snow, Teranes’ sister, recalled how much her sibling loved family vacations, particularly one recent outing to Hawaii that included a cycling tour of volcanoes with both of their families.

“She’d say, ‘This is the best vacation ever. It has my family, riding bicycles, and geology,’” Snow said. “She loved her family, she loved the outdoors, and she loved sharing her knowledge of geology with everyone she knew.”

Teranes is survived by husband David Holway of San Diego; mother Barbara Teranes of Grosse Pointe Mich.; brothers Rick Teranes and Dan Teranes of Grosse Pointe, Mich.; sister Amy Snow of Pacifica, Calif.; son Lorenzo Pellecchia, 19, of San Diego, a student at UC San Diego; daughter Marcella Pellechia, 17; stepdaughter Maia Payne, 26, of Berkeley, Calif.; and her dog Ryker.

A memorial service will take place at 5 p.m. Aug. 22, 2022 at the Martin Johnson House on the Scripps Oceanography campus. 

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that well-wishers consider making a contribution to honor Jane’s memory and benefit an undergraduate student in the Geoscience BS program at Scripps Oceanography. 

Please note that your gift is in memory of Jane Teranes, Fund F2873 Scripps Undergraduate Endowed Scholarship

Gifts can be made online by clicking here or by sending a check payable to UC San Diego Foundation and mail to:

UC San Diego Gift Services
9500 Gilman Dr. Mail Code 0940
La Jolla, CA 92093 – 0940

In the memo please specify F2873 – gift in memory of Jane Teranes.

Members of the UC San Diego community are invited to add tributes to Jane Teranes. Please submit them to



I was devastated to hear that Jane had passed away so suddenly. I want to express condolences for your loss. I knew Jane through her many years as REU PI, and I held her in highest regard for her work at SIO and for her boundless support for the students. Jane transformed the SIO REU program and changed the ocean science community in the process. I don’t have words to express my sadness at this tragic loss. Her leadership and smile will be sorely missed. I know that her spirit will live on in the work that is done by the many lives that she touched. 

I will miss her.

     — Lisa Rom, Program Director, Ocean Education, National Science Foundation

Jane cared deeply about the educational mission of the University. Under the shared governance system of the University of California, the Senate has purview over courses and curriculum, and so naturally Jane became an active participant in the Senate. From 2014 to 2017 she sat on the Committee on Preparatory Education, and moved directly from there to Undergraduate Council in 2017, serving two terms as vice chair from 2018 to 2020, and then as chair in 2020/2021. What they don’t always tell you when you are asked to chair a committee like Undergraduate Council is that this confers membership on Senate Council, Senate Administration Council, and Representative Assembly, and for Undergrad Council there is the added bonus of a seat on the Educational Policy Committee. That’s a lot of work. She also chaired undergraduate program reviews of Thurgood Marshall College and Family Medicine and Public Health, sat on the task force on the climate crisis, the workgroup on distance learning, and chaired the workgroup on undergraduate climate change education.

I was Divisional Senate Chair in 2020/21 when Jane was chair of Undergrad Council. We were in the midst of the pandemic and very difficult decisions had to be made with regards grade options for students and policies on remote instruction for faculty, first trying to guess what the pandemic situation would look like several quarters ahead, then trying to make corrections at the last minute when our predictions proved wrong. Our three educational committees worked overtime, and Jane was not only an essential part of this discussion, she injected a sense of empathy that was critical. She was always trying to make sure our decisions were in the best interests of the students. Within weeks of us taking our chairs, in September 2020 we put out a communication: “Support for our Faculty and Students at the Start of Fall Quarter”. I got to put my name at the top of the list of signatures, but this memo was all Jane, and all empathy. I encourage you to read it again – it is on the Senate web site or maybe still in your inbox. Like the rest of UCSD, the Senate and I owe Jane a lot for what she has done for us. Indeed, she was such an integral part of our teaching mission it is hard to see how we will manage without her. She will surely be missed.

     — Steven Constable, UCSD Divisional Chair, 2020/21


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