- Author: Sarah Angulo
Who can participate in citizen science? Everyone. Our 4,000 certified California Naturalists recorded over 7,000 volunteer hours under citizen science in 2019. Though citizen science is a relatively new term, people have been participating and contributing to scientific research throughout history. With the field growing immensely in the last 10 years, technological advances have helped researchers involve more people, communities have come together to answer important questions, different groups have contributed and shared information, and so much more. It's a powerful tool to teach about and experience science.
However, many in the field have begun to acknowledge a problem: the name. Citizen science - currently the most recognizable term for this practice - implies that citizens are the ones who may contribute to science. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, California is home to almost 11 million immigrants, making up more relative to its population than any other state. The Center for Migration Studies reports 23% of immigrants in California are undocumented. The word "citizen" doesn't apply to over 2.5 million Californians.
If we want everyone to feel welcome to the field and participate in science, it's important that we re-evaluate the use of the word "citizen." To describe the two approaches, a community-driven "community science" and a more individual-driven "citizen science," the CalNat program is moving forward in referring to them both as one, Participatory Science (read more about the distinction here). Inspired by the recent international protests surrounding anti-Black racism and police brutality, the CalNat team decided to make this small change of many stemming from our existing strategic plan to make our program more inclusive to more budding California Naturalists. While the field of Citizen Science as a whole continues discussions surrounding the use of "citizen," CalNat will transition to describing it in a way that includes all people who contribute to science: participatory science. As we learn more, we are open to re-evaluating this new term and growing alongside the field.
There's a few ways that our Naturalists and partner organizations can get involved in participatory science projects coming up!
Using our growing UC California Naturalist Certified Naturalists project, which certified naturalists can easily join on the main page, we can track the contributions of individual naturalists to biodiversity science. Once a certified naturalists joins the project, observations made in California over all time are counted.
California Biodiversity Day 2020 has created a survey to get a sense of the potential hosts for CA Biodiversity Day events this year and details on what those events will entail. This survey also is an opportunity for hosts to indicate resources that the organizers might be able to provide to ensure that their events are successful. This survey will be open until Wednesday, July 8.
Help collect data on some of the environmental impacts from COVID. Collect and send samples of specific long-growing grasses from your neighborhood to determine how the stay at home order has affected air quality across California. Added bonus: The species identified in the article are considered invasive. Please follow all local safety guidelines if choosing to participate.
- Author: Sarah Angulo
Looking for some new authors to add to your collection of inspirational nature writings? Search no more, we've started a list of authors you can read and contribute to right now to add some important new perspectives about how Black authors see the natural world, starting with those who live in California:
Camille T. Dungy: Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry
Carolyn Finley: Black Faces, White Spaces: African Americans and the Great Outdoors
Cecil Griscombe: Prairie Style
Al Young: Something About the Blues
Harryette Mullen: Urban Tumbleweed
Additional reading from Black authors outside of California:
John C. Robinson: Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers
Dianne D. Glave: To Love the Wind and the Rain: African-Americans and Environmental History
Norris McDonald: Diary of an Environmentalist
Mary Williams: The Lost Daughter, A Memoir
Eddy L. Harris: Mississippi Solo, A River Quest
Lauret Savoy: Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape
John Francis: Planet Walker
J. Drew Latham: The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature
Additional books about environmental justice written by Black authors:
Dorceta Taylor: The Rise of the American Conservation Movement
James Edwards Mills: The Adventure Gap: Changing the Force of the Outdoors
Dianne D. Glave: Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage
Dorceta Taylor: Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility
And for all the science fiction lovers out there, a couple of Black environmental writers who are amazingly prescient:
Octavia Butler: The Parable series
N. K. Jemison: the Broken Earth trilogy
Have any additions to our list to share? Let us know in the comments!
Special thanks to Jody Woodbury and Xi Marquez for the recommendations.
- Author: Gregory Ira
For over a week, we've witnessed the pain, helplessness, grief, and anger that comes from the ongoing discrimination, bigotry and violence of systemic racism and environmental injustice. From the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, to the racist behavior against a black birder in Central Park, to the killing of George Floyd, these are just recent manifestations of the ongoing trauma that is a reality for people of color. While it is not within the power of a single organization to eliminate racism, it is the moral obligation of every organization to recognize and acknowledge it: Black Lives Matter.
The mission of the California Naturalist Program is to foster a diverse community of naturalists and promote stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. Fulfilling that mission involves eliminating barriers to participation, expanding the relevance of our program content to address environmental justice, building strategic community partnerships, making the healing powers of nature safe and welcoming for everyone, and even acknowledging the colonial roots of the field of natural history itself. But, we know even that is not enough. To be completely true to our mission, our principles of community, and our anti-discrimination policy, we must also show solidarity when the situation demands it. Solidarity eliminates the ambiguity of silence and amplifies the voices of those straining to say: “I can't breathe.”
