White Mountain Research Center welcomed a new director this spring. Glen MacDonald is a UC Los Angeles Distinguished Professor, holds the John Muir Memorial Chair in Geography, is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
MacDonald takes over for Antony Orme, UC Los Angeles Geography Professor Emeritus. Professor Orme guided the center through its administrative transition from UC San Diego to UC Los Angeles under the aegis of the UC Natural Reserve System.
An old eastern Sierra hand
MacDonald is a big fan of the eastern Sierra region. “I have worked on lake sediment records of past climate and environmental change at sites from the Sonora Pass to the slopes above Bishop. My lab team and collaborators and I have also worked on tree ring records from Sonora Pass,” he says. MacDonald’s research group is now starting a project on wet meadows and wetlands on both the east and west slopes of the Sierra. He’s also a part-time resident of Mammoth Lakes, using his place as a base to ski in winter and hike and fish in summer.
Aside from his love for and scientific interest in the eastern Sierra, Owens Valley and White Mountains, MacDonald has a personal commitment to the UC Natural Reserve System. As a UC Berkeley student, he conducted research studies at Sagehen Creek Field Station near Truckee. “That was a wonderful and transformative experience. It deepened my love for the Sierra and helped mold me into a scientist,” MacDonald says. “I would like to make sure UC can continue to offer students today the same transformative experience I had.”
Plans and community partners
When asked what the biggest challenges facing WMRC are today, MacDonald replied, “As with all things in the state, the government seems to be declining in its will and capacity to support important institutions such as the UC and its NRS field stations. The need and importance of the WMRC and the NRS is clearly there. So we need to work hard to maintain state funding, but also generate new avenues of support.”
MacDonald plans to continue the work of former Director Antony Orme to improve the center’s facilities. He intends to offer a first-class experience for education and research at WMRC. At the same time, he wants to partner with other groups such as Inyo National Forest and the National Park Service, as well as local and tribal governments in the Owens Valley.
He wants the center to benefit education and research opportunities for the people and environments of the Owens Valley, the eastern Sierra, and beyond. “ We have a wonderful opportunity not only to do important alpine research, but also to devise new models of research and education in one of the world’s most interesting and special environments." He hopes WMRC can help bring University of California expertise to help solve problems and promote education.
MacDonald welcomes ideas on how to expand the research and educational enterprises of the WMRC into new areas. “The WMRC is a very special facility in a very special region. Directing the WMRC is one of the most exciting opportunities I have had in my career.”