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Tucker Sanctuary to Open with New Leadership
by Dave Reid


from Dateline (August 28, 2003)

David Hess and Ernie Asa
Physical Plant personnel David Hess, foreground in photo at left, and Ernie Asa put the finishing touches on a new concrete walkway at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary as new on-site manager Birkin Newell looks on. In photo below, Newell holds Henry, a 60-year-old desert tortoise that he walks daily to give the tortoise exercise and exposure to light. Now housed inside the museum at Tucker, Henry will eventually have his own outside enclosure.
Birkin Newell

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, the 12-acre nature preserve operated by Cal State Fullerton in rustic Modjeska Canyon, is undergoing both a renaissance in management and a restoration of facilities.

Karon Cornell, who has served as director of community relations for six years, was recently named Tucker director, and Birkin Newell, a naturalist and teacher who watched hummingbirds with his father at the sanctuary while growing up
in the area, is the newly appointed on-site manager.

The facility, which closed last fall because of personnel changes and weather-related problems, reopens Sept. 1.

Physical Plant staff members, under the direction of Willem van der Pol, are involved in restoration work before reopening. Railings are being installed around ponds; bridges are being repaired; signage has been enhanced; and new concrete walkways are in place.

“We delayed plans for reopening until we found the right persons to manage the facility,” said Kolf O. Jayaweera, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, which oversees the sanctuary. “In Karon we have a person with a solid background in community relations. In Birkin, we have a teacher and biologist, who has worked extensively in nature education with schoolchildren.”

Cornell, a Fullerton alumna (B.A. English ’74, M.S. educational administration ’81), is a past chair of the President’s Associates, and formerly served as director of public affairs for Pacific Bell.

Newell lived near Tucker from age five until he left to attend UC Santa Barbara, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology. He is the son of longtime canyon residents Bruce and Beth Newell.

“I grew up hiking and biking in Modjeska Canyon and spending hours watching birds at the sanctuary,” said Newell, who holds certificates in CPR and first aid, as well as certifications from the U.S. Forest Service in chainsaw operation and tree climbing.

“I’m excited to be back and have the opportunity to introduce schoolchildren and other visitors to the wonders of nature at Tucker,” he said.

Newell previously was a teacher and naturalist for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and worked as a restoration ecologist for UC Santa Barbara.

Cal State Fullerton has operated Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary as an educational facility for more than 30 years. Visitors from around the world have come to Tucker to see the wide variety of birds and animals that inhabit the preserve, and biology students have long utilized the facility for 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 Fuller- ton Foundation in 1968. Since then, approximately 40,000 people have visited each year.

The university plans to establish an advisory board and a faculty advisory council in connection with 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.

“Together as leaders, Cornell and Newell will work to fully realize the great potential of this facility for the benefit of the community and the university.”

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