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Posts Tagged: California Naturalist

Enjoy nature, but don't love it to death

Spring is here and that means time to get outside and enjoy California's beauty. This year people are out in record numbers to see wildflowers and experience all the recreational opportunities that parks offer. CNN reported triple the usual number of visitors to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Numbers of recreational visits have surged at National Parks across the county with 330 million visitors recorded last year, during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Recreational bird watchers in Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS.
Recently published research shows there are recreational impacts on wildlife, even from quiet recreation activities such as hiking and bird watching. Findings were based on 274 scientific articles published between 1981 and 2015 describing the effects of recreation on a variety of animal species across all geographic areas and recreational activities.

More than 93 percent of the articles reviewed indicated at least one impact of recreation on animals, the majority of which (59 percent) were negative. Hiking, for example, a common form of outdoor recreation in protected areas, can create a negative impact by causing animals to flee, taking time away from feeding and expending valuable energy. Among the negative impacts observed were decreased species diversity; decreased survival, reproduction, or abundance; and behavioral or physiological disturbance (such as decreased foraging or increased stress). These types of negative effects were documented most frequently for reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Park managers often struggle to balance the need to protect wildlife with the importance of accommodating visitors in support of the many essential benefits nature provides people and the importance of spreading conservation awareness. UC California Naturalists can often be found on the trail helping to interpret nature and focusing on leave no trace in an effort to ensure we don't love nature to death. When out enjoying nature please stay on the trail, respect seasonal closures, minimize noise, do not approach animals, and reduce your driving speed – all recommended steps to minimize the impacts of recreation on wildlife. A light touch now ensures wildlife viewing for many years to come.

Death Valley National Park visitors enjoy wildflowers from the road. Photo courtesy of the NPS.

Celebrating the 100th California Naturalist class

How did we get here and where shall we venture together?

This spring, the 100th California Naturalist class is being offered in Sonoma County – the very same county where we first piloted the curriculum. The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources California Naturalist Program is designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage the public in study and stewardship of California's natural communities. The program mission is to foster a diverse community of naturalists and promote stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. California Naturalist certification courses combine classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. Students are taught by an instructor and team of experts who are affiliated with the University of California, local nature-based centers, community colleges,  land trusts, or natural resource focused agencies such as California State Parks and cooperating “friends groups.”

A California Naturalist explores the creek.

What inspired the first California Naturalist class? Georgia, Florida, Texas and 22 other states have Master Naturalist-like programs, so why not California? After all, California is a global biodiversity hotspot filled with nature enthusiasts. It took a volunteer, Julia Fetherston, to get excited about the potential for a California program before our director Adina Merenlender was convinced to attend the 2005 National Master Naturalist Annual Conference in Estes Park, Colo. She was impressed with the impact these programs were having and decided to see what we could do in the Golden State. A good deal of effort followed to advance the cause within UC, secure grant funding, write the California Naturalist Handbook, develop ways to work with organizations across the state, and build a team to run California Naturalist. In 2012, we officially launched the program with five intrepid institutional partners (Santa Rosa Junior College/Pepperwood Foundation, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station, and Santa Barbara Botanical Garden). Four years later California Naturalist received Program of the Year from the national network, the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs.

The 100th California Naturalist class is being offered at Stewards of the Coast and Redwood this spring. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods is a non-profit, environmental and interpretive organization that works in partnership with California State Parks in the Russian River Sector of the Sonoma Mendocino Coast District to support volunteer, education and stewardship programs. Participants in this year's spring class have worked hard on a wide range of capstone projects, including multiple wildlife monitoring citizen science projects, improving fish habitat in the watershed, and creating educational materials on ticks, wetland birds, water quality and more. Co-instructors Meghan Walla-Murphy and David Berman have been teaching California Naturalist courses since 2013, first with Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and now with Stewards. Meghan is the author of Fishing on the Russian River and a well-respected wildlife tracker whose workshops are not to be missed. David is an extraordinary environmental educator, watershed expert, and Project Wild facilitator with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

 

2017 Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods class at their Bodega Dunes campout.

Now that we have 100 classes under our belt, oh, the places we can go! California Naturalist is a community of practice started deliberately with the goal of gaining natural history knowledge. We are working on releasing a citizen science challenge to provide an opportunity for California Naturalists to discover more about California's ecosystems - Discovery!

