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Desert Studies Center


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.


DarrensFaceDr. Darren Sandquist, Faculty Director of the 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 studied desert plant ecology since his graduate school years at the University of Utah and published numerous articles about desert plants and ecosystems.  His current research examines ecohydrology of desert alluvial fans and the impacts of disturbances (e.g., roads) on community and ecosystem properties.  Darren teaches winter-session field courses, including Restoration and Conservation Biology of Baja California Sur, and GeoBio Field Experiences.  As director, he is focused on developing new education, research and outreach programs for the Desert Studies Consortium, and enhancing student research opportunities at Desert Studies Center.

657-278-2428, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton, California 92834


Norma CharestNorma 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.

657-278-2428 (phone), 657-278-4289 (Fax), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

California Desert Studies Consortium, c/o Dept. of Biological Science, CSU Fullerton, P.O. Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850


Desert Studies Center Staff


Jason WallaceJason Wallace, Field Station Manager

Jason has been employed at the Desert Studies Center since 2007. As Field Station Manager, he is responsible for overseeing and participating in all aspects of facility operations and guest services. This includes providing visitor orientation about the care and use of the facilities, participating in outreach activities, and offering 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 center. Before joining the DSC, Jason was a part-time faculty member at California State University, Fullerton and Orange Coast College, teaching 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 earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from California State University, Fullerton. His Master’s thesis examined population dynamics of desert reptiles in the East Mojave/Soda Springs area. In 2008, after joining the staff, he resurrected this research to establish a long-term study of our local herpetofauna. This ongoing study is now among the most comprehensive herpetological surveys in the western deserts of North America. Jason’s other research experiences include studies on Mojave fringe-toed lizard, Mojave desert tortoise, Mohave tui chub, green sea turtle, and desert willow. Jason has an extensive understanding of desert organisms and desert ecology and regularly collaborates with federal, state and local agencies such as NPS, BLM, NASA, USFWS, USGS, and CDFW.  In his spare time, he enjoys music, traveling, chasing lizards and spending quality time with his wife and two dogs.

714-732-8326, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , POBox 490, Baker, CA 92309


Anne KellyDr. Anne Kelly, Director of Research & Education

Dr. Anne Kelly is the Director of Research & Education at the Desert Studies Center. She received her B.S. in Physics at Caltech, her M.S. in Environmental Science at CSULA, and her Ph.D. in Earth System Science from UC Irvine.  She has served as Director of UC Merced’s field stations at Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and as an ecologist at the US Geological Survey Canyonlands and the Catalina Island Conservancy. Her research focuses on landscape-scale ecological change caused by climate change and land management practices, and has included work in the Arctic tundra, the red rocks of Utah, and the mountains and deserts of California.  Dr. Kelly also holds a teaching credential from CSULA, and has taught high school sciences in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Providing opportunities for students to experience the wonders and challenges of hands-on environmental science is why Dr. Kelly has chosen to work at field stations. As part of that passion, she is a leader in developing and promoting field station safety and accessibility for students and researchers of all backgrounds.  Her prior career as an astrophysicist included support for the Spitzer Space Telescope, the NASA Extragalactic Database, and research on the formation of the oldest galaxies in the universe. Dr. Kelly’s future career as a banjo-picking cellist will take off any day now. Besides committing crimes against good musical taste, Dr. Kelly enjoys exploring remote and unusual places, and searching for excellent tacos.

714-853-4916, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , P.O. Box 490, Baker, CA 92309


Brock PenningtonBrock 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 hiking, camping, exploring new places and spending time with his family.

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