Together with our naturalists, our community partners around the state, the leadership of UC ANR, the entire UC system, we stand with those communities seeking peaceful change, the fair administration of justice, and a safe and inclusive environment. As UC ANR Vice President, Glenda Humiston clearly stated: “To those within our community who have suffered from such bigotry, we stand with you and with everyone who stands against racism, racial profiling, police brutality and injustice.”
- Author: greg ira
Unprecedented is an increasingly common adjective these days. It should be no surprise that unprecedented times often inspire unprecedented responses. Volunteer service by California Naturalists is no exception. For example, the most recently certified class of 12 California Naturalists at Sonoma Ecology Center completed capstone service learning projects ranging from creating wildflower guides and making native plant nursery labels, to facilitating new nature-themed webinars and participating in on-line community and citizen science projects. All this, accomplished with stringent SIP orders and a complete shutdown of local parks and open spaces.
Traditionally, California Naturalist volunteer service falls into four categories:interpretation/
To support the efforts of our partners and California Naturalists, we encourage naturalists with the capacity to continue volunteering to explore new forms of volunteer service that don't involve direct contact with others. This may include at home, online, or over-the-phone activities. In addition, the program will recognize un-paid service with a wider community lens that exemplifies the new Community Resilience and Adaptation category. Some examples include helping to create online natural history lessons or virtual experiences, donating blood, supporting a community hotline, supporting contact tracing, sewing face masks, or calling to check in on neighbors and helping them run essential errands. While any form of volunteer service involves some level of risk, when a simple conversation becomes a potential public health threat we are in uncharted territory. Organizations that engage California Naturalists as volunteers are following local guidance and making adjustments to ensure volunteer safety. We support those efforts. In the end, each individual California Naturalist must weigh their abilities, personal risks, and the benefits of volunteer service.
The California Naturalist program does not require volunteer service to maintain certification, but it does incentivize service with an annual service pin (Those that logged 40+ hours last year haven't missed out- 2019 Pins haven't gone out yet due to COVID-related delays on the manufacturing end). These new categories of service and the increased flexibility to recognize safer options to contribute to community resilience reflect changing priorities, the needs of California Naturalists, and the challenges facing the communities we live in and serve.
Staying meaningfully and safely engaged can provide benefits beyond the community and the environment. As many of us seek to develop coping mechanisms to reduce stress, anxiety, and build a sense of purpose, volunteering can help buffer these challenges and connect us more deeply.
With gratitude for all you do, be well and do good.
- Author: Eliot Freutel
The UC California Naturalist program is expanding! As we continue to grow, we seek meaningful and intentional partnerships with diverse organizations that serve as informal and formal science centers and as gathering spaces for their communities. These organizations not only provide CalNat courses to their communities but a long list of other services. Continue reading to learn about the newest CalNat partners in the Southern California area. Please help us spread the word about these new program partners as we welcome them to the CalNat family!
Community Nature Connection – Nestled between Dodger Stadium and the LA River, Community Nature Connection provides programming to undeserved community members throughout the Los Angeles area. Their team of superstar educators and activists have global education and conservation experience. Focus: Environmental justice, equitable access to outdoor spaces, urban outdoor space and ecology.
“Community Nature Connection recognizes that historically undeserved communities face barriers to accessing nature and public lands. For over 25 years our programs have removed these barriers, connecting tens of thousands to their nearby natural surroundings. These programs drive forward our mission to increase access to the outdoors for diverse communities through innovative programming and in partnership with the communities we serve.”
Bolsa Chica Conservancy – The Bolsa Chica Conservancy will be marked as our first program partner in Orange County. This iconic and well known wetland is a magnet for migratory birds and community scientists alike. It is flanked by 2.5 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway and shares PCH as a border with a very popular state beach. Focus: Wetland & marine ecology, migratory birds, invasive organisms.
“Established in 1990 by a coalition of government, community, business and environmental leaders, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization, provides services that inspire and connect all generations through community involvement and leadership in hands-on restoration and education in wetland science, watersheds, coastal ecology and environmental sustainability”
L.A. Arboretum – The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a unique 127-acre botanical garden and historical site located in what was the heart of the historic Rancho Santa Anita in the city of Arcadia. This site serves community members and as a popular fieldtrip destination for schools throughout the extended LA area. Focus: Teacher education, urban landscapes and ecology.
“Our mission is to cultivate our natural, horticultural and historic resources for learning, enjoyment and inspiration. We strive to reflect Southern California's distinct climate, community and openness to new ideas. The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a unique 127-acre botanical garden and historical site that includes Native American, Rancho Period, and late 19th century treasures. In addition to concerts and tours, we offer activities and events that cater to every audience.”