Winter 2004 Bruin
Photography by Anne Burke
"OK, now we're
going to have to bushwhack." That's not something
you hear too often around UCLA. But when Assistant Professor Tom
Gillespie Ph.D. '98 of the geography department invites you on
a tour of his favorite spot on campus, you'd better wear your
Gillespie's getaway offers a peek at what coastal
California looked like before all the asphalt and concrete came
along. In the northwest corner of campus, on a undeveloped and
woodsy slope above the Krieger Center, is West Los Angeles' last
patch of caostal sage scrub — the quickly disappearing plant
community that at one time was found in abundance from the San
Francisco Bay region to Baja California.
For anyone who loves California native plants —
and Gillespie is among them — this patch is a slice of heaven.
Amid the old oak trees and sycamores are dozens of hardy adaptees
to California's arid climate — sweet-smelling sage, pungent
rosemary, colorful California lilacs, spiny cactus and the Christmas
berry, whose bright red pomes burst forth in winter.
This little-known area is a sun-splashed classroom
for Gillespie. Each quarter, the assistant professor and his students
scramble up the hillside to get acquainted with these born-and-bred
Californians. In their natural habitat, Gillespie, who brings
a boyish enthusiams to his professional duties, leads the expedition
with a childlike sense of wonder that his students find irresistible.
by Anne Burke