History of the Station

In 2010, the Gump Station will celebrate 25 years since it officially opened on March 9, 1985.  To mark this event, we hope to produce a comprehensive history that includes the memoirs of those who have contributed to the Station's success. While this work is in progress, we present here just a couple of personal perspectives, one from the Station's first faculty director (Werner Loher) and the other from its second manager (Frank Murphy).  Our goal is to establish the factual history of the Station (a timeline of key events) but also to include the memories of those who have been involved.  We recognize that different people can have quite different perspectives of the same event, and perhaps sometimes there might be some discordance.  We do not seek to resolve those (a project for a professional historian perhaps); rather, we present each memoir as it is conveyed to us, clearly attributed to its author. 

Please send comments, anecdotes, or memoirs to gump@moorea.berkeley.edu

History of the Gump Station (1979 – 1996) By Werner Loher

Mr. Gump and the Transaction

Richard B. Gump was the owner of San Francisco’s premier gift store, which sold Asian antiques and contemporary art, glass, jade, and pearl jewelry, and enjoyed a worldwide reputation. An unusually versatile man, Mr. Gump was not only a superb businessman, but also an artist, composer, conductor, writer, and lecturer. Mr. Gump retired in 1975 and sold his store. In 1977, he began discussions with University of California at Berkeley administrators about intention to donate his property on the island of Moorea.

“Atitia,” Mr. Gump’s 35-acre estate on the west bank of Cook’s Bay, included his private residence, a guest cottage, a workshop, and a garage. He wanted to help the Polynesian people in agriculture and fishery through research, and building a biological research station run by a prominent university would bring his plan to fruition.

The Berkeley faculty greeted the tropical research idea with enthusiasm. In 1979, Chancellor Albert Bowker formed an advisory committee with George Barlow as chairman, and we were assigned the task of developing a budget for a research facility and selecting a building site.

Following Mr. Gump’s invitation to inspect his estate, George Barlow and Roy Caldwell with their spouses and I did so in May 1980. Assistant Chancellor Glen Grant and Bob Ornduff visited two months later. We recognized at once that the conditions for doing research and teaching in a tropical environment were ideal. When we returned to campus, our excitement was contagious and we rapidly obtained a critical mass of faculty members eager to teach and do research at the prospective station.

We wrote a formal proposal that explained UC Berkeley’s intent to establish an educational and research facility on the Gump estate. It described the Gump property, listed research plans from faculty members, and outlined courses to be taught. The prospectus was circulated on campus and sent to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris and to the Polynesian Government in Tahiti, where it languished for months. However, Paris asked our colleague Bernard Salvat, the director of the French Ecological Center at neighboring Opunohu Bay, for his opinion of an American implant. He strongly supported our project, which led the French Government to approve transfer of the title of Mr. Gump’s estate to the University. The Territorial Government of Tahiti gave its consent as well, and also waived the significant transfer tax that is normally levied on a transfer of land.
The official signing of the transaction occurred in December 1981 between Mr. Gump and two officials from the UC President’s office, Assistant Counsel Eric Behrens and Associate Treasurer Jack Schappell. The ceremony was witnessed by Francis Sanford, the Vice President of the Territorial Government, and Victor Wan-Fa Siu, a graduate of UC Berkeley and head of the powerful Sin Tung Hing Corporation in Tahiti. The transfer stated that Mr. Gump would retain a life estate of 12 acres of land, which included his residence and the surrounding buildings.

The Quest for Money and the Station’s Inauguration

The year 1982 marked the advent of a new chancellor for the Berkeley campus, Ira Michael Heyman. He warmed to the idea of a field station in the tropics only gradually, but once he was convinced, we received his unstinting support. We still had to come up with funds independent of campus resources, however, which drove us to increased activity. We launched a fundraising drive by writing articles for newspapers and magazines, and produced a glitzy brochure, which was sent to universities and grant-giving agencies as well as to potential benefactors.

