Environmental Initiatives



Exequiel Ezcurra, whose 30-year career as a noted plant ecologist honored worldwide for his contributions both as an academic and as an active conservationist, assumed the directorship of University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS) in 2008. He also holds the position of professor of plant ecology with UC Riverside Department of Botany and Plant Sciences.

Ezcurra came to UC MEXUS from the San Diego Natural History Museum's science and research program, the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias, where he was director from 1998-2008, with a four-year hiatus to serve as President of the National Institute of Ecology. He was also Provost of the Museum from 2005-2008.

Exequiel Ezcurra's career has embraced an enormous range of interests including the conservation of nature, the ecology and biogeography of coastal deserts and coastal wetlands, land-ocean interactions, the application of mathematical modeling in ecology and conservation and the management of natural resources in areas under traditional use. He has made important scientific and advocacy contributions to marine and coastal conservation in Mexico, particularly in the area of the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California), which separates the mainland of Mexico from the Baja California peninsula.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ezcurra received his Ph.D. in ecology from the University College of North Wales, U.K., located in the northern city of Bangor. Throughout his career, Ezcurra's research and efforts have proven instrumental in the creation of several biological reserves and significant conservation initiatives in Mexico. His Ph.D. research, a large-scale vegetation survey of the coastal Gran Desierto and the Colorado River Delta in northern Mexico, produced information that helped create the Biosphere Reserves of the Upper Gulf of California and the Gran Desierto. Later research expeditions generated important knowledge that opened the way for the restoration of Guadalupe Island in the Mexican Pacific and for the re-introduction of the California condor to the Baja California ranges. His book Gulf of California, together with his book on Espiritu Santo island off the tip of Baja California, helped inspire donors to buy the island and dedicate it to conservation. His early research in mangrove ecology in the Tabasco and Yucatan lowlands was among the first pieces of Mexican research in coastal ecology in this region, leading eventually to the creation of important coastal reserves. In addition, his work (a book and film) became the most important element supporting the dedication of the Islands of the Sea of Cortes and their surrounding waters as an international World Heritage Site.

In 1987, Ezcurra became a full professor and head of the Community Ecology Lab at the University of Mexico and, in 1990, he was also designated Coordinator of the Graduate Section in charge of the Master and Doctorate in Ecology. Then, in 1992, while maintaining his position at the University of Mexico, he was appointed Director General of Natural Resources in the Mexican Federal Government where he worked to create the Pinacate and the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserves and effectively established a binational corridor of protected natural areas in the coastal Sonoran Desert.

In 1998, Ezcurra became Director of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias at the San Diego Natural History Museum where he developed and curated the museum exhibit "Desert and Sea" which described the evolutionary processes and the biodiversity of the pacific coastal deserts of North America. After showing at the San Diego Natural Museum, this exhibition was displayed at the Smithsonian Institution for six months and was later shown at various museums in Mexico. He also developed the science script, field production and on-camera narration of the giant screen film Ocean Oasis, which won the 2001 Jackson Hole Award and the 2002 BBC Wildscreen Award. The film was shown at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris to provide support for the successful designation of the Sea of Cortez as a National Heritage Site.

In 2001 Ezcurra founded the National Institute of Ecology (Instituto Nacional de Ecologia) - a new, independent research branch of Mexico's Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales). In 2005, he returned to the San Diego Natural History Museum as the museum's Provost and the Director of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias.

A prolific writer, Ezcurra has published more than 75 peer-reviewed research papers in professional scientific journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology, American Naturalist, Functional Ecology, and the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. In addition, he has produced more than 40 book chapters and 10 books, including A New Island Biogeography of the Sea of Cortes, a volume on the Sea of Cortes and its islands, published in 2001 by Oxford University Press. This book has become the landmark publication for island and coastal conservation in the region. He is editor of the international Journal of Vegetation Science and a member of the editorial board of three Mexican science journals. Ezcurra has penned a large number of essays and articles for newspapers and non-specialized journals, has presented more than 100 papers in symposia and has given as many lectures and short courses. He has also served on the boards of more than a dozen Mexican and international conservation organizations.



PH.D., University College of North Wales
1985 - Ecology, Bangor, UK

M.S., University College of North Wales
1979 - Ecology, Bangor, UK

B.S., Universidad de Buenos Aires
1973 - Natural Resource Management, Buenos Aires, Argentina


University of California Institute for Mexico and the U.S.
2008-PRESENT - Director, Riverside, California

San Diego Natural History Museum, Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias
1998-2008 - Director, San Diego, California


Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES)
1994- Chair, Scientific Committee

International Whaling Commission
2003-2005- Mexican Commissioner

Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature
Co-founder and Board Member

Coalition for Sustainability in the Gulf of California
1997-2001- Chair

International Scientific Advisory Board, Government of Mexico
1997-1999- Member


2006 - Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation

Recognition Award
2001 - Hubbs-Sea World Marine Research Institute

Research Award for the year's best Mexican research paper in biology and biomedical research
1999 - Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana of Mexico

Recognition Award
1995 - U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Conservation Biology Award for work done promoting the creation of new protected natural areas
1994 - Society for Conservation Biology

Recognition Award
1994 - U.S. National Park Service

Recognition Award
1994 - U.S. National Parks and Conservation Association

Faustino Miranda medal for merit in ecological research
1993 - University of Mexico

Julian Hayden Award, in recognition of work done to protect the coastal ecosystems of the Sonoran Desert and the Sea of Cortez
1993 - Sonoran Alliance

Conservation Award for work done to protect the vaquita porpoise of the Gulf of California and the totoaba


Carvajal, M.A., E. Ezcurra and A. Robles. 2004. Natural resource concerns and the pursuit of a vision. In: Defying Ocean's End: An Agenda for Action (L.K. Glover and S. Earle eds.). Island Press, Washington, D.C, p. 105-124

Caso, M., I. Pisanty and E. Ezcurra, Editors. 2004. Diagnostico Ambiental del Golfo de Mexico (two volumes). Instituto Nacional de Ecologia, Mexico, D.F. English version printed by the Hart Institute,Texas, USA

Velarde, E., E. Ezcurra, M.A. Cisneros-Mata, and Miguel F. Lavín. 2004. Seabird ecology, El Nino anomalies, and prediction of sardine fisheries in the Gulf of California. Ecological Applications 14(2): 607-615

Case, T., M. Cody, and E. Ezcurra, Editors. 2002. A New Island Biogeography of the Sea of Cortes. (Oxford, U.K ed.). (669 pages pp)

Ezcurra, E., E. Peters, A. Burquez, and E. Mellink. 2002. The Sonoran and Baja Californian Deserts. In: Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places (R.A. Mittermeier, C.G. Mittermeier, P. Robles-Gil, et al ed.). Conservation Internacional and Agrupacion Sierra Madre, Washington, D.C., and Mexico, D.F, p. 315-333

Holmgren, M., M. Scheffer, E. Ezcurra, J.R. Gutierrez and G.M.J. Mohren. 2001. El Nino effects on the dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16(2): 59-112

Robles-Gil, P., E. Ezcurra, and E. Mellink. 2001. The Gulf of California: A World Apart. Agrupacion Sierra Madre, Mexico, D.F

Lopez-Portillo, J. and E. Ezcurra. 1989. Response of three mangrove species to salinity in two geoforms. Functional Ecology 3:355-361

Lopez-Portillo, J. and E. Ezcurra. 1989. Zonation in mangrove and salt-marsh vegetation in relation to soil characteristics and species interactions at the Laguna de Mecoacán, Tabasco, Mexico. Biotropica 21(2): 107-114

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