Research News

zoom zoom

Study: Critical Sierra Meadows Being Overtaken by Forest

Subalpine meadows are among the Sierra Nevada’s most enchantingly picturesque landscapes. These sparsely wooded, grassy expanses are home to plants and animals found nowhere else, and they play an important role in regulating the flow of water from the Sierra snowpack to the rest of the state. But these ecosystems may soon disappear. A UC Merced study authored by former doctoral student Kaitlin Lubetkin, Professor Leroy Westerling and Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) scientist Lara Kueppers found that these meadows are being increasingly overrun by forest as changing conditions allow the offspring of nearby trees to take hold in meadow environments that previously favored shrubs and grasses over saplings. For the many species that...

zoom zoom

Study: Wildfires, Climate Change Could Make Sierra a Polluter

What if nature were to become a polluter, discharging millions of tons of planet-warming carbon into the atmosphere in much the same way as diesel-fueled trucks or coal-fired power plants? This nature-as-polluter scenario might seem far-fetched, but it’s well on its way to becoming reality, according to a recent study co-authored by UC Merced Professor LeRoy Westerling. In a paper published recently in Scientific Reports — “Potential decline in carbon carrying capacity under projected climate-wildfire interactions in the Sierra Nevada” — Westerling and collaborators from the University of New Mexico and Penn State University used three climate models and data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to examine how rising...

zoom zoom
Filming in Yosemite

‘Water in the Balance’ Highlights UC Merced Research

Water is a delicate balancing act in California. When the scales tip in the wrong direction, the consequences can have national effects. Nobody knows this better than UC Water Co-Director Joshua Viers. “More than half of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in California’s San Joaquin Valley,” he said. “The problem is that the state has historically relied heavily on groundwater for agricultural irrigation, and we haven’t done a good job of recharging it.” UC Water is a multicampus research initiative with the goal of using technology to create a comprehensive understanding of California’s complex water system. It’s also the subject of “Water in the Balance,” the first in a series of videos to be broadcast on UCTV’s newest...

zoom zoom

Community Members Aid Cutting-Edge Research in ‘BioBlitz’ Project

When scientists at UC Merced seek to better understand California’s biodiversity, they turn to cutting-edge genomics. They also turn to their neighbors. On a sunny Saturday in April, scientists joined forces with members of the local community to take part in UC Merced’s inaugural eDNA BioBlitz. Under the guidance of Professor Michael Dawson and a team of conservation biologists from UC Merced, UCLA, and Cal State Los Angeles, community members trained as citizen scientists and spent the day collecting and cataloging environmental DNA (eDNA) from the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve. “What is eDNA? It’s a really new science,” reserve director Mo Kolster explained to the nearly two dozen participants...

zoom zoom

Research Shows Global Photosynthesis on the Rise

Plant photosynthesis was stable for hundreds of years before the industrial revolution, but grew rapidly in the 20th century, according to new research published today in Nature. “Virtually all life on our planet depends on photosynthesis,” said UC Merced Professor Elliott Campbell, who led the research. “Keeping tabs on global plant growth should be a central goal for the human race.” Photosynthesis is the process through which plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbohydrates to fuel their growth and other activities. Yet, researchers lack a clear picture of global trends in photosynthesis over the past few centuries. Some human activities might have stimulated plant growth, while others might have hampered photosynthesis. Conflicting...

zoom zoom

Paleorecord Critical to Future Conservation Efforts, Scientists Say

The rapid pace of global change has large impacts on nature, and on the work conservation biologists will have before them, too. From here on out, experts say, the fossil record is going to be critical to guide nature into the future. A new paper in the journal Science, co-authored by UC Merced paleoecology Professor Jessica Blois, contends that rather than holding ecosystems to an idealized past, preserving and maintaining vibrant ecosystems requires new approaches. That includes using Earth’s history to help understand how ecological resilience is maintained even in the face of change. “Focusing our conservation efforts on preserving single species has served us well,” said Blois, with the School of Natural Sciences. “...

zoom zoom

Renewable Power Project Could Help Cut Food Processing Costs, Feed People and Animals

Researchers at UC Solar have developed and tested an innovative solar thermal-powered process for turning the pomace, or byproduct, of vegetable and fruit processing into reusable products, potentially lowering food-processing plant costs and reducing their carbon footprints. With collaborators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), UC Merced graduate student Jonathan Ferry and UC Solar Director Professor Roland Winston tested and optimized a solar-powered drum dryer for use in food-processing applications. Drum dryers are widely used in paper and food production outside California. The dryers typically work by pumping steam to heat a...

zoom zoom

New UC Solar Project Produces Both Heat and Power

One of California’s greatest energy challenges is finding innovative ways to lower natural gas consumption to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. To help meet that challenge, a new solar energy system that produces both heat and electricity might not be far away, thanks to researchers at UC Merced and the California Energy Commission. Professor Roland Winston, director of the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar), and co-Director Professor Gerardo Diaz received a nearly $1 million grant from the commission to develop a high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) system that produces electricity, hot water and space heating for homes and commercial buildings. “The idea behind our...

zoom zoom

Raindrops, Red Wine Inspire Solar Tech Advancements

In recent publications, Professor Vincent Tung proves that inspiration for advancements in materials science can come from anywhere — even the merging of raindrops on a windshield or the sheeting of red wine down the inside of a glass. Through those liquid movements, Tung discovered and optimized a new, low-cost, scalable and environmentally friendly way of using perovskite, an extremely thin and highly efficient material that is at the forefront of photovoltaic research. Teaming up with physics Professor Sayantani Ghosh, Tung published three papers last year that earned the covers of materials, physics and chemistry journals. Their interdisciplinary collaboration demonstrates work that could change the way solar cells are produced. The first paper...

zoom zoom

Bird Researcher Expands Knowledge About Reserve’s Kestrels

Kestrels are a fixture among the birds on the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve 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 programs like the one on the reserve and others around the Central Valley are helping the kestrels reproduce safely. The boxes also help UC Merced researchers like Joy McDermot — the first at UC Merced to study the reserve’s birds and a recent master’s recipient — discover more about the little birds of prey and the lives they live. “Kestrels used to be very common, so it’s alarming to see this population loss since the 1960s,” McDermot said. “We...

zoom zoom

Study: Warming Could Slow Upslope Migration of Trees

By Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Scientists expect subalpine trees to advance upslope as global temperatures increase, following their climate up the mountains. But new research published Dec. 15 in the journal Global Change Biology suggests this might not hold true for two subalpine tree species of western North America. A study led by project scientist Lara Kueppers, affiliated with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, shows Engelmann spruce might not move to higher elevations as temperatures rise. Its lower-elevation boundary could recede upslope, so its overall range could shrink. And the hardy limber pine could advance upward in a warmer climate, but likely at the same slow pace as in today’s climate. Researchers at the...

