Sea of Cortez memorial site relocated to Arboretum’s East Asian Collection

Photo of the new location of the campus's Sea of Cortez memorial.

Our campus’s Sea of Cortez memorial has moved from a site on the west end of the Arboretum to this location on Lake Spafford.

Image of program from the "Celebration of Lives" of the 5 scientists who lost their lives in the Sea of Cortez while on a research mission.

The five scientists lives memorialized in this garden include Gary Polis, internationally renowned scorpion expert, ecologist and, chair of the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy; Michael Rose, a postgraduate researcher in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy; Tayuya Abe, Kyoto University professor of animal ecology and an expert in termite biology; Masahiko Higashi, Kyoto University professor and Japan’s premier theoretical ecologist and biologist; and, Shigeru Nakano, Kyoto University community ecologist studying land- and water-based food chains.

Published July 8, 2015

On March 27, 2000 a tragic boating accident on the Sea of Cortez claimed the lives of two UC Davis researchers and three visiting scientists from Kyoto University in Japan.

In 2001, a small garden and five trees commemorating the lives of these scientists were planted in an Arboretum garden near Putah Creek Lodge, but the soil’s low pH and high boron levels made it difficult for the plants to thrive.

Photo of UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden student Jonathan Su taking soil samples for testing.

Jonathan Su, student staff with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, takes soil samples to send for testing prior to relocating this memorial.

In June 2015 the memorial was replanted with the help of staff, students, and volunteers near Mrak Hall on iconic Lake Spafford in the heart of the Arboretum. Not only is this area higher profile, its location within the Arboretum’s East Asian Collection just across the water from our Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California Native Plants, is ideally situated to honor both the Japanese and UC Davis researchers.

Plant list:

  • Acer macrophyllum, big leaf maple
  • Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’, Japanese barberry
  • Ceratostigma griffithii, Chinese plumbago
  • Euonymous fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’, wintercreeper
  • Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’, maidenhair tree
  • Hemerocallis ‘Cranberry Baby’, dwarf red daylily
  • Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, Oregon grape
  • Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, Japanese silver grass
  • Nandina ‘Harbour Dwarf’, heavenly bamboo
  • Pittosporum tobira ‘Cream de Mint’, dwarf mock orange



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