Dr. Michael Nachman with his wife, Carolina, and his daughter, Sophia.
Image courtesy of Dr. Michael Nachman, all rights reserved.
Dear MVZ Friends, Colleagues, Faculty, Students, Staff, and Alumni:
Season’s greetings! It is with great pleasure that I write to you as the new Director of the MVZ. It is an honor to take over the leadership of this institution. I want to thank you for welcoming me, my wife, Carolina, and our daughter, Sophia, to Berkeley with so much warmth and generosity. As the year draws to a close, I also want to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to the mission of the MVZ.
MVZ -- Teaching
|In 2013, Dr. Rauri Bowie received the distinguished teaching award, five MVZ graduate students received outstanding graduate student instructor awards, and an MVZ undergrad received the IB departmental citation.
MVZ -- Datascience
|The MVZ helped in obtaining new datascience funds for the campus. Above Nobel Prize winner, Saul Perlmutter, talks to the BNHM community and Berkeley data scientists under the T-rex.|
MVZ -- Visiting Scholars
|The MVZ had many visiting researchers in its collections and labs every month! Above Rosa Alicia Jiménez works in the Evolutionary Genetics Lab on a Guatemalen hummingbird project.|
MVZ -- Field Biology
|MVZ researchers traveled around the world! Above Dr. Jim McGuire is in Indonesia, in the field with his graduate student Sean Reilly and undergraduate Alexander Stubbs.|
MVZ -- New Species
|MVZ biologists discovered four new species of legless lizards living in California. Above is one of the Anniella species. “This shows that there is a lot of undocumented biodiversity within California,” says Dr. Theodore Papenfuss.|
My primary goal as Director is to maintain and build upon the scientific excellence that has characterized the MVZ for more than a century as one of the top places in the world for the study of vertebrate evolutionary biology. I am grateful to our outgoing Director, Dr. Craig Moritz, for his careful stewardship of the MVZ over 12 years. Under his leadership, the MVZ significantly expanded its collections, research enterprise, informatics capabilities, undergraduate program, and outreach to the community. His impact will be felt for many years to come. I am likewise grateful to Dr. Jim McGuire who served as interim Director during the last year and provided excellent leadership during this period of transition.
For me personally, this is a tremendously exciting time. I received my undergraduate degree at Berkeley in 1983 and had the privilege of conducting research under the guidance of Dr. Jim Patton. While in college, I worked summers as a ranger-naturalist at Yosemite National Park. Following graduate work at the University of Michigan and postdocs at Oxford and Cornell, I joined the faculty of the University of Arizona where I remained for 18 years. Now, I find myself returning to the institution I left three decades ago.
There is much to celebrate about the MVZ. It is a world-class institution that emphasizes the value of fundamental research in diverse areas of vertebrate biology. The MVZ recognizes the unique value of field-based research, the importance of collections, and the acquisition of data associated with collections. Always at the forefront, the MVZ helped lead the dramatic changes in bioinformatics associated with museums over the last decade. Similarly, the MVZ was at the forefront of establishing frozen tissue collections in the 1970’s and bringing molecular methods to evolutionary research. Today, the MVZ houses frozen tissues from nearly 100,000 specimens. My own research on mammals includes all of these approaches, and as an evolutionary geneticist, I hope to expand the MVZ even further into the era of genomics. The core mission of the MVZ has always been to understand vertebrate diversity. Genomic methods will now enable us to understand the genetic basis of the spectacular variation that is housed within the MVZ.
The faculty, staff, postdocs, students, and volunteers who work in the MVZ bring a level of dedication and passion to their work that inspires me daily. I want to thank all of you for your hard work and your constant enthusiasm. It is an absolute joy to be a part of such a profoundly engaged scientific community.
At the same time, the MVZ, like the rest of the University of California, has suffered the consequences of large cuts to the state budget. Many of you have seen the difficult decisions necessitated by these budget cuts. I therefore encourage you to make a donation to the MVZ through our website. Even small donations help to ensure the museum’s continued excellence as one of the top research museums for evolutionary biology.
The future is bright. We are working on every continent, including such places as the rocky shores of Tierra del Fuego, remote forests in Indonesia, African savannahs, and of course our own backyard in California and the American West. We are discovering new species. We are documenting the effects of climate change on the earth’s biota. We are educating the public about biodiversity and its conservation. And we are unraveling the genetic details of how new species form and adapt to their environment. These are just a few of the things that happen regularly at the MVZ. At the same time, we are training students to be the future leaders in evolutionary biology and other sciences.
Thanks to everyone for welcoming me so warmly to the MVZ, and thanks for your enduring support and dedication to this great place. Happy Holidays!
Michael Nachman, Director
December 13, 2013