zoom zoom

Robots and People Working Together to Save Water and Enhance Agriculture

A nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is helping University of California researchers refine collaborative robotic technology that could change the way crops are maintained worldwide, saving millions of gallons of water each year and taking precision agriculture to a whole new level. The three-year Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation and Diagnostics (RAPID) project is led by UC Merced robotics Professor Stefano Carpin, UC Berkeley Professor Ken Goldberg — director of the People and Robots Initiative at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute — and UC Davis biology and engineering Professor Stavros Vougioukas...

zoom zoom

Yara North America Supports UC Merced Students, Ag Research

A contribution from Yara North America will provide the University of California, Merced, with the potential to take agricultural research to a new level of innovation and improve crop yields, particularly in almonds. Yara, known for its fertilizers, crop nutrition programs and technologies to increase yields, improve product quality and reduce the environmental impact of agricultural practices, has established the Yara North America Almond Scholarship and Fellowship Fund to help support a three-year graduate fellowship and scholarships to two undergraduate students each year for three years. Areas of research may include soil fertility, plant nutrition, and water- and nutrient-use efficiency across disciplines.   “This generous...

zoom zoom

Grad Student’s Water-Mapping Work Leads to National Recognition

UC Merced graduate student Lorenzo Booth’s research into more efficient use of water for agriculture has earned him accolades from the American Water Resources Association for not only producing information, but presenting solutions. “If we can make the process of growing food more efficient and sustainable,” that’s a good thing,” Booth said. At UC Merced, Booth discovered he’s a pretty good programmer, and used his skills to build a computer program that compares water usage for different crops in different locations. He demonstrated his work at a recent conference with a poster titled “Improved Agricultural Water Use Accounting Through Water Footprinting.” The association named him the best student poster presenter...

zoom zoom

Alumnus Stays Local, Launches Environmentally Friendly Career

Stephen Ho’s experience at UC Merced helped him land an internship with E. & J. Gallo Winery in Livingston shortly after his graduation in 2012. His engineering expertise, passion for the environment and innovative spirit — all cultivated on campus — helped him make an immediate impact on the company’s operations. Charged with managing waste from the winery’s grape processes, Ho took things a step further — instead of grinding the waste down and selling it to farmers as cattle feed, he fed it to microbes in an anaerobic condition, generating biogas that can be harvested to create electricity. Gallo incorporated what it learned from Ho’s pilot project into its new Livingston Water Innovation and Energy facility. “Since high...

zoom zoom

Winston Feted for Golden Anniversary of Landmark Discovery

Fifty years ago this year, while a freshman faculty member in the University of Chicago Physics Department, Roland Winston published a paper introducing a new field he called nonimaging optics. In it, he described the compound parabolic concentrator (CPC), a highly efficient device that collects and concentrates light, and introduced “Winston Cones,” non-imaging light collectors that by their design maximize the amount of light that can be focused from large areas into smaller photodetectors or photomultipliers. Because of the publication, Winston is widely considered to be the father of nonimaging optics, a field concerned with the optimal transfer of light radiation between a source and a target. Winston’s 1966 work for the department he...

zoom zoom

Winston Feted for Golden Anniversary of Landmark Discovery

Fifty years ago this year, while a freshman faculty member in the University of Chicago Physics Department, Roland Winston published a paper introducing a new field he called nonimaging optics. Professor Roland Winston and some of his team at UC Solar. In it, he described the compound parabolic concentrator (CPC), a highly efficient device that collects and concentrates light, and introduced “Winston Cones,” non-imaging light collectors that by their design maximize the amount of light that can be focused from large areas into smaller photodetectors or photomultipliers. Because of the publication, Winston is widely considered to be the father of nonimaging optics, a field concerned with the optimal...

zoom zoom

Researchers Eye Foggy Link Between Redwoods, Climate Change

Most Americans have probably seen gorgeous photos of fog winding its way through California’s coastal redwoods. The trees are one of the state’s most prominent icons, drawing more than 2 million visitors a year. But at a time when rising sea levels, melting polar ice, droughts and superstorms are the most visible indicators of climate change, people might not readily think about the fog. A new National Science Foundation (NSF) grant supports a team of researchers from seven institutions — UC Merced, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, Stanford University, the Carnegie Institution for Science and Oregon State University — in forming an interdisciplinary “uber-university” to study the relationships between fog, climate change, redwoods and...

zoom zoom

AWRA awards Lorenzo Booth's research on water-use by crops

The California drought has exacerbated some of the challenges farmers face.  For example, they have to spend more on water, and not just because there is less to go around. A warmer climate causes water to evaporate faster and can force plants to consume more for the same amount of growth. But researchers at the University of California, Merced, are finding where crops would use water most efficiently so that the state can continue to grow food in the new climate and offering data that can be used any time. Because of the immediate importance of this work, UC Merced environmental science graduate student Lorenzo Booth earned top honors at the American Water Resources Association meeting in July 2016...

zoom zoom

Winston’s Innovative Project Highlights UC Solar Symposium

UC Merced Professor Roland Winston will deliver details on a groundbreaking hybrid solar collector he’s working on that simultaneously generates electricity and very-high-temperature heat at the annual 2016 UC Solar Research Symposium slated for Oct. 7 at UC Davis. The University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) — a multi-campus research collaborative headquartered at UC Merced — develops innovative technologies that make solar energy systems more efficient, more affordable and easier to integrate. In addition, UC solar educates and develops tomorrow’s solar energy leaders and entrepreneurs. Winston, director of UC Solar, is just one of many notable speakers scheduled to appear at the symposium,...

zoom zoom

Researcher’s Solar-Powered Water Heaters Could Save Energy and Money

UC Merced Professor Gerardo Diaz is developing solar-powered water heating technology that could reduce the demand for natural gas in businesses and homes and lower the costs for business and homeowners. Soon he’ll be putting that technology to the test in Southern California. Through a nearly $1 million contract with the California Energy Commission, Diaz will build and install his technology in residential and commercial buildings near Aliso Canyon — where last fall’s enormous methane leak caused so many problems. Aliso Canyon is an area with heavy energy demands and aging infrastructure, and Diaz — a researcher in UC Merced’s School of Engineering and the UC Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC...

zoom zoom

Researcher’s Solar-Powered Water Heaters Could Save Energy and Money

UC Merced Professor Gerardo Diaz is developing solar-powered water heating technology that could reduce the demand for natural gas in businesses and homes and lower the costs for business and homeowners. Mini channel technology could help address some of the state's energy needs. Soon he’ll be putting that technology to the test in Southern California. Through a nearly $1 million contract with the California Energy Commission, Diaz will build and install his technology in residential and commercial buildings near Aliso Canyon — where last fall’s enormous methane leak caused so many problems. Aliso Canyon is an area with heavy energy demands and aging...

zoom zoom

UC Solar Graduate Student Lighting the Night in a Controlled Way

One of the most stunning sights in Yosemite National Park has nothing to do with granite. It’s the night sky, Milky Way and all. But light pollution within the park can diminish that experience for visitors as well as change the circadian rhythms of flora and fauna. UC Merced graduate student Melissa Ricketts has found an answer. And she’s turning one of her mentor’s inventions on its head to do it. Ricketts is a member of Professor Roland Winston’s lab at UC Solar, a multicampus research institute headquartered at UC Merced. Winston is the inventor of nonimaging optics, and his compound parabolic concentrator (CPC) is a key piece of solar-collecting equipment in the emerging solar energy industry. But Ricketts is interested in...

