Science + Technology

UCLA and partners establish the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science

Southern California is 'ground zero' for conservation in the 21st century

UCLA has established the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science with a significant endowment from UCLA alumnus and philanthropist Morton La Kretz. The center's focus is to preserve California's biodiversity and ecosystems through research, education and public programs in partnership with the National Park Service, California State Parks and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The center will emphasize conservation science issues affecting the Santa Monica Mountains and the adjacent region, including the Los Angeles River Basin and Malibu.
"The La Kretz Center will offer an innovative approach to pressing conservation issues," said Victoria Sork, dean of the UCLA Division of Life Sciences. "We believe that it will serve as a model of cooperation among university researchers, government agencies, policymakers and the public that can be applied to many cities worldwide in environmentally sensitive regions."
To help solve pressing conservation problems in California, the center will:
  • Conduct research in critical areas, including conservation science, ecology, geography, atmospheric sciences, urban planning and environmental law.
  • Support environmental management and the conservation of California's unique biodiversity.
  • Provide a training ground for UCLA students to tackle a broad range of conservation issues.
  • Allow UCLA scientists and state and national partners to leverage and benefit from one another's work.
  • Offer a centrally located venue for public workshops, lectures and conferences.
  • Create a culture of conservation in Southern California for future generations.
Unique partnership
"The Santa Monica Mountains and Southern California are 'ground zero' for conservation in the 21st century," said Glen MacDonald, director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and interim director of the La Kretz Center. "Slightly more than 50 percent of the world's population live in cities today; by 2050, that figure will rise to 70 percent. We owe it to those future generations to apply our best scientific abilities to preserving and improving all aspects of the urban environment, from air quality and ecological functioning to water and wildlife conservation. We have the resources at the UCLA La Kretz Center to make a real difference."
Adds Woody Smeck, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area superintendent: "The La Kretz Center offers an unprecedented opportunity for National Park Service scientists to work alongside leading UCLA researchers. This will allow us to gain new insights into the best scientific land management practices for conserving this region's delicate natural resources."
Santa Monica Mountains location
The partnership with state and federal agencies will be particularly close because the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science is expected to be located in a new multi-agency building that will also house the National Park Service and California State Parks — most likely in Malibu Creek State Park. Before the new facility is constructed, the center's director and staff will be housed in the National Park Service's headquarters in Thousand Oaks. Public events will be held at the King Gillette Ranch facilities managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The center will be managed by UCLA's Institute of the Environment in collaboration with UCLA's Stunt Ranch Reserve and in close partnership with the National Park Service, California State Parks and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
"The Santa Monica Mountains provide extensive pristine landscapes of chaparral shrub lands, oak and riparian woodlands, and coastal sage scrub that exemplify California's biodiversity," said Stunt Ranch Reserve director Philip Rundel, a UCLA distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment. "Because the La Kretz Center will be located in this environment, it will be ideal for on-site research, the sharing of information and outreach to the community. We even anticipate bringing high school students to the center during the summer months to learn about the environment and conservation issues."
Shared vision
"We are extremely grateful to Morton La Kretz for his generosity and visionary philanthropy," Sork said. "He shares our vision of preserving and enhancing the environment in Los Angeles. His $5 million gift to create the La Kretz Center will be a great asset to Los Angeles, Southern California and beyond."
In 2005, UCLA opened La Kretz Hall, the university's first building to be certified "green," meeting stringent environmental guidelines. The three-story building is home to a 400-plus-seat lecture hall, innovative classrooms and offices for the Institute of the Environment.
Students and researchers who are interested in the La Kretz Center may visit the center's website at or call the UCLA Institute of the Environment at 310-825-5008.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 323 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Five alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
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