To our surprise, one Cal alumnus stepped forward at once. Gordon Moore, president of the computer chip company Intel, gave us $300,000, which laid the foundation for an endowment. Mr. Gump also stood by an earlier promise to finance the first building, a dormitory on the Cook’s Bay beachfront, though it took until early 1984, until I received his final consent in writing. The Tahitian French-educated architect Patrick Siu, a member of the influential Siu Clan, offered his services free of charge, and soon presented us with a master plan of the Station and a detailed blueprint of the dormitory building, both of which were very much to our liking.
So far the Station project had been administered out of the Chancellor’s Office. Once the dormitory was under construction we found a permanent home in the Dean’s Office of the College of Natural Resources. The prospective Station also got an official name: The “Richard B. Gump South Pacific Biological Research Station.”

In the fall of 1983 I became chairman of the advisory committee and leader of the project. When construction took off in early 1984, I functioned as mediator between Mr. Gump, the architect, and the campus administration. The construction work throughout the year went without a hitch and it was crowned with a Christmas donation from Dr. Moore that enabled us to buy a pickup truck, an 18-foot Boston Whaler, and scuba diving equipment. Rick Steger, who had just obtained his Ph.D. from Cal, was hired as the Station’s first manager.

The Station was formally inaugurated on the afternoon of March 9, 1985. Well over a hundred people from politics, business, education, and research arrived in strength. The University was represented by Executive Vice Chancellor Rod Park;   Moorea’s mayor Franklin Brotherson stood in for Territorial President Gaston Flosse and George Canepas spoke for High Commissioner Alan Ohrel. In all the speeches Mr. Gump was praised for his generosity, wisdom, and vision, and the hope was repeatedly expressed that the Station’s research would help to solve the island nation’s environmental problems.
The Station got its first international exposure a few months later, when the Coral Reef Congress was held in Tahiti, organized by Bernard Salvat, our colleague from the Environmental Center at Opunohu Bay. The year before, we had signed an “Intent of Cooperation” between the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, and UC Berkeley, in which the two stations on Moorea declared their common interest in research on the coral reef and the lagoon.

Applied Research for the Country

The Station was soon doing a range of research projects, many of which had immediate application. Among the Station’s many contributions, I will mention only two. First, a phytopathologist was needed to study the cause of root rot disease in vanilla, which impaired its cultivation. In plant pathologist Peter Tsao from UC Riverside I found a specialist in the fungal genus of Phytophthora, which attacks tropical plants. During the next three years, Tsao enjoyed a very successful cooperation with his Tahitian counterpart Leon Mu. They found that three species of that fungus were the primary cause of root rot disease, studied the effects of fungicides, and presented practical recommendation for the cultivation of vanilla.

A second project dealt with mosquito control. My colleague Richard Garcia from UC Berkeley studied the effect of the pathogen Bacillus sphaericus in controlling three mosquito species that are endemic to Polynesia. Garcia found differential sensitivity to that pathogen and made recommendations to the government on how to fight the mosquitoes.

An Open-air Facility and Mr. Gump calls it quits

As the number of visitors with research projects increased rapidly, we realized that working space for researchers was becoming scarce. Thanks to another donation by Dr. Moore in 1987, Patrick Siu designed an open-air building next to the dock that we named the “Gordon and Betty Moore Field Laboratory.” Toward the end of 1988, Mr. Gump decided to give up his life estate, and the Station manager and his wife moved into the residence. During the cyclone season of 1991, a storm destroyed the pandanus roof of Gump House and damaged the interior. The pandanus was replaced by synthetic asphalt-like tiles, which withstood all subsequent storms.

The transfer of Mr. Gump’s life estate to the University coincided with the completion of his oral history by Cal’s Bancroft Library, which had been several years in the making. In appreciation of his gift to the campus we celebrated Mr. Gump with a banquet at the Faculty Club in April 1989. It was a hilarious event. After Rod Park’s laudatory speech I presented Mr. Gump with a captain’s peaked cap imprinted with “CAPT’N BLIGH,” which is what the Tahitians called him. As he beamed, I awarded him a fake diploma with the ultimate title of “Terrestrial marine scientist honoris causa in recognition for having put UC Berkeley on the map in the South Seas.” That was the last time I saw him. Five months later, on September 4, 1989, Mr. Gump died in his sleep in Paris. He was 83 years old.