zoom zoom

Campus Takes Steps to Stay Green Despite Drought

Don’t be surprised if, as the warmer weather kicks in, you continue to see green lawns at UC Merced. Maintenance crews are not using more water to keep the quad lush. In fact, they are using less. Facilities Management has adopted a hydrogel system, developed by a Fresno-based company, that allows turf to stay green despite a lack of water. “It’s going to look like we are not observing the drought, but we are,” Sustainability Director Colleen McCormick said. Tests show that the hydrogel system uses almost 50 percent less water because it increases soil’s moisture-retention capabilities. The hydrogel acts as a water and nutrient reservoir, allowing a slow release into the soil and roots. It was chosen for its savings, but also because it is environmentally...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Extension Offerings Launch With Yosemite Excursions

UC Merced Extension, a combination of professional development and personal enrichment courses that mark the campus’s first extension offerings, launches this summer with educational excursions to Yosemite National Park and fully online courses for working professionals in business, management, information technologies and engineering. The excursions, “Yosemite and Water,” and “Yosemite and Fire,” take place July 23 and Aug. 5, respectively. Yosemite and Fire explores fire management in national parks through the lens of Yosemite’s role as a global fire policy leader. Yosemite and Water examines how national parks play a part in American water policy. UC Merced staff member Steve Shackelton will co-instruct both courses, along with...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Mercurial Studies Involve Tree Bark, Fish and Water

From the forests of Tuscany, Italy, to the shores of a San Diego reservoir, Professor Marc Beutel is hunting mercury. Beutel, one of the newest professors in the UC Merced School of Engineering, has two summer projects to keep him busy this year. The first involves spending a month working with Italian scientists and studying how to monitor mercury levels in the air surrounding an historic mercury mine using tree bark. “Mercury is easily mined as an ore, and this is one of five historic mines in the world — the Etruscans mined there,” Beutel said. “But the process of transforming the mercury in solid rocks into a liquid results in mercury pollution in air and soils. We’re trying to figure out the best, least expensive...

zoom zoom

Wildfire Increasing in the West Because of Climate Change, Research Shows

The number, size and duration of large mountain forest fires in the Western United States has increased dramatically in the past 40 years, according to research from UC Merced Professor LeRoy Westerling. Warming temperatures and the earlier onset of spring and the spring snowmelt — the results of climate change — are the primary culprits. That change has doubled the cost of fire suppression in the past 15 years from $1 billion in 2000 to $2 billion in 2015. In “Increasing Western U.S. Wildfire Activity: Sensitivity to Changes in the Timing of Spring,” published this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B and in an op-ed in The Conversation, Westerling updates his research quantifying...

zoom zoom

Greening the Campus Earns Gold in Sustainability Ratings

The UC Merced campus is getting greener and earning gold as it does — gold ratings, that is. UC Merced improved its rating through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a rigorous review process that takes the better part of a year to complete, but makes the campus eligible for other popular sustainability ranking lists like the Princeton Review’s Green Colleges and Sierra Club’s Cool Schools. “We improved from silver to gold, and we intend to meet the platinum rating by 2020,” campus Sustainability Director Colleen McCormick said. “We want to be the first UC campus to do so.” So far, only one university in the country has met the platinum...

zoom zoom

Internship Program Enhances Students’ Academic Experiences

Last fall, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education launched an internship program with the goal of providing undergraduate students an opportunity to build experience and skills related to their career ambitions and to integrate them with their academic learning. Diana Chavez, assistant director of professional development programs for the Center for Career and Professional Advancement, believes the newly created Student Success Internship (SSI) Program is filling a void. “While many students find internships off campus, others are seeking on-campus internship opportunities that are different than student employment,” Chavez said. “Internship experience is key to their professional development...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Student a Winner at Clinton Event

Besides attending Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) with 1,200 other college students from around the world, UC Merced student Hoaithi Dang helped his team win the weekend’s “Code for Impact” event in partnership with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. The ninth annual CGI U meeting brought student leaders together with experts, entrepreneurs and civically engaged celebrities to talk about issues of global concern and make “Commitments to Action” to address this generation’s most pressing challenges. In the lead-up to the CGI U meeting, which took place March 31 and April 1, students had the opportunity to participate in a two-day coding event nicknamed the “Codeathon.” They were challenged to build original prototypes to promote emotional wellness on...

zoom zoom

Eat, Hydrate and Learn at This Year’s Earth Day Event

Most people probably don’t think about food when considering how to celebrate Earth Day. But the UC Merced Student Sustainability Council wants to help people understand how what we eat and where it comes from is connected to sustainable living. That’s why food is the theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration on campus. “Food is a topic that touches every one of us,” said student sustainability leader Hoaithi Dang, a UC Global Food Initiative fellow. “It’s not just sustainability; food is cultural, and it relates to the community.” This year’s Earth Day festivities — to which everyone is invited — will feature food in different ways. Dining Services will offer cooking demonstrations to help students learn to make tasty, healthy and locally...

zoom zoom

Study Shows How Plants Could Adapt to Changing Climate

If you want to understand how plant populations will respond as the climate changes, just examine the plants in different locations. That’s one of the conclusions drawn by UC Merced School of Natural Sciences Professor Jason Sexton in a new paper that’s part of a special issue of the American Journal of Botany exploring the evolution of plants. Written by Sexton and graduate student Erin Dickman, “What Can Local and Geographic Population Limits Tell Us about Distributions?” looks at different populations of monkey flowers in the Sierra Nevada and compares them with populations in different locations with different climates. “If you have the same species in two climates, each will likely...

zoom zoom

Study Shows How Plants Could Adapt to Changing Climate

If you want to understand how plant populations will respond as the climate changes, just examine the plants in different locations. That’s one of the conclusions drawn by UC Merced School of Natural Sciences Professor Jason Sexton in a new paper that’s part of a special issue of the American Journal of Botany exploring the evolution of plants. Written by Sexton and graduate student Erin Dickman, “What Can Local and Geographic Population Limits Tell Us about Distributions?” looks at different populations of monkey flowers in the Sierra Nevada and compares them with populations in different locations with different climates. “If you have the same species in two climates, each will likely have adapted to its climate, and each will be quite...

zoom zoom

Pine Bacteria Getting a Closer Look From Scientists

Professor Carolin Frank’s research into the nitrogen-fixing properties of bacteria inside the needles of some high-elevation pine trees is the topic of a new paper in the journal New Phytologist. Frank, with the School of Natural Sciences, won a $1.6 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2014 for her work on foliar endophytes. “Evidence for Foliar Endophytic Nitrogen Fixation in a Widely Distributed Subalpine Conifer” is the first publication to come from that research. Some old-growth coniferous forests have more nitrogen in their soils and vegetation than can be explained by known sources, Frank and her colleagues explain in the paper. That limits researchers’ ability to...

