Jane Teranes: 1969-2022

Teaching professor regarded as a mentor and inspiration to countless students

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.

The SURF 2015 cohort
Jane Teranes and staff with the 2015 SURF cohort.

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 Scripps Oceanography community are invited to add tributes to Jane Teranes. Please submit them to scrippsnews@ucsd.edu.



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


I've known Jane since taking several of her classes as an undergraduate student at UCSD; since then, she's been a friendly face cheering me on through graduate school at SIO. I was devastated to hear of her passing and wish the best for her family. Jane was an admirable mentor and educator. She was a tireless advocate for students and climate change. Through her own efforts, she brought so many scientists and future leaders into this field who otherwise wouldn't have thought they belonged. She will be dearly missed but never forgotten, and will live on through all the people she's encouraged over the years. I can't thank her enough for making a positive impact on my life and career.

     — Adi Khen, Scripps PhD Candidate


A sad day for the entire Scripps community. Jane was always a mentor to me, my first upper division class I took my freshmen year at UC San Diego was her Paleoclimatology class. It was enlightening and inspired me to pursue paleoclimate studies further at SIO. Jane got me into the SURF program in 2017 where I analyzed sediment cores off the coast of Mozambique. This program which she harbored led me to pursue my Masters in the interdisciplinary field of paleoclimatology and marine geology. Jane Teranes gave me direction in my undergrad and never once stopped being a mentor to me into grad school. You will be greatly missed and your mark in this world has not gone unnoticed. 

     — Greg Mamikunian, BS Earth Science 2018, MS Earth Science 2019


Dr. Teranes was an integral professor and mentor of mine at UCSD. After classes or during office hours, Jane always took time to talk to me about a specific project I was working on, an idea I was curious about, or professional avenues I could pursue. She was the professor of the Environmental Challenges: Science and Solutions class, where students learn all things about an array of environmental issues stemming from climate change and how to address them. I was also in her ESYS seminar in which an environmental professional or organization presented on their field, giving students exposure to diverse career opportunities. Lastly, she led the senior seminar portion of the ESYS major, helping me get connected to into my current profession to date and guiding me through the poster and research paper. Dr. Teranes made me feel like a campus leader for the ESYS program. She asked me to present to the incoming ESYS freshmen in Fall 2016 my senior year to help guide ESYS freshmen on what the major looks like, and reached out to judge ESYS Symposiums after graduation. On June 1 during the ESYS Symposium, I had my last opportunity to talk with her, and we shared a final cheerful conversation together.

     — Stephen Zetterberg, ESYS EBE BS Class of 2017


I worked as Dr. Teranes’ intern on the Undergraduate Understanding of Climate Change project during the 2017-2018 school year which was the earliest stage in the development of the Teaching Climate Across the Curriculum program. Professor Teranes was by far one of the best professors and mentors I had at UCSD. She gave me just the right amount of supervision and leeway to develop my research and writing skills, and to create an incredibly fulfilling senior project. I will be forever grateful that I got to work with her because it was one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience.

After graduating from UCSD, I chose to follow in her footsteps and attend the University of Michigan. Dr. Teranes helped me with a letter of recommendation and advice on applying, and I was successfully admitted.

I could tell from both taking classes with Dr. Teranes and working with her that she always had the best interests of her students in mind. The ESYS program was careful crafted to provide a well-rounded environmental education, and Dr. Teranes was highly invested in making sure each and every one of us had our best shot at the type of career we wanted. I will miss her kindness, her generosity and her sense of humor. It is a great loss that future students will not be able to have the amazing experience with her that I had.

     — Kol Chaiken, B.A. ESYS Environmental Policy Class of 2018

Dr. Teranes was an important person during my undergraduate experience. She was my professor-mentor during my 2020-2021 TRELS Scholarship project and without her, I would have been less successful at meeting my project goals and learning experience. She opened my eyes to my academic interests and somehow made analytical data fun and interesting. The hours of sifting through charts, spreadsheets, maps, and compiling data were always capitalized with my end of week one-on-one with Jane. She took the time to teach me, even though I wasn't her student, contact me quickly when I had questions during her full-time schedule, and never made me feel like I wasn't a priority. She was able to do all that for me, while providing the same energy to the rest of her students, other TRELS mentors, and the ESYS program. She was truly an inspiration and her demeanor and character should be what every professor should aspire to be.
     — Jordan Hinze, Program Assistant, Seventh College, UC San Diego

Jane was was a loyal and generous colleague, a beautiful human being, and an indefatigable warrior for environmental and climate change education on our campus. I hope she knew how beloved she was by her colleagues and students, and the impact she had on all of us. With indescribable sadness and inspiration, we press forward in her memory.
     — Fonna Forman, Director, UCSD Center on Global Justice, Professor, Political Science, Vice-Chair, Bending the Curve (2015)


My heart breaks because the world needs more people like Jane Teranes. I admired not only her expertise in climate change, her ability to connect with students, or her impactful research, but I also appreciated that she was a working mother. 

