Desert-Loving Biologist Calls Zzyzx Home
From Titan Magazine (Fall 2003)
It was an inauspicious beginning in 1979 when
Rob Fulton, a Fullerton graduate student in biology, signed up to
do weekend construction work at the newly acquired Zzyzx facility
that was to become the Desert Studies Center. After first digging
a sewer trench in 105-degree weather, he passed out.
A inveterate desertphile, Fulton came back to Zzyzx
during his graduate years to help construct some of the center’s
buildings. Today he’s the center’s first manager. He
loves the job and relishes having one of the California State University’s
most unusual careers.
Fulton oversees the operations of the facilities,
which can support up to 80 students and faculty members. This includes
operating all the on-site utilities, maintaining library and museum
holdings, organizing the lodging and equipment needs of visitors,
leading tours, teaching classes and working on research projects.
Except for vacations and occasional visits to campus, Fulton lives
year round at the center, where winter temperatures can dip to 8
degrees, and summer temperatures can soar to 120 degrees. Fortunately,
he lives in a comfortable well-insulated house in the middle of
the center, with full air conditioning and heating. His commute
to work is probably the shortest of any CSU faculty or staff members—just
a few steps to the office.
It’s a dream job for Fulton, 48, a confirmed
desert lover. “The environment is beautiful to me. I can enjoy
watching the seasons change. There’s no limit to opportunities
to explore,” he said. “I’m learning more every
year about the finer points of things that are not my primary discipline,
such as earth science, climate, archeology and cultural history.
For years, Fulton said he was “geographically
challenged” for a social life and remained single. That changed
several years ago when he was introduced to Sandra, an X-ray technician
he later married.
For fun, Rob and Sandra occasionally go to Las Vegas
for dinner and a movie. They also enjoy camping and white-water
kayaking in Northern California. But Fulton’s always glad
to come back to Zzyzx, strange as it may seem.
It is said that home is where the heart is. For Rob
Fulton, his heart and his home are in the desert.
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