Wilber (Bill) Mayhew 1920-2014

In September we lost the last of the co-founders for the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS), Wilbur (Bill) W. Mayhew.  Professor Mayhew, along with Mildred Mathias and Kenneth Norris, possessed the incredible foresight and enthusiasm necessary to convince the UC Regents to form the Natural Land and Water Reserve System (as the NRS was then known) in 1965.  These professors were true visionaries and leaders in the protection of California’s unique ecosystems.  In the face of high real estate values and the burgeoning urbanization of natural areas, they actively pursued acquisition of important natural areas throughout the state for the sole purpose of preserving lands for teaching and research.  Today the NRS has 39 reserves and encompasses over 750,000 acres of unique habitat.  In particular, Bill Mayhew was responsible for acquiring 16 reserves, served as faculty  manager for Boyd Deep Canyon for over 25 years, and was the Campus Director for all UC Riverside NRS reserves (including the GMDRC) for 36 years.  

Bill Mayhew was also a founding faculty member at UC Riverside in the Department of Zoology.  Over the course of his career he touched the lives of literally thousands of students, brought nature to their finger tips, and instilled a sense of appreciation for the natural world.  In fact, he started bringing his Terrestrial Vertebrates class to the Granite Mountains as early as the 1950’s, and this class is considered the longest standing class to use this reserve (it has since been taught by Marlene Zuk, John Rotenberry, and now Christopher Clark).  Mayhew was apparently a stalwart field biologist, full of natural history facts and life-changing opportunities for young minds.  He was also known for his uncanny, yet noteworthy, sayings while in the field, familiarly called “Mayhewisms”.  A few of our favorites are below.

Along with Bob and Ken Norris, he played a significant role in the development of the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center in 1978, for which we will always be grateful. Bill Mayhew will always hold a very special place in the heart of the NRS.

An oral history interview is available online.  Obituaries for Wilbur Mayhew can be found here: UCR TodayUCNRS

Just a few (of hundreds!) Mayhewisms:

“Noose ’em and goose ’em!”  (refers to catching lizards and taking rectal temperatures)
“Here I am dingledorkin’ around.”
“We’re beatin’ the hell out of nature, but remember that nature bats last.”
“Optimists believe that we’re living in the best possible world.  Pessimists fear this is so.”
“We’re off like a herd of turtles!”
“Big as life and twice as natural.”
“Nothin’s stoppin’ you but fear and good sense.”
“Some of us have it, some have to send off for it.”
“Excuse me while I do some osmo-regulating.”
“Be prepared to have your teeth sharpened!”  (in reference to blowing sand)
“I have a hitch in my get-along.”
“That’il larn ya, darn ya!”
“Ain’t Nature wunnerful”
“That’s a catastrostrope!”  (calamity)
“Crazy as a coot.”
“How are you?  I’m finer than frog hair.”
“I told him how the rabbit ate the carrot!”  (told him off)
“You are just in time to be too late.”
“I have never before seen so many things I can do without.”

A tribute to Marilyn Sweeney

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Marilyn Sweeney on May 10th, 2013.  Marilyn was a generous philanthropist, mainly supporting activities and ventures involving music and the fine arts.  She was known for her contagious smile and genuine nature and will be remembered fondly for her generosity and spirit.

In honor of a major donation made by Jack and Marilyn Sweeney in 1994, the Granite Mountains Reserve was renamed the Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center.  The endowment entrusted to the Center in their name has provided a means to cover some of the core operating costs for the reserve, as the UC-provided operating budget has always failed to meet the needs of even fundamental costs such as maintaining photovoltaic systems and providing propane to heat the facilities.  Without the generosity of these two individuals the reserve would be sorely lacking in the most basic of services.

Dr. Robert M. Norris, 1921-2012

Nephew Dick Norris serving birthday cake to Bob Norris at his 90th birthday celebration at the Granite Mountains.

It is with regret that we share such sad news, Dr. Robert M. Norris passed away on August 31st, 2012.  He died peacefully while surrounded by his family at his home in Santa Barbara, CA.  Bob was 91 years old when he died, he was still very lucid and fairly active for his age.  He lived a long and rich life, touching the lives of many as a teacher, mentor, father, and grandfather.

The UC Natural Reserve System, and in particular the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, are forever indebted to his stalwart efforts in establishing the reserve system.  He was one of several insightful individuals back in the 1960’s that recognized the value in setting aside land and facilities for the purpose of research and teaching.  He was a geology professor for over 50 years at UC Santa Barbara, however his depth of knowledge across many disciplines made him a true naturalist.

Bob Norris at the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center 25th Anniversary celebration.

In particular, he was keenly interested in the desert landscape and his love for the Granite Mountains was unparalleled. This was to the benefit of many, as he was so influential in the establishment of this reserve which now hosts over 170 active research projects and hundreds of students annually.  In 2003, at the 25th Anniversary celebration for the Center, we dedicated the Robert M. Norris Interpretive Trail in honor of his enthusiastic support for the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center.  He was one of the “founding fathers” of this reserve, and he will missed.

A celebration of Bob’s life for his many friends, colleagues and students is planned for early 2013. For more details, please visit: www.bobnorris.org




Santa Barbara Independent obituary: http://www.independent.com/obits/2012/sep/11/dr-robert-norris/

LA Times obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/LATimes/obituary.aspx?n=Robert-Norris&pid=159850284

Assistant director on Car Talk

Upon returning to the Center after a trip to Baja in January 2005, Assistant Directors Megan and Jan discovered that heavy rains had caused extensive flooding throughout portions of Granite Cove, including the parking area near their house resulting in their Toyota Corolla being buried in sand. 

After many hours of washing silt, sand, rocks, and branches out of the interior and engine, the car still wouldn’t start. Interestingly, when Jan attempted to start the car he noticed air being sucked into the muffler and being blown out of the air intake in the engine – seemingly the engine was running backwards! It took a call to Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Hosts of Car Talk from National Public Radio to solve the mystery. Their prognosis: The timing belt had shifted 180 degrees, causing the exhaust valves to open when the intake valves should be opening and vice versa. Two hours later Jan had the timing belt replaced and the car running. Jan and Megan are still using the car and have driven it over 30,000 miles since the flood.