Skip to content
Spring Landscape View from Drone (photo: Brandon Stark)
View of Sierra Nevada (photo: Sean Werle)
View of Sierra Nevada (photo: Sean Werle)
Spring Landscape (photo: Sean Werle)
Spring Landscape (photo: Sean Werle)
Vernal Pool in Spring (photo: Lorena Anderson)
Vernal Pool in Spring (photo: Lorena Anderson)
Winter Landscape (photo: Sean Werle)
Winter Landscape (photo: Sean Werle)

Welcome to Merced Vernal Pool and Grassland Reserve

The Merced Vernal Pool and Grassland Reserve is the 39th reserve in the UC Natural Reserve System (UC NRS), whose mission is to contribute to the understanding and wise stewardship of the Earth and its natural systems by supporting university-level teaching, research, and public service. Adopted into the UC NRS in 2013, this reserve is unique not only in its biodiversity, but in its proximity to a UC Campus, which provides an amazing opportunity to learn about, investigate, and research vernal pool and wetland ecology through a wide range of research projects and educational activities. One of four reserves in the UC Merced NRS, the reserve is part of a growing network that provides rich opportunities for connecting communities in the Valley, foothills, and Sierra Nevada.

Adjacent to UC Merced, the 6,500-acre reserve is home to some of the most intact, threatened Vernal Pool wetland habitat in California and the world, and is considered a hotspot for biodiversity. The intact vernal pool and grassland ecosystems within the reserve are home to hundreds of native plants and animals that are adapted to the dry, treeless landscape, and provide critical habitat for many species that are endemic to the area. The reserve is also comprised of conservation easements that serve as environmental mitigation lands that are required to be protected in perpetuity from damage and development and are subject to federal and state permit conditions and regulations.

UC Merced manages the reserve to meet the mission of the UC NRS to facilitate research, education, and public service, while also complying with conservation easement regulatory requirements that ensure wise stewardship, management, and monitoring of the reserve. Reserve staff strive to maintain a unique balance that allows researchers, educators, students, and naturalists to learn about, investigate, and ask ecological research questions relevant at local, national, and global scales while ensuring that the reserve lands are unharmed.

The Reserve is generally closed except for use by researchers, administrators, and stewards. However, it is open to visitors for guided tours, classes, and special events or by advanced reservation. Please, no drop in visitors.


Subscribe to Merced Vernal Pools & Grassland Reserve RSS

Quick Links



Current Weather


Live Webcams


Mailing List


COVID Updates






Mobile App