Surveys show that California Naturalists feel more empowered to address environmental challenges after their training and knowing they can lean on their fellow naturalists. We would like to know more about how California Naturalists are participating in civic engagement. With a new volunteer management system on the horizon, we plan to learn more about the many ways Naturalists are becoming involved in issues that affect their communities. - Action!

In particular, what activities are Naturalists doing that will help communities and natural ecosystems be more resilient to climate change – improving habitat connectivity, restoring riparian areas, or pre/post fire management?  We are looking for support to start an advanced training aimed at helping today's climate stewards learn more about climate science and adaptation to support their efforts on climate-wise - Stewardship!

Congratulations to the graduates of the 100th California Naturalist class and all those who went before you.

Naturalists from the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority's Bridge to Park Careers program.
Posted on Monday, April 17, 2017 at 8:55 AM

Feeling welcome in nature is essential to caring and wanting to learn more

“Feeling welcome in nature is essential to caring and wanting to learn more.” José González (Latino Outdoors), Plenary speaker at the UC California Naturalist conference 

Listening to Tom Ramos and his family who are Yuhaviatam, people of the pines, welcome all the naturalists to their land and share the sacred big horn sheep song was a wonderful way to honor the fact that native people are still here (Mütu č iip qac) and have a rich traditional ecological knowledge to share. This and all of the shared experiences that followed at the 2016 California Naturalist Conference reveal the enthusiasm this growing community has for nature and their dedication to paying attention to natural wonders. Author and artist John Muir Laws affirms that nature can be fascinating wherever you are. With a pine cone in hand we all noticed, wondered, and discussed what the cone reminded us of - "a cobra ready to strike" or "beaver tails going into a hole."

San Manuel Bird Singers from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians welcome naturalists to their land at the opening ceremony.

Meeting in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounded by conifers and endemic plants and just a stone's throw from the Southern California urban core, California Naturalists and world-class experts gathered to learn from one another. Naturalists are leading efforts to strengthen local community stewardship efforts and engaging the public in citizen science. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, among others, is extending the power of citizen science for cataloging local biodiversity and the LA Neighborhood Land Trust is working to provide green space to those who are living without access to nature. The power that art has to connect with nature was illustrated by Elkpen's poignant signage reminding Angelenos that grizzlies once roamed where they now live and black pheobes can still be found locally. All of these actions on the ground help build resilient communities and landscapes in the face of the global change scenarios that were presented.  

Naturalists at the closing ceremony.

“UC California Naturalist is creating a vibrant, thriving, inclusive environmental movement for the 21st century.” Jon Christensen (UCLA), Plenary speaker at the UC California Naturalist conference

Thanks to conference sponsors, trainers, speakers, instructors, and our organizing committee, California Naturalists from all walks of life had a chance to meet one another, become familiar with new directions in environmental science, conservation, and communication, and share their enthusiasm for nature. We hosted over 275 participants and provided 60 scholarships to attending California Naturalists. Several attendees and organizations received well-deserved awards ranging from the individual with the most volunteer hours in 2015 (Melinda Frost-Hurzel from Sierra Streams Institute, 760) to the most iNaturalist observations by a California Naturalist partner project (Pasadena City College, 13,383), and the partner with the most trained California Naturalists (UCSC Arboretum, 145) with an important shout out to everyone for becoming a California Naturalist and working to strengthen our network.

The information sharing was powerful but perhaps the most important outcome was the opportunity for kindred spirits to share the weekend, forge new and lasting relationships, and learn how we can best set future collaborations in motion. The value of providing access to the California Naturalist program and working to make everyone feel welcome really paid off in the interactions we had star gazing, sharing at the poster session, and on the field trips.

The California Naturalist community of practice shares a passion for learning together and providing service to nature and environmental science. The 2016 conference showed that working together, we can include participation from Californians of all ages and backgrounds to foster discovery, action, and stewardship on behalf of nature.

Naturalists explore Whitewater Preserve.
Posted on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Dave Koball to join as HREC Superintendent

In the 60 years that the University of California has operated it's beautiful 5,358 acre Research and Extension Center (REC) in Hopland only a handful of people have helped to manage the site as Superintendent. Dave Koball, formerly of Fetzer, is about to follow in the footsteps of Bob Keiffer in this role.

