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Public Radio Highlights Natural Reserves, New Program for Undergraduates

February 20, 2024

The latest installment of North State Public Radio’s Blue Dot podcast focuses on the UC Natural Reserve System and the national parks and features a segment about the UC Merced ¿field curious? program.

Sponsored by the UC Merced Natural Reserve System (NRS), ¿field curious? introduces undergraduates to field research during a weekend stay at a UC Merced natural reserve. The program is designed to lower the barriers preventing many students, especially first-generation college attendees and those from minority backgrounds, from giving field research a try.

The full podcast covers many different aspects of the NRS, but UC Merced’s NRS Associate Director Jessica Malisch and undergraduate Carlos Martinez, who participated in one of the first sessions of ¿field curious?, are special guests. They have about 15 minutes, from about 15:55 to 32:00, to discuss the program in depth.

This year, the ¿field curious? program is expanding, including added opportunities for undergraduate students to visit Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and the UC Merced SCICON Field Station. The station is a partnership between UC Merced and the Tulare County Office of Education SCICON facility. An outdoor school of science and conservation, SCICON sits on 1,100 acres above Springville and hosts its own natural history museum, raptor center, planetarium and observatory, and tree nursery.

Each year, thousands of schoolchildren visit for one-day or week-long experiences in outdoor education, natural sciences and conservation. The UC Merced SCICON Field Station is adjacent to a natural reserve associated with SCICON, the Circle J Ranch.

¿field curious? alums will also have the chance to explore and develop further thanks to the Sustainable Ag: From Field to Lab program, funded by a gift from the Newhall Foundation to Malisch and Robin Trayler, director of the Stable Isotope Ecology Lab, and created in partnership with Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve Director Joy Baccei, the CalTeach program, the Smart Farm, Life and Environmental Sciences lab Supervisor Stephany Chacon and Professor Rebecca Ryals.

“There are a lot of good things happening for our undergraduates, and it is thanks to the whole NRS team as well as all the faculty, community and National Park Service partners who serve as mentors,” said Professor Jessica Blois, faculty director of UC Merced’s natural reserves.