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October 9, 1996

Dan Doak and Daniel Press appointed to new Pepper-Giberson Chair in Environmental Studies

Dan Doak and Daniel Press, both assistant professors of environmental studies, have been appointed co-chairs of the new Pepper-Giberson Chair in Environmental Studies.

Doak and Press will share the appointment for the next six years. Doak and Press are the first appointees to the chair, which was established just over a year ago by a Los Gatos couple inspired by their son's experience at UCSC. The appointment was announced today (Wednesday, October 9) by Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood.

Both dedicated researchers and teachers, Doak and Press will use some of the funds to hire undergraduate and graduate student researchers to work on conservation issues. Doak's background is in biology, while Press is a political scientist whose work addresses public policy issues; their specialties are complementary, however, and together they help prepare students for work that ranges from laboratory research to legislative advocacy.

"Professor Doak and Professor Press represent a dynamic team in the field of environmental studies, and I am pleased to name them as co-chairs of the Pepper-Giberson Chair," said Greenwood. "This endowment will support their work and enable them to accelerate the pace of their important research. We appreciate the Gibersons' generosity and their commitment to UC Santa Cruz."

Doak (photo), who joined the faculty in 1992, is interested in using quantitative methods to address problems in conservation biology. He specializes in two areas: He conducts field research on the ecology of plants, and he does mathematical modeling that is used to analyze data on rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Doak's research includes work on the ecology of rare plants found only in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, including the Ben Lomond spineflower. Like many rare plant species, the spineflower has been at the center of a pressing land-use debate. Doak has used his models to analyze the biological basis of management decisions for species that include the spotted owl, desert tortoise, grizzly bear, and sea otter.

Press (photo), who also joined the faculty in 1992, specializes in environmental policy and planning issues. He has embarked on an ambitious multi-year project to study local open-space conservation efforts in California. By examining local-government efforts to designate and preserve open space, Press hopes to determine what environmental protection activities local communities are capable of over the long-term. Citizens may come to rely more on county efforts to preserve open space as state and federal support for such programs dwindles, predicts Press, who is eager to identify the factors that affect a county's performance in this area.

Doak and Press, who frequently guest lecture in each other's classes, recently wrote their first co-authored article for a scientific journal, an upcoming piece about local politics and local biology that represents the intersection of their areas of expertise. Because the habitats of some rare species are quite small, they represent parcels that could be purchased locally as open space, say Doak and Press. "Open-space processes have been underutilized for species conservation," says Doak, adding that it's "like using a sledgehammer to crack open peanuts" to use federal or state programs to protect a plant like the Ben Lomond spineflower, which grows on only a few small parcels of land.

Doak and Press will also use some of the funds from the endowment to bring in guest speakers, visiting professors, and in-residence scholars, and to offer courses that might not otherwise be available.

The endowment was created by a $250,000 gift from Alan G. Giberson and Margaret S. Lyons Giberson of Los Gatos. It was their son Erik's experience as a UCSC undergraduate in environmental studies that moved the Gibersons to make the gift. The endowed chair honors Professor Emeritus James Pepper, whose teaching inspired Erik Giberson.

"We're delighted," said Margaret Giberson. "The appointments embody what we were thinking of when we endowed the chair. Daniel Press and Dan Doak promote the kind of teaching and the kinds of skills that will make a difference in California and, with any luck, in the whole country. Education is a key component in solving environmental problems."

Environmental studies is one of the most popular majors at UCSC, which in 1994 became the first UC campus to offer a doctoral program in the discipline.

--Jennifer McNulty