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Lake Tunedae

Lake Tunedae is the home of the endangered Mojave Tui Chub as well as its resident mud hens. It is visited by numerous species of birds during the fall and spring migration periods. Below, Soda Dry Lake stretches its flat, white blanket of crusty minerals to the Old Dad Mountains in the distance.

The Desert Studies Center is as colorful as its notorious history and Zzyzx’s first developer. (See story on page 21.) Yet today, it is dedicated to serious science and community service.

Established in 1976 under a cooperative management agreement with the Department of the Interior, it is operated for the California State University by the California Desert Studies Consortium, an organization of seven CSU campuses: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Pomona and San Bernardino. Facilities are available to educational institutions, government agencies and public or private groups. Cal State Fullerton faculty members have been directing or coordinating studies at the center almost from the beginning.

The resort began its shift to becoming a scientific resource in 1974, when the notorious Curtis Howe Springer era ended and Cal State San Bernardino biologist Dalton Harrington first proposed the concept of a Desert Studies Center on the site. Through the efforts of Harrington and James Crum, dean of the university’s School of Natural Sciences, negotiations were begun with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the vacated buildings and surrounding land. In 1976, the BLM signed a cooperative management agreement with the consortium to manage 1,280 acres.

Cal State Fullerton faculty members and graduate students were instrumental in bringing the dream of the center to fruition. Lon McClanahan, emeritus professor of biological science, was an early director. William Presch, professor of biological science and an expert in desert reptiles, has directed the center since 1991. Last spring, Interior Secretary Gail Norton appointed Presch to the BLM’s Desert District Advisory Council as a public-at-large representative.

Rob Fulton, who participated in work parties to refurbish the facility while a graduate student, is the center’s only resident manager and has lived there for 17 years. Fullerton students are the facility’s heaviest users and typically travel to the site for course study in ecology, ecophysiology, biology, geography, geology and science education.

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Soda Dry Lake
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