• Ambassador: Mar 6, 2016
  • UC Merced Vernal Pool Phenology Research
  • UC Merced: Vernal Pool Reserve

Students from two high schools in Turlock gained exposure to their local institution of higher education and gave back to a local ecosystem by supporting a local science research project.

24 students from Turlock and Pitman High Schools, including nine WildLink alumni, came out to UC Merced for a day of learning and giving back in a very unique ecosystem. For many of the students, it was their first time stepping foot on a college campus, and several walked away saying they would consider going to UC Merced upon graduation from high school.


Introductions on the UC Merced campus.

Manny Ranger Sign

Entering the UC Merced Vernal Pool Reserve.

The day's events were timed with the seasonal flooding of a very rare and fragile California ecosystem: the vernal pools. Students were given a tour of UC Merced's Vernal Pool Reserve by NPS student rangers currently involved in the Yosemite Leadership Program on campus. On the tour, they took careful observations, learned about different flora and fauna using guidebooks and information from the student rangers, and thought about measures each person could take to protect the habitat.

Ranger Students

Learning about the vernal pool ecosystem from UCM student rangers.


Using binoculars to identify species on the reserve.

After learning a bit about the reserve, students assisted with a phenology study of two plant species in the pools: white-tipped clover and meadowfoam. Phenology is the study of seasonal cycles that occur in plants and animals, and is an important field for the tracking of climate change and habitat monitoring. The students used measuring tapes across the vernal pools and counted the number of species of the two plants in order to calculate the abundance of each species.

Ranger Transect

Learning from NPS student rangers how to conduct a scientific transect.

Group Transect

Measuring out a transect line to count the abundance of two different plant species.

Measuring Pool

Setting up another transect.

In addition to helping with this important ongoing study at UC Merced, the high school students gave valuable feedback on how to make this project even better for future volunteers so that more people from the general public can engage with the reserve in a meaningful way.

Kiran Counts

Kiran counts up the flowers along the transect.

Plant Point

There it is!

In the words of lead chaperone Laura, "It was a great day and the students came away with a new appreciation for the subtlety of nature - namely that what looked simply like a pasture contained a wealth of life!"


So many wildflowers!

Walking on Trail

The rain of the previous days and weeks made from gorgeous springtime conditions.

Measuring Pool

Science is so much fun!

WildLink is a proud partner of the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Nature Bridge.