I met Dr. Teranes while working as a sustainability manager and I believe at one point I had a record for the most campus sustainability interns helping work on decarbonization, behavior change pilot programs, and campus climate action planning.

It comforts me to know that Jane shared her expertise, drive, and passion with an entire generation of students that are now impacting corporations like Disney or the Senate. She impacted many lives and fought for a better future for all of us.

Thank you Dr. Teranes for generously sharing your time, expertise, and love of nature with us. You will be missed, but not forgotten.

    – Kristin Kielich, Senior Strategic Initiatives Manager, UC San Diego


Jane's unwavering kindness and dedication to education helped guide me through my graduate education at Scripps. While taking Jane's Paleoclimatology course, I quickly discovered what a great teacher she was, only then to find how great of a friend. I asked her to be on my committee for my MAS capstone, to which she excitedly agreed. Jane was one of the few mentors who truly understood my project and how important it was to me and I can see her smiling eyes of approval as we spoke of how I planned to complete it. I always came away from a meeting or class with Jane feeling a sense of clarity and inspiration.

Jane's ability to communicate complex topics such as paleoclimatology in an inclusive, kind manner continues to inspire. She was tenacious in the way she spoke of climate change and the importance of education, a quality that continues to inspire and invigorate me. I hope she understood how much I appreciate her.

I will deeply miss Jane and will always remember her kindness, her realness, and ability to make you feel heard. Thank you Jane.

    –  Eliot Headley, MAS CSP, Class of 2022

Jane's warmth, kindness, and passion for teaching was truly unmatched by anyone I have ever known. Being in her presence was a pleasure; I will always remember her encouraging phone calls and soothing hugs just as much as I will remember her exuberant energy in the classroom. When I was an undergraduate ESYS student, Jane helped me navigate turbulent waters with utmost compassion and care, and I would never have been able to return to UC San Diego to pursue a doctoral degree without her support and assurances. I cannot imagine the trajectory of my life, nor the lives of many others, without Jane and her thoughtful and thorough teaching, advice, and interventions.

Jane changed the world, and the world will continue to change for the better because Jane walked through it, however briefly. She taught me about the radical beauty of possibility on this swiftly changing planet.

May we ensure that her legacy lives on as we continue wandering. And may she rest among the stars.     

    –  Moon Pankam, ESYS Environmental Policy, Class of 2017, Doctoral Student, UCSD Anthropology


I can count on one hand the professors that made a significant impact on my education at UCSD and Jane was definitely one of them. She cared deeply about us as students and people, and I'll always be impressed by how she could tell you what every ESYS senior was doing for their senior project and even who their faculty advisor was. The one thing I'll never forget about her, though, was her IMMACULATE 70s wardrobe. Back in 2019 when I had an in-person class with her, I vividly remember going to class and being excited for not only her engaging lectures, but also for whatever outfit she had on that day, giving us all a taste of the 70s with each one. 

    –  Brasilia Perez, Housing and Media Coordinator, Sixth College Residential Life, UC San Diego

Dr. Teranes was the first Environmental Systems professor that I had at UC San Diego. I bounced around between several different majors, and it was her ESYS 103 class in the spring of 2016 that first made me feel at home. I had never taken a class with a professor so enthusiastic about teaching, and I really enjoyed every minute of her lectures. A little over a year later, Dr. Teranes became my professor again, this time for the 2018 ESYS Senior Symposium course. She challenged me to take advantage of every opportunity I had at my internship that year, and gave me thoughtful feedback on my presentation. It was her advice that led to my first post-grad job, for which I am very thankful.

However, it was her assistance after I graduated that really made me thankful to have her as a professor. I took an atypical path for an ESYS grad, opting to go to law school instead of going into research or working in the environmental field. Gracefully, Jane wrote me a letter of recommendation which helped me get into law school. I am thankful to have had her as a professor, and I am incredibly grateful for her help after I graduated, supporting me no matter how far outside the norm my path was for an ESYS student. UC San Diego, Scripps, and the environmental community have lost someone irreplaceable. I hope that my actions as an environmental lawyer will honor her legacy.

    –  Jason Patrick Grimm, ESYS Environmental Chemistry, Class of 2018

Jane changed my entire understanding of the current state of global environmental and social affairs. Her ability to engage hundreds of students, raising awareness for the intricacies of environmental systems was pivotal in my education. She was the most impactful of all of my UC San Diego professors, and she has changed how I currently, and will continue to look at, every single problem I face as an engineer. I hope she knows how grateful I, as well as all the other students she impacted, are to her for her work and efforts as an educator. I will never forget her.

    –  Daniel Harrison, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2019

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

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