A biweekly publication for faculty and staff
December 14, 2016

American River Project Illustrates Campus Teamwork

September 14, 2012

If you think that faculty, postdoctoral scholars and students are the only people who have a hand in the research being conducted at UC Merced, think again. Behind each proposal or project, there are a number of people who have a hand in advancing research.

 “Overall, there are very few staff members who don’t somehow support the research enterprise,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Sam Traina.

One area of study under way – finding new ways to measure the Sierra snowpack, a primary source of California’s water supply – will help scientists more accurately gauge how much water will be available for use by water districts, communities and farmers. Several faculty members are working on projects that use data collected from a network of sensors placed in the Sierra.

Bob Rice, a lecturer and scientist with UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI), is overseeing a project in which sensors will monitor conditions along the American River basin that affect snowmelt and runoff. Data from the sensors can be monitored and collected remotely.

“There are several professors involved, working toward a common cause to further scientific knowledge and advance research,” Rice said.

Faculty members serve as the rudder guiding the direction of the research, but the many others involved are the wind in the sails.

“There are many people behind the scenes doing the work to make it possible for the faculty member to get the data that they analyze and interpret,” said SNRI Executive Director David Hosley.

For example, staff research associate and field technician Patrick Womble is in charge of getting the infrastructure installed in the field and making sure it works.

“Without Patrick, we wouldn’t have this instrumentation in the field,” Rice said. “He makes sure everything is running correctly and maintains the equipment so we can get a steady stream of consistent and reliable data.”

Womble, meanwhile, credits those who’ve assisted him with the recent equipment installations, including recent UC Merced graduates Gesha Uminskiy and Christine Hedge. Rice also credits work performed by SNRI administrative staff members such as Coty Ventura and Alexis Valle-Arevalo.

“None of this possible without Coty and Alexis,” Rice said.

“Alexis has been responsible for equipment orders and Coty provides administrative support in regards to campus and university policies. They’re responsible for sorting through forms and getting that information into our system. We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars of equipment. It’s a tough task in itself.

“They order, track and handle a lot of the leg work prior to us doing all the sexy stuff out in the field,” Rice said. “We’re out there doing all the fun stuff, and they’re inside pushing the paper for us.”

The project is “very much a collaborative effort,” Womble said. “I’m just one link in the chain, and we’re all working together to achieve our goals.”

If you have a story or anecdote highlighting how you or a colleague has contributed to the campus’s research enterprise, please email Donna Birch Trahan or call 209-228-4647.