zoom zoom

Pine Bacteria Getting a Closer Look From Scientists

Professor Carolin Frank’s research into the nitrogen-fixing properties of bacteria inside the needles of some high-elevation pine trees is the topic of a new paper in the journal New Phytologist. Frank, with the School of Natural Sciences, won a $1.6 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2014 for her work on foliar endophytes. “Evidence for Foliar Endophytic Nitrogen Fixation in a Widely Distributed Subalpine Conifer” is the first publication to come from that research. Some old-growth coniferous forests have more nitrogen in their soils and vegetation than can be explained by known sources, Frank and her colleagues explain in the paper. That limits researchers’ ability to understand and predict carbon and nitrogen...

zoom zoom

Wells Fargo Gift Increases Focus on Critical Regional Projects

An increased gift from longtime campus partner Wells Fargo is allowing more engineering students at the University of California, Merced, to focus on solutions to problems related to water, energy and food. Wells Fargo awarded its Clean Technology and Innovation Grant to the UC Merced School of Engineering’s senior Innovation Design Clinic (IDC). The $125,000 gift — $25,000 more than last year — supports IDC’s efforts to develop, design and create engineering solutions addressing the critical water, energy, food (WEF) nexus. In total, Wells Fargo has awarded the School of Engineering $300,000 over the past three years through the grant program. “Wells Fargo recognizes that the health of our environment is critical to fostering...

zoom zoom

Study: Fishing Industry a Bigger Polluter than Previously Known

Many studies have shown that raising cattle and pigs for food is hard on the environment, and fish has long been considered a better alternative. But the work of UC Merced graduate student Brandi McKuin indicates that because of emissions, fishing for large fish like tuna warms the climate just as much as raising pork, pound for pound. McKuin’s work suggests that despite a shift toward “cleaner” practices, the fishing industry is a far greater contributor to climate change than previously thought, and that shift could have its own negative consequences for the Earth. McKuin, an environmental engineering student working toward her Ph.D. with Professor Elliott Campbell in the School of Engineering, recently published “Emissions and...

zoom zoom

Study: Fishing Industry a Bigger Polluter than Previously Known

Many studies have shown that raising cattle and pigs for food is hard on the environment, and fish has long been considered a better alternative. But the work of UC Merced graduate student Brandi McKuin indicates that because of emissions, fishing for large fish like tuna warms the climate just as much as raising pork, pound for pound. McKuin’s work suggests that despite a shift toward “cleaner” practices, the fishing industry is a far greater contributor to climate change than previously thought, and that shift could have its own negative consequences for the Earth. McKuin, an environmental engineering student working toward her Ph.D. with Professor Elliott Campbell in the School of Engineering, recently...

zoom zoom

New Study Shows Early Human Impacts on Biodiversity

Even without all the industrial and technological growth that has accelerated climate change, humans can — and do — dramatically impact ecosystems. A new paper in Nature Communications, co-authored by UC Merced Professor Marilyn Fogel, indicates early humans were responsible for the fairly rapid extinction of the 10-foot-tall flightless bird Genyornis newtoni in Australia about 47,000 years ago, simply through hunting and the interruption of reproduction. In “Human Predation Contributed to the Extinction of the Australian Megafaunal Bird Genyornis newtoni,” Fogel and her colleagues — who have spent the past 20 years gathering a variety of data about the effects of humans on continental ecosystem changes...

zoom zoom

Faculty Climate Champion Puts Plan Into Action

Biodiversity Professor Michael Dawson has been named UC Merced’s inaugural Faculty Climate Action Champion by the UC Office of the President (UCOP). Dawson’s work and his plan, which formed a proposal for a project to engage the campus and community in sustainability, earned him the title and $25,000 to fund a research project in the 2015-16 academic year. UCOP recently announced its first Faculty Climate Action Champions, with one selection from each UC campus. Through the award, Dawson, with the School of Natural Sciences, hopes to leverage people’s familiarity with “lines.” “Lines are a fundamental part of the way people think,” he wrote in his proposal. “We recognize shorelines...

zoom zoom

Faculty Climate Champion Puts Plan Into Action

Biodiversity Professor Michael Dawson has been named UC Merced’s inaugural Faculty Climate Action Champion by the UC Office of the President (UCOP). Dawson’s work and his plan, which formed a proposal for a project to engage the campus and community in sustainability, earned him the title and $25,000 to fund a research project in the 2015-16 academic year. UCOP recently announced its first Faculty Climate Action Champions, with one selection from each UC campus. Through the award, Dawson, with the School of Natural Sciences, hopes to leverage people’s familiarity with “lines.” “Lines are a fundamental part of the way people think,” he wrote in his proposal. “We recognize shorelines, tree lines and skylines. Lines are boundaries and divisions — limits and things...

zoom zoom

Researcher’s Work Shows History Doesn’t Indicate the Future of Climate Change

Shakespeare might have been right when he wrote “what’s past is prologue,” but not when it comes to modeling climate change. A new study shows that rising air temperatures could have a crippling effect on the likelihood of precipitation falling as snow. That’s a huge problem for California, because the snowpack in the Sierra is the state’s natural reservoir, storing up snow in the winter for release through spring and summer melt. Lead author Mohammad Safeeq, a research hydrologist with UC Merced, examined western U.S. precipitation and temperature data over the past century to answer two questions: How likely is it that precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, and where is that...

zoom zoom

Humans Have Disrupted Ecosystems for 6,000 Years, Research Shows

The basic structure of Earth’s ecosystems lasted for 300 million years but changed about 6,000 years ago, and humans are the most likely reason. A team of about 25 researchers from around the globe, including UC Merced Professor Jessica Blois, outline that discovery in a paper published today in the journal Nature. “Over the past 10,000 years, we see rapid changes in natural communities,” said Blois, a professor in UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences. “We really see the turning point happening about 6,000 years ago, and we think the changes were due to increasing human activity.” There was a lot going on at that time, she said, including an increase in human populations around the world and the beginnings of agriculture. Many...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Rallies to Finish Second in Cool Campus Challenge

After 10 weeks of competition — including a wild flurry of activity at the end — UC Merced placed second in the University of California’s first-ever Cool Campus Challenge. With the University of California’s ambitious goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 just 10 years away, the Cool Campus Challenge was designed to get campus communities informed and engaged in the process early on, and to kick-start a cultural change around sustainability. UC Irvine won the competition, with UC Merced and UCLA rounding out the top three finishers. UC Irvine was the early leader and remained there through most of the challenge, but an 11th-hour surge of pledges pushed UC Merced from near the bottom of the standings to the top. The campus even took...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Shares in Three of Four UC Catalyst Grants