“Dave's education and experience prepare him well for the diversity of management challenges and opportunities we currently face while supporting relevant and timely research at Hopland.  Dave's established working relationships with our community partners will advance our research and outreach efforts and strengthen our current team efforts.” commented Dr. Kim Rodrigues, Hopland REC Director. The job of superintendent at the Hopland REC has always been something of a balancing act – mixing the needs of many and various research projects on the site with the desire to practice sustainable land management. Just one of the challenges that Koball will be working on is the efforts the center is making to run an active ranch while also respecting the wide diversity of native wildlife that shares the site with the flock of over 800 Western whiteface sheep.

“I am thrilled and honored to become a member of the knowledgeable, dedicated, and enthusiastic team at the University of California Hopland REC. It is my hope that my background in research from earlier in my career and more recent winegrape industry experience and contacts will help me to increase the visibility, and usability of this gem of a resource that we have here in our backyard.  The Hopland REC is a very representative sample of inland Mendocino county, and has features in common with many areas of California, making it the perfect area for research on natural resources, ecology, and different agricultural products from winegrapes to sheep and other new up and coming crops.  With a base elevation of 500 feet and upper elevation of 3,000 feet, the ranch is topographically diverse and absolutely beautiful!  I am really looking forward to entering the California Naturalist program that is run from the Center, as well as participating in many of the public events held there, from sheep shearing to the monthly hikes.  I feel very fortunate to be able to have this fantastic opportunity to learn more about nature and biology while continuing to live and work in Mendocino County.” described Mr. Koball when asked about his hopes for the position. Koball's addition to the team marks an important time at the center as a number of new positions, including the directorship have been filled in the last 2 years. “This is an exciting time for Hopland REC, with a great team now ready to meet the challenges of our times and to share what we learn with our local community” commented Rodrigues.

There are opportunities to visit the center and meet Hopland REC staff at upcoming events, sign up for our newsletter to be kept up to date! 

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Registration is open for the 2016 California Naturalist Conference

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Certified California Naturalists and all Californians with an appreciation for the state's diverse natural ecosystems may now register for the second biennial California Naturalist Conference, from Sept. 9-11 at Pali Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Running Springs. The early registration discount ends July 1.

“The beautiful mountain setting is the ideal place for California Naturalists to come together to enhance their skills and connect with fellow naturalists,” said Adina Merenlender, co-director of the University of California's California Naturalist Program and conference chair. “We promise a captivating weekend for observing nature, fostering partnerships with other naturalists and organizations, and planning for global climate change.”

The conference features a full slate of presenters that include an award winning environmental journalist and science writer, an internationally renowned conservation scientist, a Latino educator and visionary, and a Southern California leader developing community green spaces in underserved neighborhoods.

Early registration for the conference is $150 for certified California Naturalists; for non-certified participants registration is $175. Room and board at Pali Mountain is $165 per person. Those not staying at Pali Mountain pay a $90 food and beverage fee. On July 1, conference registration increases by $20 per person. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.

Conference attendees may also register for optional advanced training courses that take place on Friday, Sept. 9. The advanced training topics are:

  • California's Venomous Animals: Fact & Fiction
  • Acoustic Recording and Analysis of Natural Sounds
  • How to Draw like a Naturalist
  • iNaturalist 202: Monitoring, Exporting Data, Best Practices for Projects
  • Smartphone GPS and Mapping Skills Development Workshop
  • The Power of Direct Engagement with Nature: Outdoor Science Instruction
  • Facilitating Forest Ecotherapy
  • Facilitation and Collaboration Skills for Naturalists
  • The California Phenology Project: Tracking the Effects of Climate on the Seasonal Cycle of Wild Plants

Optional field trips are offered in conjunction with the conference. An overnight field trip at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy precedes the conference on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 8-9. The remaining field trips will be at the end of the conference, on Sunday, Sept. 11. The field trips are as follows:

  • From Mountain to City: Tour of the Santa Ana Watershed
  • UC Riverside Botanic Gardens
  • Unique Plant Communities and Geology of Bear Valley
  • Global Change in the San Bernardino National Forest
  • The National Children's Forest
  • Explore the Wild Side of Riverside at the Ameal Moore Nature Center
  • Transitional Plant Communities at Oak Glen Preserve and the Montane Botanic Garden
  • A River in the High Desert: Tour of Whitewater Preserve
  • Palm Oases, Sand Dunes, and Desert Shrub lands of the Coachella Valley

*Photo credit: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Chuck Rogers, The Early Bird

Posted on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at 9:27 AM

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