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UC Merced/SCICON Field Station welcomes its first group of interns this week at Circle J-Norris Ranch in Springville

UC Merced/SCICON Field Station welcomes its first group of interns this week at Circle J-Norris Ranch in Springville

Location at SCICON is the only Field Station in the University of California’s Natural Reserve System (UCNRS) located in the Sierra Nevada


SPRINGVILLE – This week, 16 high school students became the first to participate in an internship program as part of the new UC Merced/SCICON Field Station. Students will receive a stipend to begin an ongoing project to map the Circle J-Norris Ranch, near the community of Springville, the site of the new field station. Using GPS devices, students will establish a grid which can be used by local environmental science students and researchers from the University of California. The grid will also serve as a basis for their own ongoing oak mortality research.

The mapping project began on June 25 and continues through June 27 daily from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Circle J-Norris Ranch. The internship project will be led by Circle J lead teacher Nancy Bruce with support from staff at UC Merced, including Dr. Jessica Blois, faculty director of UC Merced’s Vernal Pool Grassland Reserve. Founded in 1965 as a network of wildland sites available for scientific study, the University of California’s Natural Reserve System (UCNRS) has grown to encompass more than 756,000 acres across the state – the largest program of its kind in the world. The Yosemite Field Station and UC Merced’s Vernal Pool Grassland Reserve are two of the 41 reserves in the UCNRS. The field station may become a part of the UCNRS, but UC Merced has not yet filed a formal application to be accepted into the system.

“It’s through donations from sponsors such as Educational Employees Credit Union, Fred and Mitzie Ruiz, the Porterville Breakfast Rotary and so many others who pledged to support student paid internship opportunities during the fundraising dinner TCOE held in November that we are able to offer this first research program,” said Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire. “This is the beginning of an internship program that will involve more Tulare County students and lead, we hope, to them seeing UC Merced as a place for them to continue their studies, particularly if they’re interested in environmental sciences.”

The Tulare County Office of Education and UC Merced have created a much-needed research site in the Sierra Nevada foothills which will expose students to higher education learning and environmental science career opportunities. High school students and teachers interested in participating in the UC Merced/SCICON Field Station internship program in the future are encouraged to contact Dianne Shew at (559) 539-2642. The field station is located on the Circle J-Norris Ranch, 41893 Yokohl Valley Dr. in Springville.

In addition to the partnership with UC Merced’s SNRI, the university will encourage the participation of other research initiatives conducting pertinent natural science, engineering, social science, management, policy and humanities research. Institutes including UC Water, Interdisciplinary Humanities and Public Health may lead research initiatives with a focus on the environment, people, and future of the Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley.

The Tulare County Board of Education approved the purchase of the 8-acre site for the UC Merced/SCICON Field Station in August 2018. The site was owned by Dr. Donna FitzRoy Hardy, a zoologist and emeritus professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge, who generously donated the equity she had in the property to TCOE. The property, which will be known as Condor’s Hope, will also be a site for condor habitat research conducted by The Peregrine Fund.

A modern two-story house and a separate four-car garage was converted into a field station with 1,000 square feet of laboratory space and housing for visiting researchers.

For over 20 years, students from elementary grades to the community college level have come to the Circle J-Norris Ranch to participate in hands-on lessons, or have returned numerous times during the year for ongoing research projects. Each year, Circle J invites high school students and their teachers to work alongside naturalists and scientists during the Field Science Weekend and BioBlitz events.

-This article was updated at 10 a.m. on June 27, 2019.

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