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced this week the 2016 recipients of the President’s Research Catalyst Awards, and professors from UC Merced are contributors to three of the four projects. Professors Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Michael Dawson, Teamrat Ghezzehei and Jason Sexton, with the Life and Environmental Sciences Unit in the School of Natural Sciences, and Professor Nicola Lercari, with the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, will collaborate with principal investigators at other UC campuses to advance knowledge about protecting biodiversity; enhancing agricultural resilience in times of drought; and preserving cultural heritage sites in the Middle East. The four winning projects were chosen from a pool of more...

zoom zoom

Researchers Model Near Future of Coastal Redwoods’ Habitat

Many species of trees and plants have begun migrating as the climate changes, but some, like California’s giant coastal redwoods, can’t just pick up and move. The proximity of the ocean, which has unique effects on temperature and climate, makes it challenging to predict what the redwoods’ habitat will look like in the future. By using California’s historical climate data, UC Merced researchers have developed near-term predictions about the coastal habitat for the archetypal redwoods. The trees will need to move north to keep up with the shifting climate. “This method gets us over a hump that has been challenging climate modelers for many years,” said Lara Kueppers, a researcher with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and...

zoom zoom

Four Students Win Dan David Solar Fellowships

Four students from diverse disciplines have been named Dan David Solar Fellows through the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar), headquartered at UC Merced. The fellowship began in 2007 through a generous gift from Sarah R. Kurtz, principal scientist in the National Center for Photovoltaics at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Kurtz established the fellowship in the name of the Dan David Foundation, which awarded her and NREL colleague Jerry Olson that year’s prestigious Dan David Prize for their groundbreaking work in concentrating solar power systems using multi-junction solar cells. The Dan David Solar Fellowship, which exists in perpetuity, supports undergraduate and graduate...

zoom zoom

Gasification Projects Could Benefit the Environment, Economy

Two overlapping research projects involving UC Merced professors could have big implications for the region’s economy and effects on renewable energy, water and wildfires. Professor Gerardo Diaz, with the School of Engineering, received nearly $900,000 through two grants: one from the California Energy Commission for the analysis and optimization of a 1-megawatt biomass gasification plant in North Fork, and the other from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study a gasification byproduct for use in agriculture and air and water filtration. Diaz and a group of industry experts are working on a new gasification plant in North Fork, a little town in the foothills between Merced and Fresno. It’s a $5 million project that aims to take...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Experts Part of New UC Climate Report

The University of California aims to lead the way to a sustainable future in the face of global warming, and UC Merced professors have contributed to a report that offers practical steps to help get there. “Bending the Curve: 10 Scalable Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability,” an intercampus report due out in the spring, presents paths for limiting climate warming to no more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit and preventing the consequences any further warming would cause. An executive summary, released today during the inaugural UC Carbon and Climate Neutrality Summit at UC San Diego, broadly unveils the ideas that will be detailed in the full report. More than 50 UC researchers and scholars — including Merced professors Teenie Matlock, Roger Bales...

zoom zoom

Three Students Awarded Global Food Initiative Fellowships

The University of California has selected its second class of Global Food Initiative (GFI) fellows — including three students from UC Merced — who will work on projects ranging from food access to policy to waste. The 44 fellows, representing all 10 UC campuses plus UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will help advance the systemwide initiative, which aims to put UC, the state and the world on a pathway to sustainably and nutritiously feed themselves. The $4,000 fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, selected by the campuses, will fund student-generated research, projects or internships that support the initiative’s efforts to address food security, health and sustainability....

zoom zoom

Campus on Track to Meet State’s Water Conservation Demands

Four months into the reporting period for Gov. Jerry Brown’s water-reduction mandate, and UC Merced has so far exceeded the goal. Now it needs the campus community's help. The campus, which constructed all of its buildings to be 40 percent more efficient than state requirements, has so far been able to trim another 25 percent of its water consumption from the baseline year of 2013, despite the addition of two new buildings and 1,000 more students since then. Like everyone with water meters, the campus must keep track of usage for the nine-month period between June and February. So far, UC Merced has saved slightly more than the required 25 percent, mainly through changes to landscaping. The campus conserved a lot of water during the...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Water Research Earns Share of $50 Million Grant

The University of California, Merced, just became part of a massive, five-year, multi-million-dollar international research consortium that tackles water-related aspects of energy production and use. The campus will receive $1.5 million of the $50 million grant that will form the Clean Energy Research Center for Water Energy Technologies (CERC-WET) consortium. Half of the $50 million comes from the U.S. Department of Energy and its partners, UC Irvine and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the other half from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and its consortium partners. UC Merced is joined in the consortium by UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UCLA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Massachusetts-based...

zoom zoom

Super-Calculations Could Provide Clearer View of the Future

Applied mathematics Professor Noemi Petra develops algorithms and uses complicated computations to examine some of the world’s biggest problems — the ones that can’t be seen. They are called inverse problems — using actual observations to infer the values of parts of the problem that can’t be directly observed, like calculating the density of the Earth from measurements of its gravity field. For example, her most recent publication,“Scalable and Efficient Algorithms for the Propagation of Uncertainty from Data through Inference to Prediction for Large-scale Problems, with Application to Flow of the Antarctic Ice Sheet,” in the Journal of Computational Physics — written with collaborators at the University of Texas at Austin — shows a...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Invention Helps Scientists Win Nobel Prize

Professor Roland Winston has been tracking the Sudbury Neutrino Experiment since it began in the 1980s, because he invented the light collectors the scientists built to detect solar neutrinos. “I just wanted to make sure they worked,” he said. Last week, Winston learned with the rest of the world that the collectors not only worked, but were critical to the experiment that shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. “It’s a very important experiment,” said Winston, director of UC Solar and a founding faculty member at UC Merced. “Neutrinos are one of the more mysterious components of matter.” Neutrinos are one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe, and are similar to electrons but don’t carry an electric charge. They...

zoom zoom

Event Connects High School Girls With Female Scientists

While many young women her age are thinking about their favorite shoes or who they’ll go with to the winter formal, Callie Nance, 15, is thinking about her favorite science organizations and her future as a physicist.   That’s why the Dinner with a Scientist event at UC Merced last week was so perfect for her.   “Seeing all of these women — it’s a big thing for us to get out and see that there is so much more for us than just what we experience in Mariposa,” Nance said.   Nance and 55 other ninth- through 12th-grade girls from the Mariposa County Unified School District toured the campus and visited labs led by female scientists before sitting down for dinner with 14 women — some...

zoom zoom

UC Solar Symposium Focuses on Innovations and Policy

California Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Liane Randolph will offer the opening remarks at this year's UC Solar Research Symposium in San Francisco, scheduled for Oct. 16. UC Solar, based at UC Merced, will present a variety of speakers and activities on solar-related innovations, policy, the political and economic climate, and more. Presentations will include: “Advancing California's Energy Innovation Ecosystem,” by Erik Stokes, manager of Energy Deployment and Market Facilitation for the California Energy Commission; “High-Temperature Coating for Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion,” by Renkun Chen, UC Solar co-director and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC San Diego; “Sustainability at E. & J. Gallo Winery,” by Kim...

