One of the most distinctive aspects of UC Merced is its partnership with and connections to Yosemite National Park. Students and faculty researchers have many opportunities to work in the midst of one of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet, as UC Merced is the only university to have a research station inside the park, as well as one in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.
Throughout the year, no matter the season or weather, it's common for students, faculty and staff members to head for Yosemite, whether to just enjoy the breathtaking views or to conduct research in and around the park and Sierra Nevada on topics such as climate change, plant evolution, archeology and anthropology, solar energy, hydrology and engineering. Researchers from the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and all three schools at UC Merced take advantage of the living laboratory that is the Sierra Nevada.
Students who join the Yosemite Leadership Program actually live and work in the park as rangers, helping with many different facts of park operations, as well as educating schoolchildren and other park visitors about environmental stewardship and many other topics.
In summer 2016, the park hosted President Barack Obama and his family. YLP and Wilderness Education Center rangers met with the First Family, helped organize the visit and involved the president and first lady in lessons for fourth-graders who were visiting and got the surprise of their lives when the Obamas showed up to learn how to scare bears with them.
The central and south entrances to the park are less than two hours from UC Merced, and there are bus and other day trips to the park all the time. Visit the Wilderness Education Center on campus to get schedules and rent equipment for hiking and camping.
Incoming first-year students can join the Week of Wilderness trip that takes them into the off-trail areas of Yosemite for hiking, camping and bonding with their fellow students to get their first years at UC Merced off to a fun and friendly start. There are California Naturalist courses offered for people who want to learn more about the Sierra and its flora, fauna and geology, and UC Extension educational excursions in the park.