New Director Named for UC Riverside Natural Reserves

Biologist Kimberly Hammond is the reserves’ third director since the 1950s

Sweeney Granite Mountains Reserve

The Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center is one of four major reserves managed by UC Riverside. Photo credit: Timothy Wood.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Kimberly Hammond, a professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, has been named the director of the UC Riverside Natural Reserve System.  She succeeds biologist John Rotenberry, a former UCR faculty member, who served as director for more than 20 years.

Hammond is only the third director of the reserve system since its creation in the 1950s. Appointed for an initial three-year term, she began her directorship on April 1.

A broad representation of Southern California’s flora, fauna, and major ecosystems is included within the nearly 11,400 hectares (28,000 acres) of the UCR-managed reserves. Considered to be an invaluable outdoor laboratory for teaching and research, these lands, which protect many endangered or diminishing species from urbanization, are used by scientists throughout the world.

“We are one of the oldest running reserve operations within the UC system, and we are highly regarded for our level of organization and consistency,” Hammond said.  “Our reserves are an excellent starting point for the community to learn why some plants and animals need protection.  The reserves constitute a good educational tool and classroom, and are already very attractive to many students — graduate students and undergraduates — doing research on protected habitats.”

Kimberly Hammond

Biologist Kimberly Hammond has been named the director of the UCR Natural Reserve System. Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.

Trained as a physiological ecologist, Hammond is interested, from both a physiological and evolutionary perspective, in how animals and plants deal with variable and harsh environments in their natural habitats. Her work has centered on animals; she has worked on both desert species and animals living at very high altitudes.

In her new position, she plans to increase the reserves’ science outreach to the community. She also will work to increase funding for keeping up the reserves, hosting activities and assisting graduate research.

Hammond said a few lines in a letter sent decades ago by the historian and writer Wallace Stegner to the Wildland Research Center, UC Berkeley, made a deep impression on her, reinforcing her passion and commitment to preserve and protect the environment.  Stegner wrote, “We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”

Since her childhood days, Hammond has sought an opportunity to show people the natural world and have them enjoy it the way she does.

“This is, therefore, a dream job for me,” she said.  “I’ve taken a long circuitous route to get here, but it is something I have always wanted to do.  I am excited to be able to reach out and bring people into the natural world, and raise their awareness and appreciation for it.  You don’t have to understand the reserves from a deep biological perspective to appreciate their beauty.  You can experience these living libraries with just your literary and artistic senses, and still understand why these reserves — largely untouched habitats that show what this part of the world looked like before we inhabited it — and other similar habitats need to be protected.”

Besides impressing upon the public the value of maintaining the reserves, Hammond wants people to appreciate the necessity of keeping the natural world around us healthy and active, and understand the threat to it from both climate change and increasing development.

Hammond received her Ph.D. in biology from Colorado State University in 1989. Thereafter, she did postdoctoral research at UCLA from 1990 to 1995.  She joined UCR in 1995.

UCR administers four major reserves that have research facilities and permanent staff.  These are:

The Phillip L. Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center

Located five miles south of Palm Desert, two hours east of the UCR campus, the 16,873 acre facility is located in the drainage system below the Santa Rosa Mountains. Facilities include a pair of laboratories, housing facilities for 14 researchers, additional remote facilities, teaching areas, and campgrounds for classes. Accommodations for up to 35 are available.

Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center

Located in the Granite Mountains of the eastern Mojave Desert about 80 miles east of Barstow, the 9,000 acre reserve has a variety of environmental and archeological sites. Over 460 species of vascular plants, 2 amphibian, 34 reptile, 138 bird, and 42 mammal species call the area home.

The Motte Rimrock Reserve

A 715-acre reserve located on the western edge of the Perris Valley. Coastal and desert influences intermingle at the site, creating an unusual mix of habitats. Six seasonal springs add to the diversity of the habitat.

The James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve

A 29-acre reserve located 50 miles east of Riverside near Idyllwild — specifically, at the lower end of Hall Canyon on the western flank of Black Mountain. It hosts a wide variety of plant, animal, and insect communities.

Another four minor reserves, including the Box Springs Reserve and the Emerson Oaks Reserve, are also part of the UCR reserve network.

Wilbur Mayhew, a professor emeritus of zoology at UCR, was the first director of the UCR Natural Reserve System.  He was instrumental in helping found the UC Natural Reserve System — a total of 37 reserves encompassing 130,000 acres of protected natural land available for instruction, research, and public outreach.

The UCR Natural Reserve System is part of the UC Natural Reserve System.  Originally called the “Natural Land and Water Resources System,” the system-wide reserves were formally approved by the UC Regents in 1965.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-6050
Twitter: UCR_Sciencenews

Additional Contacts

Kimberly Hammond
Tel: (951) 827-4767

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