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UC Merced Natural Reserve System staff (Office of Research and Economic Development) and UC Merced Physical and Environmental Planning Department staff (Physical Operations, Planning, and Development), work together in collaboration to facilitate research, education, and public service (the NRS Mission), and to practice wise stewardship, management, and monitoring on Reserve conservation easements.


Joy Baccei, MS

Director, Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve & SCICON Field Station 


Directs and implements land stewardship, research, education and outreach activities for the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve and UC Merced Science & Conservation (SCICON) Field Station

  • B.S., Env. Science (watershed science), Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
  • M.S., Env. Systems (wetland ecology), University of California, Merced, CA

Prior to employment with UC Merced in March of 2020, Baccei was employed with Yosemite National Park for 18 years, where she worked in several capacities, including restoration and plant ecology, watershed, trail system, and wilderness management. Most recently, as an applied wetland ecologist, she oversaw wetland and rangeland ecological management, restoration, research, and monitoring, and collaborated with several agency, academic, non-profit, tribal, and public partners. As an applied wetland ecologist, her UC Merced Master’s research focused on plant-soil interactions and high elevation wet meadow adaptive management in relation to pack stock grazing and use.

Jessica Malisch, PHD

Associate Director, UC Merced Natural Reserve System


Oversees operations and personnel at Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve, Yosemite and Sequoia Field Stations, and UC Merced SCICON Field Station.

•B.S. University of North Carolina, Wilmington

•PhD in Biology, University of California, Riverside

Associate Director for the UC Merced NRS since February 2022. Prior to employment at UC Merced Dr. Malisch was the director of Research and Epidemiology at the St Mary’s County Health Department and an Assistant Professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Dr. Malisch’s research focuses on ecological and evolutionary physiology of vertebrate species. Her research investigates how organisms cope with and respond to challenges. This research has direct implications for species management and conservation. In particular, Dr. Malisch studies metabolic and endocrine predictors of facultative altitudinal migration of white-crowned sparrows breeding at the crest of the Sierra Nevada Range. In addition to white-crowned sparrows, Dr. Malisch’s past research has investigated how a variety of vertebrate species respond to challenge including white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, desert iguanas, and laboratory mice.

Jessica Blois, PhD

Associate Professor, UC Merced, Life & Environmental Sciences

Faculty Director, UC Merced Natural Reserve System 

Oversees Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve, Yosemite and Sequoia Field Stations, and UC Merced-SCICON Field Station

  • B.S. University of California, San Diego
  • M.A. in Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University
  • PhD in Biology, Stanford University

Faculty member at UC Merced since January 2013, serving in numerous roles across the University. Current Faculty Chair for the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.

Dr. Blois’ research combines field work, genomics, and ecological modeling to understand the factors influencing changes in genes, species, and communities across time and space. She supervises graduate students in the Quantitative & Systems Biology and Environmental Systems Graduate Groups. She received the 2017 MacArthur and Wilson Award from the International Biogeography Society to recognize her early career scientific contributions, her work has been published in Nature and Science, and in 2018 she received a CAREER from the National Science Foundation for her research.


Current Staff: UC Merced Natural Reserve System (NRS)

Joy Baccei, Director, Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve

Jessica Blois, Faculty Director, UC Merced NRS

Jessica Malisch,  Associate Director, UC Merced NRS

Isabella Segarra, Student Assistant (MVPGR)

UC Merced NRS staff bios and contact info can be found here:


Current Staff: Physical and Environmental Planning Department (PEPD)

Phil Woods, Campus Architect, Director, Physical and Env. Planning Dept.

Alvaro Arias, Principal Planner, Physical and Env. Planning Dept.

Adam Malisch, Natural Lands Manager, Physical and Env. Planning Dept.

UC Merced PEPD staff contact info can be found here:


Past Staff: UC Merced Natural Reserve System

Francesca Cannizzo, Campus Biologist (PEPD)

Molly Stephens,  Associate Director, UC Merced NRS

Monique "Mo" Kolster, Reserve Director 

Christopher "Chris" Swarth, Reserve Director 

Steve Shackleton, Reserve Director

Martha Conklin, Faculty Director 

Angelina Galvan, PEPD Intern

Cole Ayton, Student Assistant

Henry White, Student Assistant 

Michael Spaeth, Student Assistant 

John "Jack" Cronin, Student Assistant 

Camila "Cami" Vega, Student Assistant

Taylor Cottrell, Student Assistant

Advisory Committee

The Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve advisory committee was formed in November 2014 and its members report to the Reserve Director. The committee is charged with providing advice that informs reserve ecosystem management, habitat stewardship, education, and research.

Committee members attend periodic meetings; are familiar with the reserve ecosystem and the management, stewardship, educational and research activities that take place there; offer advice and ideas as needed; promote the mission of the UC Reserve system; help the Reserve Director inform others at UC Merced and throughout the UC system about the research and educational potential of the reserve; provide feedback on budgets and finances; review research proposals if needed. The committee also advises on the implementation of the reserve Management Plan (2008 and subsequent revisions) and any amendments to the plan. Committee members serve a two-year term.


Committee membership, current (2023)

Dr. YangQuan Chen, Chair (Professor; UCM School of Engineering)

Dr. Tom Hothem (Assoc. Director & Professor; UCM Merritt Writing Program)
Dr. Rebecca Ryals (Professor; UCM School of Natural Sciences)

Dr. Joshua Viers (Professor; UCM School of Engineering)
Dr. Jessica Blois (Professor; UCM School of Natural Sciences, NRS Faculty Director)

Dr. Molly Stephens (UCM NRS Associate Director)

Francesca Cannizzo (UCM Campus Biologist)


Committee membership, 2015-2016

UC Faculty
Dr. Joshua Viers, Chair (Professor; UCM School of Engineering)
Dr. Jessica Blois, Vice Chair (Professor; UCM School of Natural Sciences)

Dr. YangQuan Chen (Professor; UCM School of Engineering)
Dr. Teamrat Ghezzehei (Professor; UCM School of Natural Sciences)
Dr. Tom Hothem (Associate Director and Professor; UCM Merritt Writing Program)
Dr. Gage Dayton (Administrative Director, UC Santa Cruz Natural Reserve System)

Non-UC Faculty
Dr. Jaymee Marty (Principal and Owner, Marty Ecological Consulting, Sacramento)
Daniel Airola (President, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, Sacramento)
Bridget Fithian (Executive Director, Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Mariposa)
Carol Witham (Botanist, Environmental Consultant and Educator, Sacramento)
Gene Barrera (Geospatial Analytics and Cartographic Services, Physical and Environmental Planning, UC Merced)
George "Van" Van Vleet (Building Services Manager, Facilities Management, UC Merced)

Grazing Licensee

Three Bar Ranch is the current grazing licensee, and grazes beef cattle on the Reserve 6-8 months a year, in an effort to control non-native invasive European annual grasses, to help maintain the native plant biodiversity and environmental integrity of the vernal pools.


Information coming soon!