At over 14,000 feet high, the White Mountains form a natural barrier between eastern California and Nevada. Less than 20 miles to the west, across the Owens Valley, loom the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Directly to the east, the sagebrush flats of the Basin and Range province stretch to the horizon.
White Mountain Research Center opens this remote region to university-level research, teaching, and public service. The Center consists of four research stations located along a 10,000-foot elevational gradient. Owens Valley Station, located in the town of Bishop, lies within the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada to the west and the Basin and Range biogeographical province to the east. Surrounded by semiarid scrubland and riparian woodland, it provides a base for year-round research in the region. Roughly 6,000 feet higher and 1.5 hours of driving time away are the log walls of Crooked Creek Station, sited amidst montane woodland and sagebrush hills. Nearby grow two groves of bristlecone pine that include the oldest trees in the world. Higher still are Barcroft Station, surrounded by alpine fellfields and sporadic permafrost above the tree line, and Summit Station, subject to extreme solar radiation and fierce winds.
White Mountain Research Center has been a magnet for scientists for over 60 years. Located in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada, the White Mountain range experiences extremely dry air. Combined with high elevations, this provides excellent conditions for atmospheric measurements and astronomical observations. A wealth of earthquake faults, unusual rock structures, and young mountains are located within easy driving distance for earth scientists. High-elevation research facilities enable physiologists to study the effects of low oxygen on physiology as well as the impacts of climate change on alpine ecology.
- High-altitude physiology, including hypoxia, genetic and physiological adaptations to low-oxygen conditions, and acute mountain sickness.
- Formation of structure in the early universe via studies of the cosmic microwave background.
- Climate change ecology.
- Effects of groundwater pumping on vegetation dieoff, soil loss, dust levels, and air quality in the arid environments of the West.
- Measurements of natural, background levels of ozone and other aerosols.
- Population dynamics and conservation ecology of bighorn sheep, including the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn and the desert bighorn.
Special Research of National Significance
GLORIA (Global Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) study of climate change effects on alpine regions above timberline, including vegetation surveys, insect population studies, and shifts in permafrost processes, conducted at over 100 mountaintop sites worldwide.