Field scientists and students who rough it in UC Irvine’s Steele/Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center in eastern San Diego County will soon be settling into a new laboratory, apartment building and dormitory thanks to $2.8 million in Proposition 84 funds awarded by the California Wildlife Conservation Board.
The lab, four-unit apartment complex and dorm with room for 24 students will support research by biologists, astronomers, anthropologists and others in the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s stark landscape of dry washes, palm groves and cacti.
Areas of investigation include finding ways of helping the local community of Borrego Springs deal with environmental changes prompted by an ongoing drought. For instance, the region has seen an explosion of nonnative plants that are threatening annual blooms of wildflowers visited by thousands of tourists each year.
“Our goal is to take advantage of Borrego Springs as a living laboratory,” Travis Huxman, faculty director of the center, said in an interview, “and fold individual environmental topics such as sustainable water supplies and invasive species into a comprehensive understanding of the landscape.”
The funds match $2.8 million from UC Irvine used for earlier improvements: seismic upgrading, a new roof and enhanced water and sewer systems.
The 78-acre center, which is home to the unusual elephant tree, is a joint endeavor of UC Irvine, the UC Natural Reserve System, California State Parks and the Anza-Borrego Foundation.