Wong: Environmental Legacy


Peggy L. Fiedler, Susan G. Rumsey, Kathleen M. Wong (NASW member), eds.
University of California Press, February 2013, $39.95
ISBN: 9780520272002

Contact info:

Kathleen Wong

Wong writes:

In 1948, Ken Norris, then a UCLA grad student, set out to study desert iguanas in the sand dunes outside Palm Springs. After spending weeks getting to know the heat-tolerant community of reptiles, he returned one day to discover the site had been bulldozed to build a motel.

Instead of simply finding a new place to work, Norris set out to ensure that others would not suffer the same fate. Along with other conservation-minded University of California faculty, Norris devised a way to save representative examples of many of the California’s major ecosystems for research and teaching.

In 1965, they founded the University of California Natural Reserve System (NRS) with seven modest natural sites. Today, the NRS is the world’s largest university-administered reserve system, consisting of more than 750,000 wildland acres, with 38 reserves. Its library of ecosystems includes deserts and wetlands, marine shorelines and vernal pools, oak savannas and alpine forests.

This book tells the story of the NRS and its mandate to provide outdoor classrooms, protect research sites, and conserve ecosystems for the people of California.

Newly hired as the science writer for the NRS, I was handed the book to edit after the contract was finalized. Much of my job involved winnowing information from reports, brochures, articles, and other documents, and smoothing them into a manuscript with a single voice. I also reorganized the book from its original structure.

The biggest hurdle I faced was having the book deadline rolled back from its original publication date. Instead of having a year and a half to put together a final draft, I had six months. It was also strange writing about the natural history of dozens of places I had never visited. In the end, I feel the book offers an entertaining and thorough description of the NRS, a network of field stations and protected natural areas that remains unparalleled anywhere in the world.


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July 3, 2013

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