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Research Gets a New Face in UC Merced Library Exhibits

August 5, 2013

Not everyone can go out into the Sierra Nevada and experience snowpack research or wildlife conservation firsthand.

That’s why Robin Milford, access services librarian and exhibits coordinator for the UC Merced library, has brought the experiences to campus.

“We have a lot of really great exhibit spaces, and I think they are best used when we’re showing what’s really going on on the campus,” Milford said.

Milford, who is in her first year curating library exhibits, has chosen to highlight campus research in the library displays, and is starting with two shows that pair well: SNAMP: Learning to Implement Adaptive Management in the Sierra Nevada, and DLM Lab Tour: Critical Zone Observatory.

The Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Program is a joint effort by the University of California, state and federal agencies, and the public to study management of forest lands in the Sierra. Its six teams of university scientists study the predicted and actual effects of management practices on such subjects as water, fire and forest ecosystem health, and wildlife.

The DLM Lab Tour, based on Downtown Life Magazine writer K Chico’s series of stories about UC Merced’s research labs, features the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory, an area near Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, where many UC scientists at all levels conduct research into a variety of subjects.

Milford said she got the idea for the DLM exhibit after reading an issue of the magazine, and asked to collaborate with Chico, a UC Merced alumna.

They asked for items that would show what it’s really like to conduct environmental research in the Sierra, including a piece of a 130-foot monitoring tower that broke under the weight of winter snowfall, and equipment that has been damaged – on purpose or accidentally – by bullets.

“We also have a significant selection of digital photos and videos in our digital library,” said Erin Stacy, education and outreach coordinator for the CZO. “It can be a great introduction to the public and potential collaborators to familiarize themselves with the landscape, research design, and activities at the study site.”

There are more than 50 items in the display cases on the second and third floors of the library, and Milford said she’d like to add some hands-on pieces, such as rabbit pelts, forest scents captured in jars, and “Sierra in a Box,” an interactive piece that lets people learn about snow and soil sensors.

Milford said she couldn’t have gotten the exhibit together without the people at SNAMP and the CZO, and Chico – who contributed several items, including a piece that shows several native plants actually growing.

Milford is also grateful for the help of the library’s student assistants, who helped with the installation and designed posters for both exhibits.

Most library displays vary each year, although some are annual events, like the Bobcat Art Show. Each exhibit is free and open to anyone – including the public – whenever the library is open. The SNAMP and DLM shows continue through Sept. 20, and after that, a new exhibit featuring UC Merced research will be installed. More information about exhibits can be found on the library website.

Each exhibit must get the OK from the library’s exhibit review team, but Milford said committee members liked the idea of research shows.

“We really want to demystify lab work so that anyone coming in off the street can understand why our research is so important,” Milford said.