zoom zoom

UC President’s Whirlwind Visit Covers Many Bases

University of California President Janet Napolitano learned about UC Merced’s outreach to local high school students and efforts to support the UC system’s Global Food and Carbon Neutrality initiatives during a visit to Merced on Oct. 1. Napolitano spent the morning at Golden Valley High School, where she and UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland met with a class of juniors and seniors who challenged her with questions on topics like affordability, accessibility and availability of majors. One student asked the likelihood of placing a cap on tuition. “It would be nice,” Napolitano said. “If we keep tuition as low as possible and the state legislature put a lot more money into the university, we’d be able to do it.” Then Napolitano attended a rally...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Researchers Gathering Data to Tackle California’s Water Crisis on Multiple Fronts

Note: This story originally ran in the Fall 2015 issue of UC Merced Magazine. By Joel Patenaude California, long envied by the rest of the country for its climate, beauty and natural resources, is four years into a drought and in the midst of a water crisis a century in the making. With Gov. Jerry Brown imposing mandatory water restrictions on residents, the state’s staggeringly complex water woes have taken the sheen off at least some of the California dream. But researchers at UC Merced are trying to unravel the Gordian knot that is California water through a new inter-campus initiative. The new UC Water Security and Sustainability Research initiative, known as UC...

zoom zoom

Humanities Center Aims to Bring Depth to Water Issues

Open any newspaper — or news website — and you’re likely to see at least one article about California’s water crisis. From climate change to wildfires to groundwater to El Niño, there’s no shortage of water-related conversations. There’s also no shortage of scientific research to be conducted on water, and UC Merced has a number of faculty members doing important work to address the state’s crisis. Starting this month, the Center for the Humanities at UC Merced is aiming to prove it has much to add to our understanding of water and all the issues that come with it. The Center for the Humanities, created in 2008 and bolstered by an anonymous private donation of $2 million in 2012, has chosen water as a central theme for its next two years of...

zoom zoom

Sun and Salt: How Solar Tech Can Help California’s Drought

By Andy MurdockUniversity of California Newsroom In the midst of California’s ongoing drought, researchers at the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) at UC Merced are turning to an unlikely ally to help solve the problem of water availability for California’s farmlands: the sun. “Any adoption of solar technology will help with climate change in the long term, because it reduces our use of fossil fuels,” UC Solar Executive Director Ron Durbin said. But UC Solar’s latest project, which will be presented at the upcoming 2015 UC Solar Research Symposium in San Francisco, aims to show that solar technology can be of short-term help as well, by making water desalination cheaper, more accessible...

zoom zoom

Most Americans Could Eat Locally, Research Shows

MERCED, Calif. — New farmland-mapping research published today shows that up to 90 percent of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes.   Professor Elliott Campbell, with the University of California, Merced, School of Engineering, discusses the possibilities in a study entitled “The Large Potential of Local Croplands to Meet Food Demand in the United States.” The research results are the cover story of the newest edition of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the flagship journal for the Ecological Society of America, which boasts a membership of 10,000 scientists.   “Elliott Campbell's research is making an important contribution to the national conversation...

zoom zoom

Professor to Serve with New Water Policy Center

UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers has been named a member of the new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Water Policy Center, established to help meet the state's urgent need for timely information and innovative water management solutions. Viers is an expert in water resources management with UC Merced’s School of Engineering, conducting research on issues related to the intersection of climate, water, energy, food and the environment using geospatial technologies and data mining. He is also the director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at UC Merced. His role with the new center will be to help generate new ideas in solving California’s water ...

zoom zoom

Professors Share in UC Effort to Study Effects of Climate Change

Several UC Merced faculty members will play important roles in a new UC systemwide effort to study the ecological effects of climate change across varied ecosystems.   Funded by a $1.9 million President's Research Catalyst Awards grant from UC President Janet Napolitano and led by UC Santa Cruz ecologist and evolutionary biologist Barry Sinervo, the Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts (ISEECI) will serve as a hub for the knowledge being gathered and analyzed.   UC Merced researchers including Professors Elliott Campbell, Martha Conklin and LeRoy Westerling, with the School of Engineering, and Jessica Blois, with the School of Natural Sciences, will all affiliate with the nine-...

zoom zoom

Solar, Water Research Proposals Rewarded with Competitive UC Grants

MERCED, Calif. — Research into sustainable water supplies and viable solar energy solutions won the University of California, Merced, an anticipated $5 million in prestigious and competitive grants from the University of California. UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives (MRPI) awards will go to Professors Roger Bales and Roland Winstonand colleagues, who will oversee two of only 18 projects to be funded throughout the UC system out of 186 proposals. The grants begin Jan. 1, and award details will be determined then. “These awards recognize the leadership our faculty members bring to these important topics,” Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Soil Research Digs Up Many More Questions

When people get near California’s giant sequoias, they usually look up.   But Professor Steve Hart looks down, and what he finds beneath the trees has intrigued him.   The trees, some of which could be more than 3,000 years old, appear to influence the soil, increasing the pH and the levels of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, enhancing the soil’s fertility.   “Our hypothesis is that these trees, with their long lives and enormity, have a greater effect on the ecosystem” said Hart, an ecology professor with UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences and a member of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “We tend to think it’s only humans that have legacy effects...

zoom zoom

Climate Change Influencing Freshwater Mountain Runoff, Research Shows

As the climate warms, sources of the water so critical to life everywhere on Earth are drying up. By the end of this century, communities dependent on freshwater from mountain-fed rivers could see significantly less water, according to a new climate model recently released by University of California researchers. For example, people who get freshwater from the Kings River could see a 26 percent decrease in river flow. Why? Think of the environment to which humans are now accustomed as a huge jigsaw puzzle. You can look at any one piece to see how it fills out the picture of climate change, but you cannot ignore the surrounding pieces and the chain reactions set off by the warming climate...

zoom zoom

California Overspends Water Rights by 300 Million Acre Feet

California is deficit-spending its water and has been for a century, according to state data analyzed recently by researchers from the University of California. UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers and postdoctoral researcher Ted Grantham, with UC Davis at the time, explored the state’s database of water-rights allocations, and found that allocations in California exceed the state's actual water supply by five times the average annual runoff and 100 times the actual surface-water supply for some river basins. In a good year, the state has about 70 million acre feet of surface water available for use. Based on active water rights records, a total of 370 million acre feet have been allocated. “We’re...

zoom zoom

Provost, Professor Appointed to President’s Environmental Council

UC Merced Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Peterson and founding faculty member Professor Roger Bales have been named members of UC President Janet Napolitano’s new Global Climate Leadership Council. The council has been convened to guide UC sustainability efforts, with the goal of bringing the university’s operations to carbon neutrality by 2025. Sustainability is a part of the DNA of the UC Merced campus – it’s one of the greenest campuses in the nation, and the only one in the country to have all of its buildings LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Nominated by Chancellor Dorothy Leland, Bales, a hydrologist, leads the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and...

