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Welcome Victoria Sork as new Director of the
UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden!

We are pleased to announce Distinguished Professor Victoria Sork is the new Director of the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, replacing Distinguished Professor emeritus Phil Rundel, who has stepped down after seven years of service. Professor Sork’s five-year term as Garden Director began June 1, and coincides with her final year as Dean of Life Sciences.

Sork is an internationally renowned plant evolutionary and conservation biologist with expertise in the study of trees, especially California oaks. Her interest in botanical gardens began while an affiliate of the Missouri Botanical Garden. There, she witnessed firsthand the significant role played by botanical gardens in enhancing the public’s appreciation of nature and in raising awareness of the importance of plant biodiversity and conservation.

“I am grateful to Professor Rundel for his seven years of wonderful leadership,” said Sork. “As Director, I am looking forward to building on the momentum of the Garden’s new vision to enhance the contribution of this incredible amenity to the UCLA campus and our local community; and to promote the importance of plants to human health and the preservation of our environment.”

During the past ten years and in her role as Dean, Sork has worked with Rundel to develop a vision plan for the Garden and expand its role as a campus resource for teaching, research and community outreach. With generous philanthropic support, the northwest campus corner of the Garden has been transformed by a beautiful entrance and a Garden Pavilion - both named after Morton La Kretz - as well as by the Patti and Allan Herbert Plaza and Park’s Patio. During this time, Chancellor Block increased campus support of the Garden, creating two positions: an Assistant Director (Evan Meyer) and a Visitor Services Coordinator (Jules Cooch).

In addition to administrative expertise, Sork brings to the position a perspective on plant evolution and conservation through her studies of the evolutionary and ecological processes in temperate and tropical tree populations. She is the author of more than 120 publications, and her research addresses a rang of related topics including conservation biology, population genomics, introgression, and phylogeography of California oaks. With funding from the National Science Foundation, she and her colleagues have generated a high-quality annotated genome of the California endemic oak, Quercus lobata, as a genomic resource for oak biologists around the world. She also is active professionally as a senior associate editor for the highly ranked journal, Molecular Ecology. She is an elected fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Sciences and the California Academy of Sciences, and was Wilhelmine Key Distinguished Lecturer for the American Genetics Association in 2016. Sork was recently honored in a special issue of the journal, Evolutionary Applications, featuring women’s contribution to basic and applied evolutionary biology. She earned a B.S. from University of California Irvine and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, established in 1929 when UCLA opened its Westwood campus, has evolved from an experimental site for subtropical trees for the southern California landscape to a 7.5-acre living museum of more than 3,000 species of plants from around the world used widely in teaching and research. A special event to celebrate Prof. Rundel’s accomplishments as Director will be held in late September.

The UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a promoter of nature at a California land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.
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