“Ultimately for me, I am in love with a natural ecosystem.” Jim Andre is the Director of the Granite Mountains Research Center through the University of California Riverside Biology Department and has been passionate about the environment for his whole career as a botanist. He is fighting an uphill battle in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, one of the most biodiverse and intact ecosystems in the state. Working with graduate students, Andre has come to terms with how little we actually know about the floristic world around us. In the Mojave, there are over 2500 known plant species and hundreds more that are unidentified. For Andre, a botanist by trade, these unknowns are exciting but also a reality check. Andre predicts that in the coming decades of climate change, we won’t know the names of countless species that will go extinct in the Mojave. Decreased funding for research on public lands as well as the political encroachment into the scientific world are obstacles Andre has encountered in his career advocating for the conservation of landscape and biodiversity. Now a trusted source in the field of desert botany, Andre says “it’s incredible humbling” to be treated as an expert, recounting his 20s as a green biologist like they were yesterday. Despite the challenges that come with fighting for an under-appreciated ecosystem, Andre finds inspiration in his landscape, and will continue to advocate for conservation because he believes “in its own right, it is worthy of existence”.
By Amanda Champion