Outside the classroom doors, UC Santa Cruz provides stewardship for five natural laboratories located along the Central California coast. These protected ecosystems belong to a network of undisturbed sites that are set aside for research in the UC Natural Reserve System.
Each of these pristine places will benefit from a $500,000 gift from the Helen and Will Webster Foundation, which, with matching funds from the UC Regents, will establish a $1 million endowment for the Wilton W. Webster Jr. Presidential Chair for the UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves.
Four of the UC Santa Cruz reserves are part of 39 areas managed by the University of California, encompassing over 750,000 acres across California. These UC Santa Cruz reserves include Año Nuevo Island Reserve, Fort Ord Natural Reserve, Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve, and Younger Lagoon Reserve. A fifth, the Campus Natural Reserve, is also managed by UC Santa Cruz.
The reserves offer research opportunities for students of all ages, ranging from K–12 programs at Fort Ord, overseen by Gage Dayton, the administrative director of the UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves, to the multi-reserve project led by UC Santa Cruz biologist Barry Sinervo for the Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts.
“Getting students out in the field is transformative,” said Donald Croll, the faculty director of the UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserves and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “This gift will help us inspire the next generation of conservationists.”