zoom zoom

Engineering Students Working on Water Issues for Summer Research Project

Spending a summer finding ways to make toilet water reusable and trying to extract urine from wastewater might not sound glamorous. But the results of the work two UC Merced students are doing though a prestigious research partnership could be very important to a state facing a severe drought, as well as for the future of water security. Rudy Maltos, 23, a senior from Bakersfield, and Maritza Flores-Marquez, 21, a senior from Tulare, both environmental engineering majors, were two of 16 students selected for Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt). ReNUWIt is a Research Experiences for Undergraduates partnership between UC Berkeley, the Colorado School of Mines, New Mexico State...

zoom zoom

ES Grad Group Will Have Strong Presence at ESA

ESA Annual Meeting, August 10-15th, Sacramento, CA  Many folks from UC Merced and the ES grad group will be presenting their research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento this August. Below is a list of the UC Merced talks; only the first authors are listed, but click through to the abstracts to read more about each talk. Congratulations to all the UC Merced students, postdocs, and faculty for their fantastic research.   MONDAY, August 11 Talks 2:10 pm, COS 11: Microbial Ecology Alyssa Carrell: Diversity and structure of endophytic bacterial communities in redwood trees 2:10 PM, COS 6: Ecosystem Management Joy Baccei: Protecting and preserving mountain meadows: a look at...

zoom zoom

FAA Approves Data Drone Research at UC Merced

Other UC campuses have drone research programs, but UC Merced might be the only one with two certificates of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, allowing students to fly autonomous, unmanned systems at higher altitudes and, possibly, in locations they haven’t flown before. As drones and the sensor packages they carry improve in price and performance, many campuses are considering conducting research on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and their applications. In UC Merced’s well-established program, faculty members and students are working on scientific data drones that can patrol wildfire perimeters, collect water samples, monitor pest situations in agricultural fields, check soil and crop conditions and much more. “Each...

zoom zoom

NSF Early Career Award Honors Professor’s Research and Potential

The National Science Foundation is honoring UC Merced Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe with a Faculty Early Career Development Award to support her examination of how soil helps regulate the climate. The awards are given to junior faculty members who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations,” the NSF said. “We’d like to congratulate Professor Berhe for receiving this highly selective award,” School of Natural Sciences Dean Juan Meza said. “It also speaks volumes about our highly talented faculty that we’ve added another...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Passion for Monkey Flower Leads to Genetic Discoveries

The environment affects the way genetic populations move, and similar environments likely play a bigger role in how a species develops than does geographic distance.   Those are just two of the discoveries Professor Jason Sexton has made while studying the monkey flower, a California native that is practically in his back yard, now that he has joined UC Merced.   Monkey flowers, which come in a diverse array of populations of varying sizes, shapes and colors, grow wild in the Sierra Nevada, a place Sexton has studied even from his previous position in Australia. The chance to come to UC Merced, to work and live where the bulk of his research takes place, was too good to pass up, he said.   Sexton...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Paper in Nature Communications Indicates Deep Sea Changes

Large, naturally occurring low-oxygen zones in the Pacific appear to be expanding, and there is a sharp change in the number of bacteria that produce and consume different forms of toxic sulfur, according to a UC Merced researcher’s latest paper in Nature Communications.   These expanding deoxygenated zones could also contribute to climate change, which, in turn, appears to contribute to their growth.   Professor Michael Beman, a marine microbial biologist with the School of Natural Sciences, spent a month on a research ship sampling water off the coast of Mexico, in the large Eastern Tropical Northern Pacific (ETNP), a deoxygenated zone that extends about halfway to Hawaii.   At...

zoom zoom

Professor's Article Published in Journal Science

Climate change alters the way in which species interact with one another- and not just today or in the future, but also in the past, according to a review article by UC Merced Professor Jessica Blois and colleagues coming out tomorrow in the journal Science. “We found that, at all time scales, climate change can alter biotic interactions in highly complex ways.  So if we don’t incorporate them when we’re anticipating future changes, we’re missing a big piece of the puzzle,” Blois said. A special issue of the prestigious research journal, entitled "Natural Systems in Changing Climates,” features the article and a podcast by Blois, one of UC Merced’s newest faculty members, and three colleagues from...

zoom zoom

Well-known Technology Sees New Use in Solar Collection

Adapting technology that has become the standard in the automotive, aerospace and air-conditioning industries, Professor Gerardo Diaz has designed and is testing the next generation of solar-collecting units at UC Merced. ”We’re getting about 10 percent increase in efficiency,” said Diaz, with the School of Engineering and co-director of UC Solar. With funding from the California Energy Commission, Diaz and three undergraduates and one graduate student built a solar water heater. Instead of having water flow through copper pipes attached to a flat plate with a collective coating applied to it, this solar water-heating system uses flat minichannels, or tubes, made of aluminum with the coating applied directly to the tubes...

zoom zoom

Summer Research Takes UC Merced Around the Globe

Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean research at UC Merced comes to a halt. Just the opposite. This summer, professors and students at all levels are conducting a variety of research projects on campus, off campus, in the oceans and forests and around the world. Up in Yosemite National Park, for example, nine undergraduate students are getting a summer experience to last them a lifetime, conducting research with faculty researchers from UC Merced, scientists from the U.S. Geologic Survey and from the park. Under the direction of Professors Stephen Hart and Michael Beman, the Research Experience for Undergraduates program takes nine students into the park for nine weeks to work with scientific mentors like Hart, Beman, Professor Elliott...

zoom zoom

Researcher Brings Billions of Years of Information to UC Merced

From the microbes in the guts of living things to the idea of life elsewhere in the universe, Professor Marilyn Fogel is pondering some of life’s deepest questions. When and how did life originate on Earth? What does the future hold for our planet? Are we alone in the universe? “When you go back through time, there are bits and scraps of life everywhere,” Fogel said. “It’s ubiquitous.” As a geobiologist, Fogel, who joined UC Merced in January, explores these questions and more using the stable isotopes found in carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur and nitrogen, the elements that form the building blocks of all living organisms. She is in the midst of setting up the campus’s first natural...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Alumnus’s Rim Fire Map Generates Lots of Attention

As the Rim Fire continues to burn in and around Yosemite National Park, a former UC Merced student’s work related to the fire burned up the Internet this week. Paul Doherty, the first Yosemite park ranger to complete at doctoral degree at UC Merced, graduated in the spring and now works as a public safety technology specialist for Esri, a company that provides GIS mapping for a variety of applications. Doherty and his team created a layered map that shows up-to-the-minute details of the fire, including its size and range, hot spots, the fire’s progression, a history of fire in the national park and more. They pulled together data from a wide range of agencies, including Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service,...

zoom zoom

Summer Scholars Learn by Doing

UC Merced has made a name for itself by giving undergraduates the opportunity to engage in research early in their academic careers. Nothing showcases that commitment better than the campus’s collaborative summer research program, which culminated last week with a symposium where they presented on their research and exhibited posters of their work as well. This summer, 41 students have been conducting research with world-class faculty, thanks to sponsorships from seven different programs. According to Jesus Cisneros, director for undergraduate research programs, these student scholars represent an investment in the future. “We are coaching these students to present their research at competitive regional and national conferences, in addition to helping them to develop skills to...

