CSUF News and Information
News Front
Browse by Topic
University News
Awards & Honors
CSUF in the News
In the Community
Titan Sports
Calendars & Events
Faculty Experts Guide
News Photos
News Contacts
Press Kit
Faculty / Staff Directory
Image Library
Get News by E-mail
Contact Info


In the Community

New Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Manager Grew Up Watching Birds at the Facility


July 31, 2003 :: No. 12

Birkin Newell
Birkin Newell

click to Download image

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 damage.

“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 Department.

“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 Pablo Casals.

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 Award.

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.


Media Contacts:  

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 kjayaweera@fullerton.edu

Dave Reid, Public Affairs, at 657-278-4855 or dreid@fullerton.edu





Go View News by Date


Browse 2003
Browse 2002
Go top

Produced by the Office of Public Affairs at California State University, Fullerton. Contact the web administrator for comments and problems with the website.
California State University, Fullerton 2003. All Rights Reserved.