WMRC (formerly WMRS) has a long and distinguished history of supporting scientific research. It has played a key role in many scientific milestones, including the physiology of hypoxia and ventilation (Nello Pace, John Severinghouse), the measurement and polarization of the cosmic background radiation (David Wilkinson, George Smoot), the physiology of hibernation (Hannah Carey), and holocene paleoecology and paleoclimate in bristlecone pines (Ed Schulman, Wes Ferguson, Hal Fritts). Research at WMRC continues in these and many other fields.
This page provides a site for gathering historical photographs and information about the earlier days of WMRS and represents a sampling of the contents of the WMRC/WMRS Archives. For an overview of WMRS administrative history, see the draft WMRS history outline . For more written history, with photographs, of the station's first 25 years, see NelloPace's "25 Years of High Altitude Research" pdf file. For a brief history of the station up to 1995, see the Clarence Hall's Crooked Creek History pdf file. First hand accounts by early WMRS staffers and other historic articles about WMRS may be read on WMRS History Documents page. We hope this page will continue to grow as people associated with station continue to submit photos and other stories. Our Database of classes & projects hosted by WMRS since 1950 (excel file) list more specific information about individual researchers and classes that have used the station over the years.
History summary: In 1947 and early 1948, scientists from CalTech and the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at China Lake wrote the Office of Naval Research to advocate the establishment of a research facility in the White Mountains. They proposed three areas of reseach to be supported by such a facility: 1) sun spots; 2) physicis of the upper atmosphere; and 3) cosmic radiation. After a reconaissance trip to the headwaters of Crooked Creek in August 1948, NOTS immediately initiated construction. A road from highway 168 at Westgard Pass north to Crooked Creek was completed by September 1948. Living quarters at Crooked Creek were completed by October and by December 1948 the road had been pushed beyond Crooked Creek all the way to the base of the White Mountain Peak, and research was being conducted. A quonset hut for research was constructed on the ridge overlooking the Crooked Creek living quarters, probably in fall 1948. Meanwhile in summer1949, Professor Nello Pace, of UC Berkeley, selected a site about 9 miles north of the NOTS Crooked Creek facility, along the newly constructed road, for a research station to study high-altiude physiology. Pace's funding application to build his station was approved July1950. By coincidence, NOTS had just decided its Crooked Creek facilities were no longer needed and would be closed and dismantled. In August 1950, Pace persuaded NOTS not to dismantle its Crooked Creek facilities but to turn them over to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and have ONR write a contract with the University of California for the administration of the Crooked Creek facility as a public research station under his (Nello Pace's) direction. The contract was written and signed, and the University of California White Mountain Research Station was established September 1, 1950. The following summer, 1951, Pace constructed a facility for high altitude physiology research at his selected site, nine miles north of Crooked Creek on the slopes of what is now Mt. Barcroft. Pioneering research under the direction of Pace and colleagues began to be published soon after the facilities were completed. In the mid 1950s the Bristlecone Pine forests in the White Mountains were discovered to contain one of the world’s most remarkable paleoclimate records, and the 1960s the Barcroft site was found to be ideal for measuring the temperature of the early universe. As these activities expanded and facilities increased over the years, a base station (the Owens Valley Laboratory) was established at the foot of the White Mountains near Bishop, California. In the 1970s geologists from UCLA and other campuses began to see the tremendous value of the region for teaching field geology. In the 1980s the station blossomed as a multi-disciplinary field station with a diverse portfolio of research including human and animal physiology, animal ecology and behavior, plant physiology, archaeology, astrophysics, several disciplines of geosciences, and other fields. In response to increased usage facilities were gradually upgraded, including a renovation of Barcroft Station in the early 1980's, full reconstruction of the Crooked Creek field station in the 1990s, and the addition of temporary buildings at OVS to increase housing, classroom space, and lab facilities. WMRC activity remains high to the present day, averaging 5000-6000 user nights and 40-50 scholarly publications each year. Most years see students and faculty from nearly every UC campus as well as nearly 100 other California, national, and international universities.
WMRS/WMRC has a tradition of organizing scientific meetings, the latest of which was the highly successful Climate, Ecosystems and Resources in Eastern California in 2008 and the annual summer GLORIA Field Week. We also offer a free public lecture series at the Owens Valley Station every winter and spring, and hosts an open house at Barcroft every summer. The 2004 WMRS documentary “In the Shadow of White Mountain” narrated by Peter Coyote won an Emmy award for best documentary.