Undergraduate Instruction

Research at the Station had blossomed and the number of visiting scientists increased, so it was high time to attend to the task of undergraduate teaching. Roy Caldwell (Integrative Biology), Vincent Resh (Entomology), and David Stoddart (Geography) wrote the syllabus for an interdepartmental course with the title “Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands.”

The course was first presented in the Fall semester of 1991 under Roy Caldwell. During the first five weeks 15 students attended background lectures given by faculty members on the Berkeley campus. The group then spent eight weeks at the Station, where Mary Powers (Integrative Biology) and David Stoddart (Geography) taught and guided the students in individual research projects. They were assisted by graduate student instructors Sandra Banack and Frank Murphy. The class then returned to campus for data analysis and research description. This annual class has become increasingly popular among Cal students.

Evaluation of Research at the Station

In 1992, Dean Wilford Gardner from the College of Natural Resources suggested a review of the research done at the Station. The purpose was to inform Berkeley’s new chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, who had become chancellor in 1990, taking over from Michael Heyman.

Since the inauguration of the Station, 15 graduate students from the UC system had conducted field research there, and six of them had conducted work for their Ph.D. dissertation. A survey of research projects from 1982 (when scientists still worked out of Mr. Gump’s guest cottage) to 1991 was even more impressive. During that period, 82 research projects had been pursued. About half of them (53 percent) dealt with topics in marine biology such as colonization of corals, reef degeneration, systematics of marine algae and marine invertebrates, behavioral ecology of stomatopods and reef fishes, and social behavior of spinner dolphins.

The projects in terrestrial biology included surveys of the Moorean fauna and flora, insect behavior, the ecology of streams and its macroinvertebrates, and the ecology of lizards and birds. Ancient agriculture, the biogeography of motus, littoral geomorphology, and sedimentology had also been studied. Scientists came from Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, and Kuwait, and scientists from several American universities and UC faculty from seven campuses were involved. Gump Station had become an international center of higher learning.

A New Manager

In early 1992 Frank Murphy replaced Rick Steger as the Station manager, and collaboration with the French Station at Opunohu Bay improved. We held joint seminars and invited friends from the island who longed for intellectual challenge. The local Moorea community appreciated our effort to be accepted, which Frank Murphy promoted by inviting to the Station school classes as well as Tahitian elders, who warmly endorsed our presence.

Murphy and his crew designed and built an open seawater system that circulated water from Cook’s Bay through numerous aquaria of the field laboratory and two ponds populated with fish, corals, and other marine invertebrates, creating an ideal setting for large-scale environmental experiments. We also added a weather station, whose sensors automatically recorded air, water, and soil temperatures and other environmental components, such as solar radiation. That sparked the interest of the Institut Louis Malardé on Tahiti, which was working on coral bleaching, a consequence of high water temperature and possibly influence of UV-components of sunlight, and led to a collaboration.

Chancellor Tien’s Visit

As the Gump Station’s collaboration with French and Tahitian laboratories grew, the Polynesian Government asked for a formal cooperative agreement with UC Berkeley. In October 1993 Chancellor Tien participated in a Pacific Rim Conference on environmental issues in Australia. Being in the neighborhood, he wanted to visit the Station with his wife and also sign the agreement.

The signing took place in the presidential palace. President Flosse talked for 15 minutes praising Tien and his background, calling it a role model for future generations. He acknowledged the Station’s applied work for Polynesia. Chancellor Tien welcomed the opportunity of collaboration and wished the endeavor a bright future. Then the signing ceremony began, followed by an exchange of gifts, and by 8:30 a.m. it was all over.

It was a proud event for the Chinese-Tahitian community, in particular for the Siu Clan. Patrick Siu had designed our buildings, and the brothers Fred and Victor Siu, who both graduated from Cal, often helped us with their wise counsel and arranged contacts with French Polynesia’s political class. Following a sightseeing tour around Tahiti, we visited the new Université Française du Pacifique, founded in 1987, and paid a courtesy call on the French High Commissioner. The evening was crowned with a dinner at the Dragon d’Or, to which Fred Siu had invited personalities from politics, research agencies, and the University, as well as all Tahiti Cal alumni.