zoom zoom

Grad Student’s Farmland Mapping Project Gets Prestigious Publisher

Working to map every square inch, UC Merced master’s student Andrew Zumkehr found there are 111 million acres of abandoned farmland in the United States. That’s a lot of space for growing biofuels that could replace between 5 percent and 30 percent of the United States' primary energy or liquid fuel demands, he said. Zumkehr and Professor Elliott Campbell with the School of Engineering wrote a paper based on the mapping, which was published recently in the top-cited journal Environmental Science & Technology. It’s another example of how UC Merced researchers are contributing knowledge that will lead to more informed energy policies. “We used satellite images, census data...

zoom zoom

Researcher Brings Billions of Years of Information to UC Merced

From the microbes in the guts of living things to the idea of life elsewhere in the universe, Professor Marilyn Fogel is pondering some of life’s deepest questions.   When and how did life originate on Earth? What does the future hold for our planet? Are we alone in the universe?   “When you go back through time, there are bits and scraps of life everywhere,” Fogel said. “It’s ubiquitous.”   As a geobiologist, Fogel, who joined UC Merced in January, explores these questions and more using the stable isotopes found in carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur and nitrogen, the elements that form the building blocks of all living organisms. She is in the midst of setting up the campus...

zoom zoom

Summer Research Program for Undergrads Aims for the Experience of a Lifetime

Many universities offer the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, but they don’t have what UC Merced has to offer. “Yosemite really draws people in,” said Professor Stephen Hart, one of the REU program leaders. “Other REUs might take students into the field, but not into a national park.” The National Science Foundation has awarded UC Merced a $318,000, three-year grant to take eight undergrads from around the country to live in the park for nine to 10 weeks each summer and gain invaluable experience working directly with faculty researchers on projects. “Living and working in Yosemite was the best experience of my undergraduate career,” said Raymond...

zoom zoom

Postdoctoral Researcher’s Work in International Ecology Journal

The theory that temperature limits how far up in the mountains trees can grow looks like it’s true, but not in the way researchers had expected. Working with Professor Lara Kueppers, UC Merced postdoctoral researcher Andrew Moyes’ examination of how warmer temperatures affect alpine-area trees has been published in the international journal Oecologia. Their work indicates some trees researchers thought wouldn’t grow at the highest elevations because of the cold don’t fare better when they are warmer, either. A series of experiments in Colorado, in which seedlings were planted and then warmed under infrared radiation panels to simulate climate change, showed warmer temperatures also dried the...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Paper, Among Year’s Best, Shows Dramatic Effects of Mountaintop Mining on Climate

UC Merced School of Engineering Professor Elliott Campbell has co-authored a paper showing that mountaintop removal mining will dramatically accelerate the regional effects of global warming by turning natural carbon sinks into sources of carbon emissions, some within the next 15 years. On top of the toxic side-effects of coal mining, the associated hazards and the biggest problem with coal – the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning it – the switch from sink to source is an issue that could prompt policymakers to reconsider where they stand on mining. This finding comes at a time when the federal government is at least partially...

zoom zoom

Professor’s Design Could Win $50,000 Grant

A UC Merced professor is one of five finalists in an international challenge that could win him a $50,000 research grant and free access to a record-setting, ocean-going robot. Professor Michael Beman, with the School of Natural Sciences, entered the PacX Challenge, a competition designed to encourage scientists and students to make use of data gathered by autonomous wave glider that just completed a 9,000-nautical-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean. The contestants will use data gathered by the glider, called the “Papa Mau,” which traveled autonomously from San Francisco to Australia over the past year. Papa Mau finished its year-long journey on Dec. 6 in Australia, setting a world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous...

zoom zoom

Professor Looks Inside Trees for Answers

Professor Carolin Frank is concerned with the inner lives of trees. She looks inside them to see whether microbes are part of – and perhaps even critical to – life functions such as growth. “It’s a pretty new field,” Frank said. “Most people think of bacteria as causing disease, but they can be beneficial. When I look at a forest, I don’t see trees, I see all these fascinating microbes.” Bacteria, she said, have been found to promote growth and protect plants from stress, and also to fix nitrogen, a critical component of plant health. “Microbes are the only organisms that can take nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants,” she said. “Plants cannot do it themselves. People have long wondered...

zoom zoom

National Science Foundation Funds San Joaquin River Research

MERCED, Calif. — People talk about climate change all the time.   But researchers at the University of California, Merced, are working to find out exactly how it will affect the millions of people who depend on the San Joaquin River for their drinking water, irrigation and food growth, and energy.   Water experts with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute have received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to synthesize data about the San Joaquin River and how climate change is affecting the timing and number of flows from the snowmelt at higher elevations.   Those changes, in turn, change the way reservoirs are operated and the way and time in which water is delivered to users,...

zoom zoom

UC Merced Plasma Lab Turning Leftovers into Cleaner Energy

There’s a reason the UC Merced plasma lab is isolated behind a locking fence near the entrance to campus.   There’s some serious heat being produced down there.   Engineering professors Gerardo Diaz, Wolfgang Rogge and Yihsu Chen and a group of students are spending their summer in the lab, generating plasma blasts of more than 3000 degrees Celsius as they work on turning biomass – organic leftovers such as coffee grounds, almond hulls and the leavings from wineries – into clean-burning energy.   The three-year project just received a $258,000 grant from the California Energy Commission and $50,000 in equipment from Foret Plasma Laboratories to examine how clean the gas produced through the...

zoom zoom

Graduate Student Bringing UC Merced to Western Pacific

Graduate student Sharon Patris likes spending time at a lake in the middle of the forest on an uninhabited island in the western Pacific. The marine lake named Ongiem’l Tketau and informally known as Jellyfish Lake, is home to the golden jellyfish, a species Patris studies as part of her work with UC Merced School of Natural Sciences Professor Michael Dawson in Palau. Patris, who is working on her master’s degree, is just one example of the diverse and wide-ranging reach of UC Merced’s graduate programs. As a Palauan, she said she’s happy to have the chance to work in her homeland while earning her advanced degree from a UC campus. Dawson and colleagues have been studying biodiversity in the western Pacific since...

Contact Us

Graduate Admissions:
Phone: (209) 228-4723
 
Graduate Funding:
Phone: (209) 228-4622
 
General Inquiries:
Phone: (209) 228-4723
Fax: (209) 228-6906
 
Mailing Address:
University of California, Merced
ATTN: Graduate Division
5200 N. Lake Road, SSB 310
Merced, CA 95343

 

 
University of California, Merced
 
The first new American research
university in the 21st century, with a
mission of research, teaching and service.
 
University of California, Merced
5200 North Lake Road
Merced, CA 95343
T: (209) 228-4400
 
University of California
Go to top