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The History of the Founding of SNRI


Karen Merritt Recollections about SNRI beginnings


The Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI) was incorporated into the original 1997 Academic Plan for the UC Merced campus. During the same year, SNRI started UC Merced's first partnership with resource managers for Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. The founding Director, Samuel Traina, oversaw the SNRI from 2001 until 2007. Roger Bales served in this position from 2008 until June 2020. Thomas Harmon is the current SNRI Faculty Director. In 2007, SNRI became UC Merced's first Organized Research Unit (ORU). Since its induction into UC Merced, SNRI has maintained its original focus and the regional identity envisioned in its original prospectus. Additionally, SNRI has served as an incubator, nurturing new UC Merced programs as described on our Incubated Programs webpage. SNRI maintains enduring partnerships with Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in projects that include groundbreaking research by faculty members and students, leadership and environmental stewardship opportunities for students from all over the country, and research stations stations now overseen by the UC Merced Natural Reserve System.


SNRI Founders standing in front of the field station

Founding faculty for UC Merced's SNRI

Left to right:
Martha Conklin (Professor, SNRI),
Jeff Wright  Dean, School of Engineering UC Merced),
Roger Bales  (Professor, SNRI),
Valerie Leppert  (Professor, SNRI), and
Sam Traina (Vice Chancellor for Research, UC Merced)

SNRI Advisorty Committee standing in front of research center.

Founding SNRI Advisory Committee

Standing (left to right): Tom Harmon, Steve Shackelton, Kathy Dimont, Sandy Rodriguez, Shawn Kantor

Sitting (left to right): Martha Conklin, Peggy O'Day, Sam Traina, Roger Bales

UC Merced founding Chancellor giving speech at SNRI Field Station

UC Merced founding Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey speaking at SNRI Field Station dedication, Wawona

Seated left to right:
Mike Tollefson, Superintendent, Yosemite NP,
Bob Stanton, Director of the National Park Service,
Jerry Mitchell, Yosemite Scientist

Yosemite Superintendent speaking at podium. Yosemite Superintendent, Mike Tollefson speaking at SNRI Field Station Dedication at Wawona