Swimming for Science
Verónica Morales, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, jumps into the waters of Lake Tahoe during her first Trans Tahoe Relay in 2017. She will be be among the Aggies competing this year. (Courtesy Megan Michelson)

Swimming for Science: UC Davis Women to Return for 10-Mile Swim Across Tahoe

By UC Davis Dateline Staff

UC Davis’ Women in Water Research team announced it will take the plunge for the third consecutive year in the Trans Tahoe Relay, a 10-mile swim across the alpine lake — no wetsuits permitted.

This year’s relay, the 43rd annual, is scheduled for Saturday, July 20. The Women in Water Research team, as in the past, will be “swimming for science,” raising funds this year for science communication and outreach training for team members and other UC Davis faculty, researchers and students.

“Science is more than lab coats and microscopes,” said team captain Ann Willis, a graduate student in civil engineering and a staff researcher at the Center for Watershed Sciences. “Our team knows that connecting science to everyday places and people can help change the world.”

In this case, they are connecting with the science of Lake Tahoe and its water, by swimming from the Nevada side to the California side.

Heather Bischel and Verónica Morales, each an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are back for their third Trans Tahoe Relay, joined by Willis and Kelly Neal ’19, a junior specialist at the Center for Watershed Sciences, both of whom participated for the first time a year ago.

Rounding out the team are newcomers Irene Engilis, collections manager at the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology; and Melanie Gentles, campus arborist. 


While the women brave the cold water (relay day temperature typically ranges from 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, organizers say), they ask for support in the form of contributions to a GoFundMe account. It sets a goal of $2,000, half for science communication and outreach, and half for event fees and expenses.

TERC Director Geoff Schladow will be back again this year with the R/V (research vessel) Bob Richards, as the team’s support boat.

Nearly 75 teams are set to compete this year in divisions divided by sex and the combined age of the swimmers. The relay kicks off at Sand Harbor in Incline Village, and finishes at Skylandia Beach, in Tahoe City. The top finishers last year completed the swim in just under three and a half hours.

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