Next morning the Tiens, Frank Murphy, and I took the ferry to Moorea. We brought them to the hotel Bali Hai and to a bungalow over the water. Our Boston Whaler then took us to the Station, where the students from the Berkeley class welcomed the visitors. The Chancellor quizzed several students about their projects. Then we drove to our friend Mari Mari and her tropical garden and did some sightseeing. The evening concluded with a Tahitian dinner at Gump House prepared by our students. The next day the Tiens and I flew back to Papeete and on to San Francisco. From then on, I knew that we had in Chancellor Tien a stout supporter of our cause.

The Cal Alumni Club of Tahiti

During Chancellor Tien’s visit to Tahiti, he suggested that local UC alumni should band together and form a club. It would add to the cultural flair of the island and open the Station to advice from the alumni. Fred Siu and his nephew Jimmy Ly welcomed the idea, created a founder’s committee, composed a charter, and put an ad in the two regional newspapers rallying all alumni. On December 9, 1994 the California Alumni Club of Tahiti was created. For the inauguration, Vice Chancellor Dan Mote, who vacationed on Manahi Island in French Polynesia, did the honors during a dinner, again at the Dragon d’Or, to which Club President Fred Siu had invited the island’s political and cultural elite. Several speeches mentioned that one of the Club’s main objectives was to foster the development of the Gump Station.

Long-term Research at the Station

In terms of energy, resources and time, two research projects have occupied the Gump Station’s attention more than any others: the re-implantation of native snails of the genus Partula (since 1987), and the fight against Miconia calvescens, the “purple plague,” (since 1988).

The Partula Project

On Moorea, land snails of the genus Partula have been the subject of classic studies in zoogeography and evolution by Henry Edward Crampton in the early years of the 20th century. Modern research began in 1962 by J. James Murray of the University of Virginia, and Bryan Clarke of Nottingham University, and focused on the genetics of the seven species local to Moorea.

In 1967, the Tahitian government decided to eradicate the imported giant African snail Achatina fulica by importing the American carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea. The attempt was misguided, and it failed. Instead, Euglandina proved extremely efficient in destroying the native Partula population. Luckily, Murray and Clarke were able to save many Partula specimens. With the help of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, they established breeding colonies at universities in Nottingham, Virginia, and Western Australia, and at zoos in Europe and the United States. However, the long-term objective was a re-implantation of the Partula species in Moorea.

Financed by the College of Natural Resources, in 1993 we began to stake out plots in the rainforest where Partula had once been abundant. We surrounded a 20 x 20 m square subdivided into four quadrants and built an enclosure of corrugated iron roofing that provided a mechanical defence that was combined with chemical, and electrical deterrents against the predator species Euglandina, which was still present on the island. By August 19, 1994 we had released 276 Partula individuals from three species into the plot. As we soon found out, keeping the fence intact against wind and rain was a serious problem. We had to restock the plot several times in the ensuing years. However, research on species adaptation and interaction between species has continued.

The Miconia Project

Miconia calvescens is an attractive ornamental plant with large leaves, dark green on the upper side and purple underneath. By depriving native plants of sunlight, however, it has become the most notorious plant pest in the Society Islands. It escaped from the Botanical Garden of Tahiti and reproduces at an alarming rate.

On Moorea, the Station got involved with the Miconia problem in 1993 through our undergraduate class. Tim Krantz and Jeremy Schwartz had mapped the plant’s distribution of half of the island. At a workshop organized by the Ministry of the Environment, a four-phase plan was adopted: 1. Survey of Miconia distribution. 2. Manual removal of the plant with help of the community. 3. Chemical control with the pesticide Roundup. 4. Biological control with insects from Costa Rica that feed on Miconia.

