Submitted by Cary Coburn

Members of the College’s Geology, Science Math & Engineering, and PreMed clubs visited the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve in late March.

About 30 students were joined by biology professors Mireya Macias, Carl Estrella, and Cary Coburn.

Caption for Photo Above: Students gather for a closer look at one of the vernal pools.

The group enjoyed the docent-led hike and interpretation of the grasslands and vernal pool habitat that compose the 6,300 acre reserve located behind UC Merced.

The natural history of the reserve was interpreted by reserve director Monique Kolster, who previously taught for Merced College as an adjunct professor in the Biology Department.

Aspects of the reserve’s history, botany, zoology, soil science, geography, geology, and the vital role that vernal pools play in the ecology of the San Joaquin Valley grasslands dominated the conversation.

Vernal pools are shallow, temporary pools of water that provide habitat for many species of endangered plants and animals. Vernal pools are formed in undisturbed grasslands with particular soil types that fill up and hold water during the winter rains and gradually dry up in early to midsummer.

With this year’s rains, there were many pools and plant and animal life in abundance. Animals thriving in these environments include fairy shrimp, solitary bees, and tiger salamanders, which can only be found in these temporary wetlands.

This article originally appeared in the Campus Digest, April 2017 issue.

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