New Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary
Manager Grew Up Watching Birds at the Facility
July 31, 2003 :: No. 12
Birkin Newell, an educator, naturalist and
restoration ecologist, who first discovered his love of nature as
a child while spending hours watching birds with his father from
the observation porch of the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska
Canyon, is the new on-site manager of the popular facility operated
by Cal State Fullerton.
Newell is hosting a meeting tonight with community
groups to address plans for improvements to be made at the 12-acre
facility, which will reopen to the public Sept. 1. It has been closed
since last fall because of personnel changes and weather-related
“We delayed plans for reopening until we found the right person
to manage the facility on a day-to-day basis,” said Kolf O.
Jayaweera, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,
which oversees the sanctuary. “In Birkin, we have a teacher
and biologist who has worked extensively in nature education with
schoolchildren and who grew up in the area.”
Newell, 31, who lived in the Tucker neighborhood
from age five until he left to attend UC Santa Barbara, where he
earned a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology, is the son
of Bruce and Beth Newell, longtime Modjeska Canyon residents. Bruce
Newell is the veteran chief of the Modjeska Canyon Volunteer Fire
“I grew up hiking and biking in Modjeska
Canyon and spending hours watching birds at the sanctuary,”
said Newell. “I’m excited to be back and have the opportunity
to introduce schoolchildren and other visitors to the wonders of
nature on display in the sanctuary. We plan to create a healthy
looking ecosystem for the public to see.”
In the future, visitors to this sylvan setting may
hear more than the sounds of hummingbirds from Tucker’s bird
observation porch. Newell, a classical cellist who has studied music
since the third grade, soon may be playing a Bach suite or two on
the porch adjacent to the small residence where he will live. His
musical inspirations are considered two of the best: Yo-Yo Ma and
In addition to his musical skills, Newell holds certificates
in CPR and emergency first aid, as well as a substitute teaching
credential. He also holds certifications from the U.S. Forest Service
in chain saw operation and tree climbing.
For several years, Newell has been a teacher and
naturalist with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where
he served as a nature guide for large groups of visiting students
at the Coal Oil Point Reserve, teaching students about concepts
in coastal ecology, endangered species management and habitat restoration.
He also taught at various museum science day camps, involving ecology,
anthropology, geology and chemistry. His experience also includes
stints working as a restoration ecologist for UC Santa Barbara and
for a landscape firm in Santa Barbara.
“Birkin is an outstanding choice for
sanctuary manager,” said Bill Dickerson, executive director
of the CSUF Foundation and a member of the search committee. “He
combines a solid academic background with substantial experience
working in the field of outdoor education.”
Under Newell’s guidance, railings are being
installed around ponds, bridges are being repaired, and signage
is being enhanced, in preparation for the facility’s reopening.
The Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary has been operated by
the university as an educational facility for more than 30 years.
Thousands of Orange County schoolchildren have gained their first
appreciation for nature in a field trip to the sanctuary. Visitors
from around the world have come to Tucker to see the wide variety
of birds and animals that inhabit the preserve, located 25 miles
southeast of the Fullerton campus, adjacent to the 400-square-mile
Cleveland National Forest.
Graduate and undergraduate biology students have
long utilized the facility for student research projects in collaboration
with faculty mentors.
The preserve was donated to the San Fernando Valley
Audubon Society in 1939 by original residents, Ben and Dorothy Tucker.
The society gave the facility to the Cal State Fullerton Foundation
in 1968. Since then, approximately 40,000 have visited each year.
Ben and Dorothy Tucker were “incredible bird
lovers,” noted Newell. Legend has it that Dorothy Tucker devised
early hummingbird feeders using shot glasses topped by wooden lids
with holes drilled in them.
Over the years, the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary has
received many awards for community service. In September 2002, the
sanctuary was honored with a Disneyland Resort Community Service
In addition to Newell, who will manage the facility
and supervise volunteers and students, a part-time director is being
recruited to provide oversight from the university’s College
of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Newell succeeds Ray Munson,
who retired in 2001 after serving at Tucker since 1971. Interim
caretakers have tended to the facility since his departure. Newell
will move into the on-site residence Aug. 1.
The university plans to establish an advisory board
to include representatives from the Audubon Society, a local nature
preserve, the community and the faculty. In addition, a faculty
advisory council will be formed with representatives from academic
disciplines appropriate to the sanctuary.
“We’re committed to enhancing our
stewardship of Tucker and to working in partnership with the community
to preserve this natural treasure for the education and enjoyment
of the region for many years to come,” said Jayaweera.
Tonight’s community forum is scheduled for
8 p.m. in the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Museum, end of Modjeska
Canyon Road in Modjeska Canyon.
Birkin Newell, Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary,
at (714) 649-2760
Kolf O. Jayaweera, dean of the College of Natural Sciences
and Mathematics, at 657-278-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Reid, Public Affairs, at 657-278-4855 or email@example.com