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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

Meadow foam & Whitetip Clover

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

Lizard Sighting

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

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.


June 26, 2019

By Blythe Nobleman, University Communications UC Merced, University News Reposted with permission   Reserve Director Monique "Mo" Kolster begins a tour of the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve with high school students. At the northern tip of the UC Merced campus, an unremarkable aluminum gate leads into a field that extends, seemingly, into infinity. Perpendicular to the gate, the LeGrand Canal, drawn from Lake Yosemite, snakes around campus into...

Announcements & Observations

2-Day Rangeland and Livestock Management Course

Wednesday, May 1, 2019: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

UCCE Merced Conference Room (Mornings)
2145 Wardrobe Ave.Merced, CA 95341

UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve (Afternoons)
5200 N. Lake Road, Merced, CA 95343

The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) is hosting a 2-day training for ranchers and land managers on the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve. The training will provide a solid foundation of science-based information in rangeland ecology and livestock management principles combined with hands-on skills that enhance sustainability and economic viability. This comprehensive course will improve the understanding of mechanisms driving changes and in turn promote proactive and adaptive management. To view the course agenda, click here.

Topics Will Include:

  • Afternoon fieldwork both days
  • Rangeland vegetation and plant ID
  • Grazing management
  • Herd health and disease prevention
  • Rangeland monitoring and assessment
  • Rangeland stewardship and ecosystem services
  • Rangeland soil characteristics and soil health
  • Drought management
  • Animal and foraging behavior
  • Low stress animal handling, and facilities design
  • Weed management

Registration is Required
Cost is $95 per person ($150 for TWO persons from same ranch)
Registration includes lunches, light refreshments, and training material
Register on line and pay by credit card or Register by mail


If you have special needs that limit your participation in this event, please contact the UCCE Mariposa County office (209-966-2417) at least one week in advance.