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Yosemite Connection Draws Students to UC Merced Summer Programs

June 10, 2008

MERCED - Many college students gravitate to jobs and
opportunities that take them to the great outdoors for the summer.
The University of California, Merced, offers two programs that give
students the chance to spend the summer in one of the greatest
outdoor destinations in the world, Yosemite National Park.

UC Merced’s
Yosemite Leadership
Program
(YLP) is already underway, and the National Science
Foundation-funded

Research Experiences for Undergraduates
program (REU) begins
June 16. The students will be in the park through mid-August.

“UC Merced’s physical proximity to Yosemite and Sequoia/King’s
Canyon National Parks has helped us develop working relationships
and programs that are unique to our campus and extremely beneficial
to students and researchers,” said

Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies Samuel J. Traina.

Ten students from YLP will be interns this summer at the
Wawona
Field Station
operated by the UC Merced
Sierra Nevada Research Institute(SNRI) in
Yosemite. They will work with park rangers and scientists in
resources management, wilderness, and public education in positions
that include leading guided walks, giving campfire programs,
assisting the bear team, assisting archeologists, helping with
restoration projects, and working with the wilderness search and
rescue team.

A returning advanced intern from last year, Alvaro Luna, will
expand on his “Yosemite en Español” interpretation program and
will add an interpretation program in French. Other students
participating are Orion Agnew, Jeannette Barron, Marie Armstrong,
Zander Kurnizki, Chris Hubach, Gesha Uminskiy, Raj Bolla, Money
Hothi, Yesi Medina and Renee Smith. Three former YLP interns, Janet
Melgoza, Carla Saldana, and P.J. Solomon have returned to Yosemite
this summer as paid seasonal rangers.

The YLP internship is a partnership among the UC Merced, the
National Park Service, the Yosemite Association, the Yosemite Fund,
and the Delaware North Companies. The program has also received
generous support from the Toyota Foundation, the Doherty Family
Fund and Morgan Stanley. It is overseen by Branch Chief for
Education Kathy Dimont of Yosemite National Park.

Two additional UC Merced students, Sunny Grunloh (formerly a YLP
intern) and Dannique Aalbu, will participate in the REU program
funded by the National Science Foundation. Grunloh and Aalbu, along
with six other REU students recruited in a highly selective process
from universities all over the United States, will be paired with
science mentors (UC Merced professors and park scientists) to
conduct independent research projects in the park. The REU program
is led by

Professor Benoit Dayrat
of the UC Merced
School of Natural
Sciences
.

“From 160 applications, we were able to select only eight
students, so you can imagine those participating all have
outstanding academic records and motivation,” said Dayrat. “REU is
a lifetime unique chance for the students who are participating.”

The YLP and REU students will participate together in a new,
for-credit, summer seminar called “Science Fridays,” led by the
Wawona Field Station director,

Eric Berlow
, and Dayrat. Science Fridays will focus on the
process of scientific inquiry, the role of science in natural
resource managements, and the communication of science to the
public. Weekly lectures and discussions during the seminar will
expose students to current scientific research being conducted in
Yosemite and throughout the Sierra Nevada, give them the tools to
think critically about how scientific information is acquired, and
expose them to the technological tools that allow scientists to
answer large scale questions about critical issues such as climate
change. A credentialed English teacher will work with the students
to improve their writing and public speaking skills.

The 2008 Sierra Nevada Research Institute Scientific
Visualization Fellow (Lauren Benson, UC Santa Cruz) will be in
residence at the field station working on a visual display to
communicate scientific research to the public. She will also work
with students on visual forms of science communication.

The 2008 Sierra Nevada Research Institute Graduate Research
Fellow (Sarah Martin, UC Merced) will also be in residence this
summer and will work on her dissertation, which examines the
impacts of fire control practices on watershed-scale hydrologic
processes.