• Expedition: Jun 20-25, 2005
  • Environmental Science Academy
  • Yosemite National Park

From June 20-25, WildLink embarked on its second annual Environmental Science Academy, working with longtime partners UC Merced, the Yosemite Institute, and Yosemite National Park. The program expanded this year to include two groups of students, 18 students total, UC Scholars recruited from all over the Central Valley.

The program began with two days in the laboratories of the new UC Merced facility in Merced, California, where UC research and instructional staff prepped students for the laboratory water sample analysis to follow the backpacking component of the program. This exciting kickoff was followed by a day of National Park Service career talks in Wawona. The group was then joined by WildLink and Yosemite Institute staff for a day of exploration in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and preparation for their journey up to Chilnualnua Falls and beyond. After spending two magical nights in the historic cabins at the Pioneer History Center, the two groups were ready to begin their backcountry adventures!

The two groups travelled separately, and though they both had wonderful weeks in the same general area, they had very different highlights. Group I explored the theme of watersheds, discovering what feeds the water sources they use every day at home for drinking, and also the watersheds of their personal lives, asking the question of what feeds them, and keeps them healthy and strong. They went on a quest for snow, learned navigation skills, built their sense of teamwork trhough river crossings and challenging conditions, gained great views, and had lots of first-time food experiences too!

Group II explored the theme of Mind, Body & Spirit, gaining an 8,000 foot peak, and sleeping on a high granite ridge, which they named Menalawak. They spent time on spirit walks, group dynamics, and character development, pushing themselves to try things that were both challenging and rewarding in the end.

Both groups had the opportunity to spend a day of backcountry research with Todd Newburger, Yosemite Institute's Field Scientist, and Sara May, a UC Merced graduate student specializing in water quality studies. Students sampled, identified, and classified macroinvertebrates, studying them under microscopes and using field guides. They conducted habitat surveys and collected water samples, for later analysis in the labs of UC Merced, comparing them to samples collected from other locations in the Central Valley.

Both groups concluded their ESA experience with three more days in the UC Merced labs in Merced, California, where they worked with Todd, Sara, and other UC professorial and research staff to analyze the data and samples they collected in the wilderness. As a final celebration of these wonderful students, UC Merced held a banquet in their honor, inviting the students, their families, and staff from the National Park Service, Yosemite Institute, and UC Merced.

Enjoy the following images, which portray some of the highlights of this year's Environmental Science Academy.

girls at trialhead creek crossing waterfall sampling stream sampling map studies Charilies Research Angels the guys girls on snow water sampling habitat assessment groupshot mountaintop hikers head dunk solitude todd with girls crossing granite high bivy on the trail group II
WildLink is a proud partner of the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Nature Bridge.