The Station completed the distribution study and organized manual removal campaigns. These were successful, but also underlined the gravity of the situation. The USDA and the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture got involved in chemical and biological control,    but the effects have not yet reached the Society Islands. A helicopter fly-over of Moorea 1996 showed that Miconia was still spreading.

Gump Station's Early History (a brief overview), By Frank Murphy

In 1977 Richard Gump began talking with UCB representatives about the possibility of donating his land in Moorea (an area known locally as Atitia) to the University of California Berkeley as a site for a research laboratory. By 1979 a committee had been formed and rough plans and budgets had been considered. In May of 1980 three representatives from the UCB station committee – George Barlow (chair), Roy Caldwell, and Werner Loher – were invited to Moorea by Gump to see the site and talk about the interests of UCB. This week-long visit went well and negotiations moved forward, both within the University and on the international level. By late 1980 a prospectus for the research station had been circulated on campus and sent to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The reviews on campus were favorable and posed no problem, and by mid-1981 Bernard Salvat, then director of CRIOBE, had given his support to the project, which effectively secured the approval of the French Government. The Territorial government showed its approval of the station by waving the substantial land transfer tax that normally would have been levied on a transaction such as this.

On December 7, 1981 the land transfer was signed by Gump and Eric Behrens, Assistant Council for the UC President, and witnessed by Victor Siu and Francis Sanford. The transfer included all of the land of Atitia except for the Gump house and garage, surrounding gardens, and road easement for the driveway. During the following year Gump agreed to finance the building of a dormitory on the bay side of the property. Patrick Siu drew up the plans and by the end of the year preliminary work had begun. Also in 1982, as the result of a Cal Monthly article published that year, Gordon Moore first became aware of the plans for a research station in Moorea, and made his first donation to the station which was used for an endowment. So now the station had both plans for its first facility and the beginnings of an operating budget.

The construction of the dormitory was held up by discussion over plans and costs but by mid 1984 construction was underway. In the intervening time Werner Loher took over as the Chairman of the advisory committee and the station was given the official name, “Richard B. Gump South Pacific Biological Research Station.” In late1984 the administration of the station was moved from the Chancellor’s Office to it’s present home in the College of Natural Resources, and Gordon Moore made a second donation which was used to buy the station’s first vehicle (Toyota truck) and first boat (18 ft Boston Whaler).

Rick Steger was hired as the first station manager at the beginning of 1985, and in March the dormitory was inaugurated and officially opened for use. Vice-Chancellor Rod Park flew down for the inauguration ceremony which was also attended by Werner Loher, Rick Steger for UCB, Franklin Brotherson as a representative of the local government, Fred and Victor Siu, and of course Gump and his staff Lucy and Nui Germain. This was also the year that the International Coral Reef Congress was held in Tahiti, so the station got its first international exposure. Finally, it was also the year that the first local staff member was hired, Jacques You Sing.

Six researchers started projects at the station in 1986, and nine more began in 1987. The wet lab was constructed in 1987, funded by a donation from the Moore Family Foundation, and was named after Gordon and Betty Moore. In 1988 Gump made his last trip to Moorea and signed over the remainder of the Atitia property to the University. Up until this time Rick and Bonnie Steger had been living in one room in the dormitory, but now were able to move up the hill to the Gump House, which became the official residence of the on-site administrator.

The UCB Bancroft Library completed an oral history of Richard Gump in early 1989 and he was honored at a banquet on campus in April. That was the last time that many of the UCB faculty saw Mr. Gump because he died in September of that same year at the age of 83.

In 1990, sixteen new research projects were begun, many of which carried on into future years. During cyclone season in 1991 a storm blew the roof off of the Gump House, causing a temporary displacement of the Stegers until it could be replaced. During the Fall semester of that year a field course from UCB – Biology and Geomorphology of Tropical Islands – was held for the first time. Roy Caldwell organized the class that year and David Stoddart, Mary Power, and Carla D’Antonio taught the course on site, along with the TA’s Sandra Banack and Frank Murphy. This course proved to be a success and has been held every year since then.

In early 1992 Rick Steger left his position as manager of the station as was replaced by Frank Murphy.

To be continued…