Letter from the Director

UCMP’s in a new ORU

by David R. Lindberg
Dave Lindberg; photo by Colleen Whitney
UCMP is pleased to be part of a new Organized Research Unit (ORU) on campus—the Center for the Study of California Environments and Biological Diversity1. When one thinks about environmental and biological diversity issues, the typical image is one of diminishing rainforests or polluted habitats, not fossil plants or the snails and dinosaurs that ate them. So why is UCMP involved with such a unit? The answer is relatively simple: environments and the diversity they contain have history, and within this new ORU—paleontologists, ecologists, anthropologists, geologists and systematists are brought together to take the deep view of California’s environments and organisms. Historically, many of these areas of research have been compartmentalized both within academics and in society in general, leaving the “big picture” difficult to comprehend. That is why the Center was founded and why we are so excited about being part of this new and innovative approach to linking past, present and future California biodiversity.
The ORU will include all of the Berkeley Natural History Museums and the Berkeley Natural History Field Stations. Thus, the biogeographical and temporal history documented in our unequaled museum collections, combined with
insights about ongoing ecological and ecosystem processes derived from contemporary field research at the field stations, will produce the synergistic understanding crucial for biological diversity conservation in California. We look forward to keeping you updated on the activities of the new ORU and UCMP’s role in it.
Lastly, I want to welcome Dr. Craig Moritz, Professor of Integrative Biology, and the new Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Dr. Moritz, formerly at the University of Queensland in Australia, is world renowned for his work in conservation biology and phylogeography. His study organisms are mostly amphibians and other vertebrates—but he also has looked at a snail or two. Moreover, his research programs often include a paleo-perspective of the landscape and the changing mosaic of its associated biodiversity. The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology has a new Director and UCMP a likely new curator.
1 ORUs are multidisciplinary groups that draw together researchers from many different disciplines and approaches to examine complex questions and issues through their research, graduate training, and outreach programs—sort of a think tank.

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January, 2001