Kurt Grimm
Associate Professor
Office: EOS-South 260   Phone: 604-822-9258



Dr. Kurt Andrew Grimm (also see drkurtgrimm.com)
Human // Member // Explorer // Scientist // Innovator // Father // Recipient // Overcomer // Contributor

Associate Professor, Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Earth V6T 1Z4  / Teaching and Learning Fellow, University Sustainability Initiative / kgrimm@eos.ubc.ca / 604-822-9258 office

Research Interests: Dynamical Complexity in the Earth & Life sciences  // Wet Tectonics // The Coevolution of Oceans, Plate Tectonics, Climate & Life as a single dynamical phenomenon  //  A Unified Description of Life  // Climate Surprises!? // Transformative Sustain-Ability Learning // Mindmapping // Urban Ecology and Planetary Regeneration // Transformative Regeneration Equals 21st Century Sustain-Ability // Jesus & the Bible

Kurt Grimm is an interdisciplinary Earth/Life scientist and is perpetually fascinated with patterning and transformation. I aspire to a unique synthesis of Earth, Life and environment that clarifies — and may catalyze — authentic (including personal) sustain-ability.

The development of an innovative and evidence-based synthesis required and perpetuated the invention of new communication tools — mindmaps, wordmaps and collaborative conceptul cartoons (see drkurtgrimm.com). Books are too wordy: the synthesis is propelling a new genre for evidence-based communication and synthesis. I am learning that new concepts communicated with innovative tools meet multifaceted skepticism within most institutions. Yet the concepts are foundationally simple:  Complexity is not complicated. 

Another summary: Dr. Kurt Grimm is an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of British Columbia. From my foundations in Earth systems science and applied ecology, I am researching the origins of patterning across a broad phenomenological spectrum. A simple description with broad explanatory power and explicit testability has emerged from 15 years of mulitfacted explorations. For example, a unified description of Life is evidence based, and encompasses while extending beyond the conventional neodarwinian paradigm. Complexity is not complicated: the synthesis delivers broad explanatory power, explicit testability and clear utility for 21st century health and sustain-ability. Related topics of interest include self-organizing complexity, environmental Earth sciences, transformative sustain-ability learning and urban ecology. Conceptual and teaching innovations inform Life, health, climate and sustainability sciences.


  • Circle G Farm, Brimfield, Illinois, USA. My father, Oliver Gilbert Grimm, is a 5th generation American farmer; my parents taught me how to work and follow instructions; initial development of practical skills, immersion experiences in agri-culture.

  • School of Hard Knocks: I have had diverse opportunities to learn about limits, consequences, perseverance, compassion and blessing. I am very grateful for all of the learning opportunities that have been available to me. It is all being transformed into usefulness and fruit-fullness.

  • Denison University (B.Sc., Biology/Geology); University of Wisconsin (M.Sc., paleogeography/paleoecology); University of California Santa Cruz, Department of Earth & Marine Sciences (PhD.,1992). Earth system science: Earth system history, genetic stratigraphy & paleoecology.

  • Superb Teachers: Mom & Dad, Carol Brooks, Robert Haubrich, Kennard Bork, Lloyd Pray, Larry Schlosser, David Koop, Joe Focht, Jon Courson, Dan Gowe.

Proudest Achievements

  • Innovation & perseverance in my professional & personal life; willingness to pioneer, learn from and take responsibility for my Life experiences.

  • Grateful and delighted father to Oliver Forest (10) and Elijah Fisher (8) Grimm

  • Firefighter and Level-Three Emergency Medical First Responder, Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire department, 2005-2008; steady contributions and willingness to learn; delivered calm and capable performances under crisis circumstances.

  • Owner/Operator/Restorer of Beverley K, a 37’/eight-tonne westcoast troller (cedar over oak with fir decks; built 1942, Sointula, BC); 3.5 years of  kinesthetic-learning while living-aboard facilitated diverse coastal explorations and cognitive repatterning.

  • Interdisciplinary explorations of Land, Sea & Sky: Pioneering experiential learning for UBC science students, Baja California, Mexico, 1998,’99, 2001.

  • The Science & Practice of Sustainability (TSAPOS; 2003, ‘04, ‘07, ‘08): Innovation, adventure and success in transformative sustainability learning (TSL; see Sipos, Battisti & Grimm, 2008); diverse investments in the advancement and clarification of personal and authentic sustainability.

  • Killam Award, 2001, UBC’s highest award for educational innovation and teaching excellence.

  • Outstanding Paper for 1998: Palaios (leading journal in paleoecology/Earth system history).

