Norris Center leads the way for natural history

April 22, 2015


The dedication of the new Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History will be held from 2-4pm on April 25, 2015 in and near Natural Sciences 2 Rm 221 and 339.  The event will also honor the 50th anniversary of the University of California Natural Reserves System that Ken Norris helped to found. The dedication event will feature many displays in the newly remodeled Norris Center and an opportunity to socialize with natural history faculty, staff, and alumni. A brief program will begin at 3 pm honoring the legacy of Ken Norris and outlining the future of the Norris Center.

The strong tradition of natural history education and research at UC Santa Cruz is due in no small part to the late Ken Norris, an acclaimed marine mammal researcher and longtime professor of natural history. Norris’s impact in the University of California and beyond was enormous, including his role in the creation of the UC Natural Reserve System and in helping write the national Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. 

The Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History was established with an endowment from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2014 to honor Norris’s legacy and expand on UC Santa Cruz’s deep commitment to natural history training. We are creating a dynamic teaching and learning space on campus to facilitate the type of peer-to-peer mentoring that Norris promoted, and we are providing opportunities for students, faculty, alumni, and community members to come together and learn about the biodiversity of California.

The Norris Center aims to educate new and diverse generations of environmentally conscious scientists, citizens, and policy makers through efforts in four key areas.

Expanding Natural History Training: increasing the number of natural history courses and the availability of scholarships to enable a diversity of students to participate and expanding offerings for first- and second-year students.

Engaging the Broader Community: working with regional institutions to develop lectures and outings, exhibits, social media, and K-12 curricular materials.

Curating Strategic Collections: in particular, curating the unique, 70,000+ insect collection compiled by renowned local naturalist Randy Morgan, who over a decade-long period recorded plant-pollinator interactions in Santa Cruz County.

Training the Trainers: developing materials and courses to train the people who teach natural history courses at UC Santa Cruz and at other institutions.

One immediate goal, which integrates across a few of our focal areas, is to raise funds for the Norris Center Graduate Fellows Program. Fellows will help to strengthen the natural history learning network by mentoring undergraduate students and community volunteers working on natural history and museum collections curation; and helping to coordinate undergraduate projects with ongoing natural history research on campus. In other words the graduate students will help to provide a hub for undergraduate student natural history studies that exemplifies the hands-on, peer-to-peer learning model that Ken espoused.

To learn more about the work of the Norris Center, participate, or donate see: