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Michael F. Allen

Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and Biology
Chair, Department of Biology
Director, Center for Conservation Biology
Michael Allen
Conservation Biology:
Pioneering new environmental monitoring techniques and technologies, researchers at the Center for Conservation Biology develop instruments that enable scientists to better evaluate the impacts of rising levels of carbon dioxide on natural and agricultural ecosystems. Field studies conducted in the nearby James Reserve make use of embedded cameras.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Ecology of Microbial-Plant-Soil Interactions
  • Conservation and Restoration of Native Ecosystems
College: Department: Affiliations: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • 2005 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1999 Chevron Conservation Award
  • 1993-1995 Program Officer in the National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology


Q: What are you researching currently?
My research aims at understanding the effects of human activities on ecosystem biodiversity and functioning. As the human population expands, population centers emerge and shift, and resources are extracted and utilized. I focus on three areas. First, I have undertaken efforts to describe the impacts of human activities on wildlands, from land disturbance, transportation, and agriculture to the changing global environment. Second, I have worked to document how natural succession proceeds to learn lessons that can be applied in ecosystem restoration. Finally, I am working on developing ways to bring ecological science into the decision-making process.

Q: What makes UCR a good fit for your research?
Inland Southern California is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. UCR is located in a global biodiversity hotspot with extremely high endemic species richness, and a very diverse ecological area. In addition, the UC system maintains more than 30 natural reserves in which to conduct research. There are four such reserves within an hour drive of UCR -- the Motte Reserve, near Perris, the Emerson Reserve near Temecula, James Reserve, located in the San Jacinto Mountains, and the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center located in the Coachella Valley.

Q: What is unique about these reserves?
The James Reserve has records of 259 species of vascular plants, 35 bryophytes, 6 amphibians, 18 reptiles, 125 birds (60 percent nesting), 35 mammals, and ~1,000 invertebrates. This Reserve is my primary research site where my staff, students, faculty colleagues and I are developing new monitoring technologies and environment measuring capabilities.

Q: What questions do you hope to answer through your research?
How environmental change, including climate change, invasive species, air pollution, and fragmentation affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Q: What is a common myth about conservation?
That conservation is “merely” the protection of a few species. Conservation is really about sustaining an incredible local biodiversity, about clean air and water, and about sustaining the environment in which civilization developed.

Q: What leadership role will California play in addressing these questions?
Currently, California leads the nation in recognizing the issues surrounding environmental concerns. In addition, I have worked with the County of Riverside and Southern California regional agencies on multiple species habitat conservation planning (MSHCP) efforts. I have also worked on interagency efforts to incorporate ecosystem management approaches into environmental decisions at the federal level.

Q: What books about conservation/sustainability would you recommend for a general audience?
The Control of Nature by John McPhee; The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen; The Wolves of Mount McKinley by Adolph Murie; and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond.

Q: What books are you currently reading?
I am reading several books, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery, which takes a look at how landscapes have changed through time and argues that soil is humanity's most essential natural resource and is essentially linked to modern civilization's survival; Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman; and Crazy Horse and Custer by Stephen Ambrose.
Michael Allen "As the human population expands, population centers emerge and shift, and resources are extracted and utilized."

—Michael F. Allen