UC Merced Vernal Pool Reserve

The Turlock High WildLink club had the honor and privilege of becoming the first members of the public to get a tour of the new UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Preserve. We made history!! Guided by Yosemite Leadership student-rangers Cecilia and Theo, we had a grand morning learning about the importance of vernal pools to our local ecosystem and the awesomeness of having the preserve located on campus. Because of the ongoing drought we were not able to see the pools with water in them. We did get to see grasses, flowers and animals that make the preserve home before eating lunch and then taking a tour of the campus. It was a great day!
Cecilia and Theo welcome us to the preserve on a beautiful morning.  The cows were a surprise to me. Everyone was rarin' to go! Because of California's epic drought, we were lucky to see green grass on the preserve, let alone actual vernal pools.  The cobbles, however demarcate the low lying pools.  It should be noted that the rounded cobbles are weathering out of ancient alluvial fan deposits of the Riverbank Formation (I think). We had visitors.  Apparently cows play a large role in keeping the health of the vernal pools in check.
The rounded alluvium sits atop a clay hardpan that prevents water from infiltrating the soils.  The harpan alows the vernal pools to flourish. I do believe this is filaree, AKA storksbill. Zephyr was having a grand time exploring the rocks. Time for an interactive game to see how different species of plants and animals depend on vernal pools.
Time for an interactive game to see how different species of plants and animals depend on vernal pools. Some vernal pool goldfields were kind enough to show themselves for us. Everyon gets a whiff of a plant that smells like lavender when rubbed. Kids provide a nice bit of scale.  I'm intrigued by the clusters of weathered-out cobbles. Reminiscent of a stream bed.
Looking the other direction. Burrows!  Groundsquirrel?  Tiger salamander? Burrowing Owl?  No one wanted to stick their hand in to find out. A cool small vernal pool, with what appear to be Mima Mounds in the background. The very first high school students AND members of the public to tour the reserve:  Enedino, Ranger Theo, Leo, Dulce, Janet, Jacob, Luis, Jordan, Natasha, Theo's cousin, Candy, Nicole and Ranger Cecilia.   We made history!
Zephyr and Mom had a great time picking up the cobbles. Grandma & Grandpa Rowan encourage playing in the vernal pools. Here's the conglomorate that everything is weathering our of. Geology is genetic, I suppose.