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UC Irvine set to get new field research center

The historic Desert Club will be used by astronomers, anthropologists and others.

By Brandon RussellPublished: May 17, 2011 02:06 PM

The historic Desert Club at the edge of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is set to become a UC Irvine field research center, thanks to a gift from Audrey Steele Burnand.

The center, which will be renamed the Steele Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, will be run by the local institution, and will be used by biologists, astronomers, anthropologists and others. It is expected to be integrated into the University of California’s 135,000-acre Natural Reserve System.

"It feels great. This building is perfect; it will be our home base for research of all kinds," said biologist Diane Pataki, director of UCI's Center for Environmental Biology.

Six schools at UCI have already reached out to conduct on-site studies, such as shifting rainfall due to climate change, the impact on native plant species of over-pumping underground aquifers and how recreational use affects natural landscapes.

"We're so lucky to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to get this property," said Pataki.

The building, which was built in the 1940s as part of a planned social community, will include dorm rooms for up to 24 graduate students and longer-term housing for professors conducting in-depth research.

Burnand's gift will fund the purchase, expansion and operation of the property.

"Audrey Steele Burnand's gift enriches the interdisciplinary research opportunities for our faculty and students, and we're very grateful to her," said UCI Chancellor Michael Drake. "This kind of generous support is essential to continuing research and academic excellence."

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