This Critical Zone Tree is the most instrumented tree in the Sierra Nevada.

We foster field site and data use among the critical zone research community in order to create new knowledge about Earth’s critical zone and advance Earth systems models. Southern Sierra researchers also strive to rapidly communiate current research activities and findings through frequent presentations and publications.

Field Site and Data Access for Researchers

Interested in conducting research at our site or collaborating with our principal researchers? Our intensively studied field areas are resources for the critical zone research community. We welcome all projects using our sites and data, short-term or long-term, single-discipline or interdisciplinary. Common measurements are collected at Critical Zone Observatories across the U.S. to promote cross-CZO projects. Our core datasets are publicly available here. Background information on our field areas can be found in the Infrastructure section of our website. For more information about utilizing our field sites or collaborating with our team, please contact Field Manager Erin Stacy, PI Roger Bales, or one of our Co-Principal Investigators.



We have a growing collection of over 75 peer-reviewed articles and books detailing and synthesizing research from the Southern Sierra Critical Zone Observatory. These publications also include cross-CZO studies utilizing multiple Critical Zone Observatories to compare critical zone properties and processes across regions with varying climates, geologic settings, ecosystems, or anthropogenic impacts.

Scientific Conferences

Southern Sierra researchers have presented over 100 scientific conference posters and talks since 2007. Find us at national and regional meetings hosted by the American Geophysical Union, Ecological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, European Geophysical Union, and International Society for Optics and Photonics. We also present at conferences focused on Sierra Nevada research, including the Yosemite Hydroclimate Conference and the Sequoia and Kings Canyon Science Symposium.


A snow manipulation experiment used black sand to accelerate snow melt, and white plastic sheets (in the background) to slow snow melt.

2013 attendees for the annual SSCZO team meeting, August 20-21, 2013, Fresno. 

Several field trips this summer are introducing researchers to the SSCZO.



Observatory scientists volunteer with students at new STEAM Center in Merced

02 Nov 2017 - UC Merced scientists are sharing their research, stories, and expertise at Merced City School District's new STEAM Center.


Water Resources Research Special Collection: Concentration-discharge relations in the critical zone

30 Oct 2017 - Water Resources Research published a new special collection in September 2017 featuring concentration-discharge research from multiple CZOs.


Southern Sierra CZO Videos

04 May 2017 - Onward California - University of California television spots showcase Southern Sierra CZO research


2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society

06 Apr 2017 - 2017 CZO Webinar Series: Critical Zone and Society.


NSF: Dust contributes valuable nutrients to Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems

28 Mar 2017 - NSF Press Release: New research finding provides insight into role dust may play as ecosystems change

UCSB graduate team working on collaborative forest restoration strategies in Sierra Nevada

03 Oct 2017 - Five master's students at the UCSB Bren School are incentivizing restoration strategies for private landholders with Sierra RCD.

New SSCZO comic artfully communicates research

19 Jul 2017 - Wonder what soils and sponges have in common? Or why some trees in the Sierra Nevada are dying while others are surviving? Find out in our new comic.

Gobi Desert Dust Helps Sustain California’s Sierra Nevada

28 Mar 2017 - A team of researchers found that dust provides a much greater amount of nutrients to vegetation in the Sierra Nevada than previously thought.

Putting Knowledge into Action: Critical Zone Science Course Visits Observatory Research Sites

21 Dec 2016 - Exploring the Critical Zone Observatory, undergraduates from UC Merced put their knowledge of soil science into action conducting field surveys.

Pushing the Limits on Water Isotope Measurement:  Lawrence Livermore and UC Merced

20 Dec 2016 - Lawrence Livermore and UC Merced researchers are tracking water through the critical zone using cutting-edge technology and new collection methods.

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