Center's Joshua Viers departs for UC Merced

Joshua Viers, a highly productive scientist and mentor at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, has joined the faculty at UC Merced as an associate professor in the School of Engineering.

As of Aug. 15, Viers also became UC Merced’s director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), which promotes collaborative research on California’s pressing environmental, social and health care problems.

Viers, 43, leaves a legacy of energetic leadership and relentless enterprise as the Center’s executive associate director.

“He developed a significant independent research program and broadly engaged in policy-influencing interdisciplinary research,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center.

Viers led a research team this year of nearly 30 students, postdoctoral scholars and staff scientists, supported with more than $6 million in active grants from a diverse array of government agencies and nonprofit conservation groups.

“Josh not only loves science and research but also loves working with enthusiastic young scientists,” said Cathryn Lawrence, the Center’s assistant director. “He channels that enthusiasm into real research productivity. He quickly brings them along and gives them a lot of responsibility.”

Viers’ own portfolio of scholarship spans a wide range of natural resources issues, including climate change, water management, land use, sustainable viticulture, freshwater ecosystem conservation and riparian restoration. He holds a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis.

Known for his high-tech savvy, Viers also developed and led the UC Extension program in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for watershed analysis and taught undergraduates in environmental data analysis and global water resources.

Undergraduates in his Sierra Rivers course (ESP 190) this past spring worked in research teams to produce short videos and reports on Tuolumne River management issues, using data they collected in and along the river. They traveled in rafts, negotiating several class IV-V whitewater stretches.

Viers said much of his job at UC Merced would be a “natural extension” of his work at the Center: collaborative, interdisciplinary environmental research and using information technology for environmental problem solving. But he’ll be doing more teaching, as he put it, “influencing the next generation of leaders” in natural resources management.

The new position comes with a dramatic change in living environment for his wife Gillian and their sons Carson, 9, and Everett, 6. They moved from the forested Sierra foothills town of Nevada City to the sun-drenched flatlands of Merced.

Still, Viers, an avid outdoorsman, will be closer the Tuolumne, Merced and Kings rivers where he worked as a raft guide years ago. He also looks forward to revisiting the Clavey River swimming holes he enjoyed as a teenager, if only to escape the Valley heat.