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Education & Outreach


Current Efforts

  • A high school student is doing an ongoing bird study comparing birds at Circle J, Blue Oak Ranch, and in Porterville. She has visited Circle J and Blue Oak Ranch several times over the year.
  • A high school student is studying pollinators at Circle J and at Monache High School. She is observing several species of flowering plants that are found at both locations and comparing rural areas to urban areas.

  • Three high school students are using LandPKS to monitor the vegetation at Circle J in response to the various intensities of grazing found here at the ranch.

  • AP Environmental Science class came up and measured water quality of the pond and "stream" by monitoring macroinvertebrates and physical qualities of the water (pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, nitrates).

  • Each June, we host the Long-term Oak Forest Inventory (LOFI) Research Technician Summer Internship Program at the Circle J Norris Ranch, which gives local area Tulare County high school students hands-on experience with monitoring oak forest growth, health, regeneration, and mortality with 100 permanent plots and tagged trees.

Long-Term Oak Forest Inventory (LOFI) Research Technician Summer Internship Program

This annual 4-day paid internship takes 20 local area Tulare County high school students to the Circle-J Norris Ranch to conduct hands-on daily field work including monitoring research plots for the Long-Term Oak Forest Inventory (LOFI), an investigation of drought and climate change effects on Blue Oak Tree mortality. In this program, students gain valuable field research experience for their resumes, university applications, entry-level positions at the Forest Service, and other related opportunities. The program also exposes students to opportunties for higher level education at the University of California, Merced and other nearby campuses. Specifically, students gain hands-on field research experience in monitoring oak forest growth, health, regeneration, and mortality with 100 permanent plots and tagged trees, and use current scientific techniques and commonly accepted standards, such as use of long-term ecological monitoring techniques, geographic information systems, and remote sensing tools. The Research Technician Summer Internship is hosted by TCOE staff annually in June, and includes UC Merced Natural Reserve System participation. 


The annual SCICON/Circle J Norris Ranch/UC Merced Field Station Summer Internship returns June 6th, 2022!


In 2021, UC Merced NRS Associate Director, Molly Stephens, and Merced Vernal Pool and Grassland Director, Joy Baccei, participated in field excursions, presented on the UC Merced NRS, and offered donations of UC Merced t-shirts and promotional items to students upon completion of the program. The annual SCICON/Circle J Norris Ranch/UC Merced Field Station Summer Internship was a huge success, and we had a total of 18 students, hailing from 8 different local area high schools participate in the 4-day internship (June 7th-10th). Of these students, some are already enrolled at UC Merced this fall, and we hope that more will consider being Bobcats at UC Merced as well! As part of the Long-term Oak Forest Inventory study, student interns learned about all aspects of scientific research work in an outdoor setting, including navigation and mapping skills, scientific data collection, and summary and analysis of results. Students had a wonderful and enriching experience, where they were able to show what they learned to their group of peers on the last day, discuss the greater implications of their research with respect to climate change and future research needs, learn about UC Merced education and research opportunities, and also celebrate their accomplishments together as a team. We look forward to many more years to come of offering this wonderful summer internship to local area students! Here's some exciting quotes from some of the students who participated:

"From this experience I gained navigation, communication, teamwork skills, and how I could analyze data."

"This internship gave me the experience and skills that I need to be able to apply to and get jobs in the future."

"This internship has been able to expand my knowledge in the field of scientific research, it has been able to give my career opportunities in future to come."

"This experience was amazing and I am grateful to the Circle J staff for making this possible for all of us."

"Through this internship, I have been able to expand my knowledge and put it to use. I learned leadership skills and how to navigate my way around. I leaned to appreciate those who made this experience possible. Overall I gained much knowledge from this internship which I hope to teach others interested in this field."



Canceled due to COVID-19 Pandemic


In June 2019, UC Merced faculty member and Natural Reserve Director, Jessica Blois, in collaboration with SCICON Administrator Dianne Shew and the now-retired TCOE SCICON/Circle-J Norris Ranch Education Coordinator Nancy Bruce, established the annual SCICON/Circle J Norris Ranch/UC Merced Field Station Summer Internship program for Tulare County High School students.



The annual SCICON BBQ and Wildflower Festival

This event is an opportunity for families and individuals of all ages to experience and enjoy what SCICON has to offer! During the festival, areas of the SCICON campus are available to tour and activties are free of charge, widlflower and nature hikes are offered, and access into the museum of natural history is also included! This event attracts over 200 visitors, and includes tabling by many entities, including the UCM Natural Reserve System (NRS)!

UC Merced NRS tabled at the SCICON 60th Annual Wildflower festival and BBQ in April 2022. Dr. Jessica Blois, the NRS faculty director and Dr. Jessica Malisch, the NRS associate director, provided information and swag about the UC Merced NRS field station at SCICON in Tulare County as well as our other reserve and field stations. We also provided information about undergraduate programs available at UC Merced. This is an annual event hosted by Friends of SCICON and in support of the Tulare County Office of Education. This year's event boosted over 2800 attendees.


On the left is the Associate Director of the UC Merced Natural Reserve System (UCM NRS), Dr. Jessica Malisch, and on the right is Faculty Director of the UCM NRS, Dr. Jessica Blois, with a student during the SCICON 60th Annual Wildflower festival and BBQ in April 2022.