the UC History Digital Archives
the UC History Digital Archives

Home > General History > Universitywide and Affiliated Institutions


print-friendly format

University of California: Universitywide and Affiliated Institutions


A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  sources

Natural Reserve System (NRS)

Natural Reserve System (NRS)
Professor Joseph Grinnell became the first curator of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley in 1910. Until then, the most common form that a natural history museum had taken was that of a hodgepodge of oddities collected throughout the world that bore no relation to each other whatsoever. Grinnell had a different idea-he wanted to create a research museum that would create a record of California and its vertebrate diversity. Grinnell was perhaps prophetic when he said, "[The value of such a record] will not, however, be realized until the lapse of many years, possibly a century, assuming our material is safely preserved."
In order to help create that record, Grinnell began the reserve tradition by helping to establish the Hastings Natural History Reservation in Carmel Valley, in 1935, where students and scientists could observe their subject firsthand. Wilbur ("Bill") Mayhew, an undergraduate who arrived under the GI Bill shortly after Grinnell passed away, saw the fieldwork that Grinnell had done and was captivated. He was hired shortly after graduation to teach at the UC Riverside campus. Even immediately after the war, Mayhew was aware that the influx of people to California suburbs was changing the landscape forever.

Quite separately, University of California Regent Philip Boyd moved to the Palm Desert in the early 1950's after his physician recommended the curative properties of the arid climate. He fell in love with it, and set aside forty acres of land so that others could enjoy its uncommon beauty. He hired Mayhew as a consultant in this regard, and eventually Mayhew's students were invited to study the Living Desert. But Boyd had bigger plans - he also owned three former railroad parcels further up the canyon. These, in addition to enough funds to purchase the remaining lands to make it a contiguous reserve, Boyd eventually gave to the University.

Previous attempts to acquire individual parcels of land just ahead of the bulldozer had failed to impress University administrators; they even considered Boyd's gift to have more problems than uses. The early 1960's, however, saw a coalition of scientists in the natural disciplines form; under the leadership of Ken Norris from UC Santa Cruz, they formed a comprehensive plan which would set aside vast tracts of land throughout California, permanently. This came at just the right time, too. People across the nation were becoming more ecologically conscious, as terms such as "nuclear fallout" and "overpopulation" came into the public mind for the first time. University President Clark Kerr, as well, was seeing California disappear - there was a demand for three more UC campuses, but the suitable sites were few and far between.

The proposal was accepted, and Norris personally visited all of the sites which had been earmarked for study. Some, such as the Point Mugu Lagoon, were already too damaged to fit into the new system. After presenting field reports on all the sites, some 120,000 acres were incorporated into the NRS, for use by scientists and all of the Universities. source

to top


A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  sources

the UC History Digital Archives

Copyright © 1999-2005
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 07/07/04 .