Lizard Sighting

On August 6, 2015 we spotted the first common side-blotched lizard recorded on the Grasslands Reserve

Reserve Hike

UC Merced staff, faculty, and students set out with Reserve staff to explore Black Rascal Creek. Check out the Events section for our next hike.

Predation In Action

One of our automatic, motion cameras snapped a photo of a Bobcat carrying off a California Ground Squirrel, reflecting predator-prey relationships.

Burrowing Owls Dwell in Reserve

Burrowing Owls roost and nest in the burrows of California Ground Squirrels. They feed on beetles, grasshoppers and small rodents.
Burrowing Owl looking out from a ground squirrel burrow. Photo by Chris Swa

High over Black Rascal Creek

This false color image by Brandon Stark and Brenden Smith (UCM MESA lab) on March 4, 2015 reveals fine-scale elevational differences.

Soil profiles

On an area adjacent to the Reserve, scientists examine soil layers that underlie the vernal pools.
Soil scientists at UC Merced. Photo by C. Swarth.

Mima mounds

This aerial image taken 100 ft up by photographer David Rosen shows the remarkable Mima mound geomorphology in northern part of Reserve
Mima mounds in northern part of Reserve. Photo by David Rosen.

5th Graders from Merced Public Schools

In spring, Reserve staff and "Splash" educators from Sacramento teach K-12 students about vernal pool ecology
5th Graders from Merced Public Schools. Photo by David Rosen

Long-billed Curlews Winging Overhead

Long-billed Curlews, the world's largest shorebird, forage for insects on Reserve grasslands.
ng-billed Curlews flying over UC Merced's Vernal Pool Reserve. Photo by Dorothy Leland

Spring 2014 Service Learning Team

A team of students designed an award-winning brochure, web page and interpretive sign for the Reserve.
Spring 2014 Service Learning Team

Preserving Nature

With 6,500 protected acres, UC Merced will always have majestic views of a spectacular natural landscape.
Grasslands and blue sky. Photo by Clayton Anderson.

Vernal Pool Research

Vernal pools are fascinating, but rare ecosystems. Scientists have much to learn about the geological and hydrological processes that create and maintain them.

Stock Ponds

Stock ponds provide drinking water for the 1,600 cattle that graze on the Reserve. Some ponds are breeding sites for the federally threatened California Tiger Salamander.
Cattle Stock Pond in Reserve

Coyote Pups

These coyote pups were photographed with our motion sensor camera on a June afternoon at the Hercules watering tank.
Three coyote pups in Vernal Pools Reserve, UC Merced.

Horned Lark Nest

Horned Larks are abundant nesting birds on the Reserve. Their nest is placed on the ground, often near a grass clump or cobble. Photo by Jenna Heckel.
Horned Lark Nest

Science Education

The Reserve is convenient and accessible to undergraduates. A number of UC Merced professors now hold field trips there.
UC Merced Ecology students. Photo by Marilyn Fogel

Sightings on Reserve

Our motion sensor camera photographed this Great Blue Heron and three White-faced Ibis foraging on the Le Grand Canal leakage wetland on an August afternoon.
Great Blue Heron & White-faced Ibis at reserve wetland.

The Wild Side

The Reserve supports many native plants and animals that depend on this diverse, healthy ecosystem. This Least Sandpiper is foraging in a playa vernal pool.
Least Sandpiper in reserve playa pool. Photo by Chris Swarth

Dedication Ceremony

Chancellor Leland cuts the ribbon at the April 30 ceremony as Chris Swarth (L), Peggy Fiedler and Martha Conklin look on.
Chancellor Leland cuts ribbon as Chris Swarth (L), Peggy Fiedler and Martha Conklin watch.

Meadow foam & Whitetip Clover

These lovely wildflowers were in full bloom in early April. Photo by Jenna Heckel.
Meadowfoam and Whitetip Clover


January 23, 2017

By Lorena Anderson, University Communications UC Merced, University News Reposted with permission   Kestrels are a fixture among the birds on the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve Opens a New Window. adjacent to campus. Though they are not endangered, the small falcons’ population has declined by 60 percent in California over the past half-century because of changes in land usage. Nesting-box...

Announcements & Observations

Fall 2017 Undergraduate Natural Reserve Training

Interested in learning about the ecology and natural history of the vernal pools and grassland habitat and sharing that information with others?  If so, please join us this fall semester for the Naturalist Training on UC Merced's Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve (just east of campus)!

This non-credit, training is for undergraduate students who want to become volunteer naturalists on the Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve. The training provides the background knowledge and hands-on experience to become naturalists and future docents for the reserve.  Students will visit the Reserve often for field trips and engage in learning about its unique ecology and environmental history.  The training will cover vernal pool and grassland ecology, local hydrology, geology, wildlife, plant communities, endangered habitats and species, and invasive species.  Students will gain experience in wildflower identification, bird watching, nature journaling, navigating using GPS units, and more!  Trained student naturalists will help lead field trips; accompany professors on class field trips; and help with research and conservation projects.  Naturalists also have the opportunity to help with K-12 field trips.

Fall 2017 Schedule:  September 19- December 5, 2017.  The training will be held every Tuesday (9:00-11:50am), except holidays.  The class will meet in the Social Sciences and Management Building (SSM 107).  There is no fee for this workshop, but students are expected to attend all class meetings.

Registration/Contact:  For more information and to register for the workshop, please contact the reserve director, Monique Kolster at mkolster@ucmerced.edu (link sends e-mail)