Over a decade ago, Adina Merenlender had a vision – a vision for a corps of Californians dedicated to appreciation and stewardship of the state's natural environment. The result of her vision was the UC California Naturalist (UC CalNat) program – a new type of UC ANR Statewide Program teaching people about the wonders of our natural heritage and providing them with the capacity to care for it. Joined by Sabrina Drill and an advisory group of extension personnel, Adina spent 5 years building a solid team with a strong commitment from a growing network of partners. Her new model saw each partner empowered to cultivate the network of UC CalNat-certified participants.
The program has continued to thrive, seeing expansion in new areas of the state, and to new audiences such as conservation corps and native Californian-focused partners, additions like the Climate Stewards course and the Regional Rendezvous, and successful completion of its first Five-Year Program review. With the program in such good health and a seasoned management team in place, Adina is excited to contribute to the program in new ways, including chairing the ANR California Naturalist Workgroup, shepherding Climate Stewards, and working to strengthen our community in collaboration with the Development Services office.
Sabrina Drill began serving as the Associate Director for the program in 2014 and as the Interim Director since the beginning of 2019. Having built up the program in Southern California and expanded efforts to diversify participation and encourage CalNat as a tool for conservation workforce preparation, Sabrina will be heading on a much-deserved sabbatical to investigate the nexus between urban ecology and disaster management. She looks forward to continuing to support our CalNat urban partners in Southern California with her research.
After a rigorous internal selection process, Greg Ira has been identified as the new Director of the UC California Naturalist Program. For the past several years, Greg has been responsible for the planning, management and operations of the program and its many partnerships. Before joining UC ANR, Greg worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the Director of the Office of Environmental Education and Sustainable Initiatives. Prior to that, he worked for six years in the Philippines, integrating conservation into the context of rural development. His areas of interest include field-based environmental education, community and citizen science, empowering communities to address climate change, volunteer water quality monitoring, methods for integrating culture into environment programs, and strategic program planning.
Please join us in thanking Adina for her vision and commitment, Sabrina for her willingness to take on the interim role in this transition period, and Greg for his enthusiasm to take on the role of UC CalNat Director.
Associate Vice President
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