 Best Research Contributions

  • Grimm, K.A. 2006. Katrina, Wilma and Me: Learning to live with climate surprises?. Geoscience Canada 33(2):76-80.

  • Sipos, Y., Battisti, B., and Grimm, K.A., 2008. Achieving Transformative Sustainability Learning: Engaging head, hands and heart. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 9(1): 68-86.

  • Grimm, K.A. and Lange, C.M. and Gill, A.S., 1997.  Self-sedimentation of phytoplankton blooms in the geologic record. Sedimentary Geology (Expressed), 110(3-4): 151-161.

  • Chang, A.S., Grimm, K.A., and White, L.D. 1998. Diatomaceous sediments from the Miocene Monterey Formation, California: A lamina-scale investigation of biological, ecological, and sedimentary processes. Palaios 13: 439-458.

  • Grimm, K.A. and Föllmi, K.F., 1994.  Doomed Pioneers: Allochthonous crustacean tracemakers in anaerobic basinal strata, Oligo-Miocene San Gregorio Formation, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Palaios, 9(4): 313-334.



Research Interests

Narrative description of Research Interests:

            Dr. Kurt Grimm is an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UBC. My curiosity is insatiable. Propelling and extending from my established research expertise in paleoecology and Earth’s environmental evolution, I remain interested and attentive to  the dynamical origins of patterning in the world: cloud shapes, sedimentary bedforms, climate regulation, every human heartbeat. A long season of germination facilitated by observation, teaching (synthesis), study (the universe is my field area, the research literature and the people I encounter are my laboratory) and diverse (yet concordant/intersecting/convergent) life experiences has yielded a simple and useful synthesis.  A unified theory of Life is central to my work, and informs my scholarship and innovation in Life, health, cognitive and sustainability sciences.

These three links encapsulate some aspects of my scholarly work.

1. Is Earth a Living System? http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2003AM/finalprogram/abstract_62123.htm (2003).

2. Wet Tectonics:
http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm05/fm05-sessions/fm05_H33C.html (2005).

3. Katrina, Wilma and me: Learning to Live with Climate Surprises? http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0QQS/is_2_33/ai_n16726495 (2006).

Yet the legacy of my research is quite different from the present and future. In 2002, I made a decision to stop making measurements, and  focused my full attention on a broad and unconventional synthesis. As I write these words in July 2012, that synthesis is coming to a completion that is astonishing to me. It is great fun, very satisfying, and shall be, I believe, useful to others.

 Life is. Contemporary views of Life are profoundly reductionist, organism-focused and neodarwinian. These mechanistic and utilitarian perspectives are incomplete, they accompany conceptual and practical blind-spots, as they perpetuate scientific, cultural and theological confusion about the breadth, length, height and depth of a singular Life phenomenon, and how that arises and perpetuates in an observable universe of perpetual and spontaneous patterning.

 Nature, the dynamics of patterning and Life itself:  Their function and relatedness captured of my curiosity.  Systems approximations were intricate, mechanical and unsatisfactory. A fresh start, a new synthesis, invited my intuition.  I started deliberately, began sketching a lifetime of experiencing in the natural sciences and beyond. 

What has emerged in these explorations has been nothing short of amazing to me. Plainly stated, a multifaceted and interdependent synthesis — Complexity is Not Complicated, Wet Tectonics, AUDOL and The Climate Consortium —is a data- and observation-based (i.e. scientific) synthesis; an open-minded inspection is required and invited. It is unconventional yet sensible and intuitive. The ideas (and their  novel expression via mindmaps; see below) are well-tested in the undergraduate and graduate classroom.

One conspicuous fruit of this emerging synthesis — A Unified Description of Life (AUDOL) is simple, internally consistent, is empirically testable (performs well) and delivers broad explanatory power. It sounds kind of crazy (I'm not, I've checked) and even the sound of these ambitions seems to perplex and even annoy some people: particularly scientists. The sociocultural proces of advancing an unconventional synthesis has been very interesting and challenging. 

The worldview that catapaulted industrial humanity into the 21st century seems unlikely to carry us through. We  have some really big problems before and amongst us and we may soon be given an opportunity to (forgiving please the machine metaphor) reboot the world. Whether on planetary or bioregional-to-watershed scale, an agri-cultural and biocentric synthesis is perhaps required.

If our highest aspirations at the interface of humans and nature equals sustainability,  a biocentric worldview is required. Doing that requires a clear and cogent understanding of what Life is, an encompassing and functional description. Exactly that, is coming to completion. Stay tuned, and visit drkurtgrimm.com.




Selected Publications