UC Merced Update

Researchers Net $2M Grant for Sierra Snowpack Measurement


Snowpack measuring equipment

Instruments like these will make measuring the Sierra Nevada snowpack easier and more accurate.


UC Merced Professor Roger Bales and a team of researchers from UC Merced and UC Berkeley have received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand on a prototype system that uses a network of wireless sensors to track snowpack depth, water storage in soil, stream flow, and water use by vegetation in the Sierra Nevada — information that is key to efficient usage of such a scarce resource.

The senior research team is rounded out by UC Merced Professor Martha Conklin, UC Merced research scientist Bob Rice, UC Berkeley Professor Steven Glaser, and Danny Marks of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The research team will develop and implement a network of sensors throughout the 2,000-square-mile American River Basin of the Sierra Nevada, serving as the largest prototype yet of a system that could ultimately provide water managers in California the ability to better predict snowmelt runoff, the source of much of the state’s water supply.

“With this new funding, we will be able to test our system for snow and related measurements at the full watershed scale,” said Bales, director of UC Merced's Sierra Nevada Research Institute. “We believe this type of wireless sensor network could ultimately revolutionize the way we understand our most important sources of water, both in California and elsewhere.”