Desert Studies Center Personnel
Administrative Office at CSU Fullerton
California State University, Fullerton is the host CSU campus for the California Desert Studies Consortium. The main function of the consortium is to promote education and research that focuses on the California deserts, and to manage the Soda Springs Desert Studies Center for this purpose. The Desert Studies Center is located at Zzyzx, CA within the Mojave National Preserve.
Dr. Darren Sandquist, Director California Desert Studies Consortium
Darren took the reins from long-time director Bill Presch in August 2016. Darren is a full professor in the Department of Biological Science at California State University, Fullerton. He has studies desert plant ecology since his graduate school days at the University of Utah and published numerous articles about desert plants and ecosystems. His recent research examines the ecohydrology of desert alluvial fans and the impacts of linear disturbances (e.g., roads) on community and ecosystem properties. Darren teaches Plant Ecophysiology, Desert Ecology, Principles of Ecology and Physiology, and GeoBio Field Experiences. He is excited to be the CDSC Director and looks forward to developing new education and research programs that utilize the unique resources offered at the Desert Studies Center.
Norma Charest, Administrative Support Coordinator
Norma Charest is the Administrative Support Coordinator for the Desert Studies office on the campus at California State University, Fullerton. She graduated from Westbrook Junior College, now the University of New England, in Portland, Maine. Norma has been with the CDSC since 1992 and handles record and bookkeeping, paying the bills, coordinating Consortium business, acting as recorder at Board meetings, handling reservations at the DSC, and arrangements for food service and special requests. When not holding down the office, she enjoys road trips, Jazzercise, knitting, spending time with her grandchildren at home and at Disneyland, and supporting NAMI.
Mail: California Desert Studies Consortium, c/o Dept. of Biological Science, CSU Fullerton, P.O. Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850
Desert Studies Center Staff
Rob Fulton, Manager
Rob began his tenure at the DSC in 1979, while in graduate school, as a student laborer, working with other students and university skilled trades staff on the renovation and improvement of the newly acquired facilities at the Center. After a few years of teaching various courses at Cypress, Cerritos and Santa Ana colleges, Rob took the job as the DSC’s first Site Manager in 1986. Rob holds a B.S. in Biology from UC Irvine (emphasis in ecology/evolutionary biology), and a M.A. in Biology from CSU, Fullerton (thesis research in pollination ecology). As the DSC’s resident lead administrator, Rob is responsible for overseeing and participating in all aspects of facility operations, health/safety and guest services, regulatory compliance, record keeping, and managing relationships with contractors and outside entities/agencies, and other duties related to the programmatic mission of the Consortium. Although formally educated as a biologist/ecologist, Rob’s knowledge of the Mojave Desert extends to aspects of the area’s geology, geomorphology, archaeology and history, as well as ecological relationships and processes across several scales. This knowledge base has been derived from his “informal” education, working over many years with the educators and researchers who use the DSC as a base for their work across many disciplines. Rob also teaches courses for UC Riverside Extension, based at the DSC, and provides lectures and presentations to groups visiting the Center, and off-site for community organizations, clubs, museums and historical societies. Since 1999, Rob has been a collaborator on a long-term research project with the USGS on aeolian processes in the Mojave, primarily in analyzing the effects of vegetation dynamics on sediment availability and deposition. Outside interests include backpacking, kayaking, fishing, photography, music, and working on his bucket list of places to visit around the world.
Jason Wallace, Site Steward
Jason has been the DSC’s Site Steward since 2007. He has a diverse back ground in both education and research. Before starting his current position he served as a part time faculty member at California State University, Fullerton and Orange Coast College, teaching a wide variety of classes in biology, zoology and ecology. He was also a zookeeper for seven years, caring for a wide variety of Central and South American animals, most of them primates. Jason holds both a B.S. and M.S. degree in Biological Science from California State University, Fullerton. His M.S. degree was earned studying the population dynamics of desert reptiles in the East Mojave, Soda Springs area. As Site Steward, Jason is responsible for overseeing and participating in all aspects of facility operations and guest services. This includes providing an orientation to visitor groups in the care and use of the facilities, and offering information and consultation to visiting researchers, faculty, contractors, and government officials. Jason is also responsible for operating and maintaining the self-contained power and water infrastructure of the facility, maintaining scientific collections, and offering lectures and presentations to groups visiting the Center, and other duties related to the programmatic mission of the Consortium. His research interests are herpetology, vertebrate biology and desert ecology. His research experience includes work on a variety of plants and animals including Mojave fringe-toed lizards, Desert Tortoise, Mohave Tui Chub, Green Sea Turtles, Golden-mantled ground squirrels, and Desert Willow. He has collaborated on projects with various agencies including NPS, BLM, NASA, USFWS, USGS, and CDFW. Jason’s diverse background and research experience has given him an extensive understanding of desert organisms and desert ecology. In 2008 he resurrected his M.S. research project on desert reptiles which is now an on going long term study. In his spare time he enjoys music, camping, working on his house, chasing lizards and spending quality time with his wife and two dogs.
Brock Pennington, Maintenance Mechanic
Brock joined the staff of the DSC in 2011. As Maintenance Mechanic, his role is to maintain the aesthetics and integrity of the historic and newer buildings at the Center, and maintain/repair the infrastructure and equipment of the facility. His background and skill-set includes all aspects of construction. He has worked for custom home-builders, where his duties ranged from rough plumbing to finished carpentry and everything in between. When he's not working Brock enjoys traveling, snowboarding, quad racing, surfing, paragliding, and capturing extreme sports on his GoPro