Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 66.07
Liaison Breeana Sylvas
Submission Date Feb. 25, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of California, Merced
AC-9: Academic Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 10.80 / 12.00
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Number of the institution’s faculty and/or staff engaged in sustainability research:

Total number of the institution’s faculty and/or staff engaged in research:

Number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that include at least one faculty or staff member that conducts sustainability research:

The total number of academic departments (or the equivalent) that conduct research:

A copy of the sustainability research inventory that includes the names and department affiliations of faculty and staff engaged in sustainability research:
Names and department affiliations of faculty and staff engaged in sustainability research:

A research inventory is provided in a word document for ease of viewing.

A brief description of the methodology the institution followed to complete the research inventory:

The institution incorporated both faculty and staff engaged in research at UC Merced.

A brief description of notable accomplishments during the previous three years by faculty and/or staff engaged in sustainability research:

UC Merced sits at the epicenter of converging world challenges in water, energy, food, and the environment. To meet these challenges, research by faculty and students addresses a wide array of complex issues that bear directly on the energy efficiency, conservation of natural resources, and environmental sustainability. From campus institutes and research groups to the new Merced Vernal Pools-Grasslands Reserve, scientists from a variety of disciplines focus on critical issues important to California and beyond:

Faculty, researchers, and students in the Sierra Nevada Research Institute conduct research in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada that examines natural resources, air, water and soil pollution, and climate change to answer basic questions that lead to improved environmental sustainability.

The UC Merced Energy Research Institute conducts cross-disciplinary research that develops new and improved renewable and sustainable energy generation technologies, sets the standard for institutional energy efficiency and sustainable energy futures, educates the energy industry and the next generation of energy scholars and practitioners, and examines domestic and global energy policy.

The UC Merced Center for Climate Communication analyzes and disseminates information to communicate climate and environmental information to the public. A current project evaluates language to develop a better understanding of how people speak and think about climate change, and the implications for policy-making.
The Mountain Hydrology Research Group engages in collaborative research in the Sierra Nevada and other western mountains to study water and biogeochemical cycles in forested areas, above tree line, and in meadows, and streams.

The University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute (UC Solar) is a multi-campus research institute centered at UC Merced. Current UC Solar research areas includes developing state-of-the-art solar energy generation technologies and examining solar energy economics and policy.

Over a dozen research groups, centers and institutes at UC Merced are actively involved with sustainability research.

Milestones and Accomplishments

Professor Teamrat Ghezzehei was funded by NSF-PIRE (Partnerships for International Research), which enables a partnership of U.S., Senegalese, and French researchers and students to examine how native shrubs of Africa’s Sahel region improve crop production by influencing soil moisture and soil microbial composition.

Graduate student Christian Moe is the recent recipient of the Dan David Scholarship for Solar Energy Research, a prize that recognizes innovative, interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries.

Wells Fargo Bank provided a grant to help provide long-term solutions to some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges. Student teams will develop preliminary designs that focus on water, energy and food-related challenges in the Central Valley. According to Dean Dan Hirleman, “These are real projects with real effects targeted to the huge problems the Valley faces.”

An engineering capstone team of seniors tackled a complex real-world problem in Yosemite National Park where a vital communications link had been damaged by fire. The student team designed a solution concept that meets project standards of reliability. If the project is adopted, the PG&E line will be removed from the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias and this otherwise pristine natural area will revert to former wilderness conditions.

The Mechatronics, Embedded Systems and Automation (MESA) Lab designs unmanned aerial vehicles that are used for such tasks as monitoring air quality in wildfires before humans are put in harm’s way; monitoring natural gas pipelines for leaks; and monitoring crop growth, soil health and moisture.

Professor Alberto Cerpa was awarded a $550,000 CAREER NSF Award to recognize and sustain his work in the field of wireless sensor networks.

Professor Tom Harmon’s research group works on climate change as this relates to soil moisture, groundwater, wetlands and surface water quality. Professor Harmon was recently awarded grants to investigate climate-driven changes in hydrologic processes and risks to sustainable freshwater ecosystems.

A recent five year, $5 million NSF grant is enabling SNRI and other researchers in the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory (SSCZO) to continue addressing challenges to California’s water security and its link to the health of Sierra Nevada ecosystems.

Professor Gerardo Diaz is designing and testing the next generation of solar-collecting units at UC Merced. With funding from the California Energy Commission, Professor Diaz and his students have built a solar water heater in which water flows through flat minichannels, or tubes made of aluminum with the coating applied directly to the tubes.



The website URL where information about sustainability research is available:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.