- Author: Eliot Freutel
If you follow CalNat on social media, this picture taken by Shane Feirer (a colleague at UCANR Hopland Research and Education Center) might look familiar to you.
Shane went out to his yard one evening to cook dinner for his family on the BBQ. When he opened it up, he found it was FULL of acorns. Turns out that an industrious Acorn Woodpecker had been storing its fall/winter cache of acorns inside. He snapped a quick photo and passed it along to the CalNat Staff. Having spent so many hours connecting with our naturalists, we knew they would appreciate the whimsical inconvenience and ingenuity of this industrious woodpecker and decided to share his picture as a social media post. What started as a regular Wednesday post ended up reaching over 54,000 people! It is currently on track to be our most successful social media post to date!
We were shocked at how something so silly and inconvenient could have such an impact on our audience. As we talked more and more about why this particular post was doing so well, it occurred to us that our naturalists identify with this photo on several levels:
- Place - This animal repurposed a BBQ for its survival. Some might view this as an inconvenience while others see it as next level intelligence and adaptability. Regardless, we don't always find nature where we think it should be.
- Small things add up - By collecting and storing one acorn at a time, this woodpecker has made a noticeable impact on its habitat. Similarly, one person volunteering a few hours here and there might not seem significant but overtime the impact is massive!
From all of this, we couldn't help but draw a parallel to our naturalists' impact on California's habitat through collective and individual volunteering overtime: over 700 naturalists have totaled more than 46,000 volunteer hours in 2019! This averages out to 131 hours per naturalist! WOW!
In recognition of this collective impact, the CalNat program offers an annual service pin to naturalists who log 40 or more hours of volunteer time in the VMS. This year's pin is the Spanish Shawl and was designed by Eva Boynton, a naturalist from Pacific Grove Natural History Museum.
So thank you for your service hours and go “fill your BBQs” with those 40 “acorn” hours and remember to log them in the VMS! (There's still time to enter 2019 hours!)
- Author: Sarah Angulo
Get ready to contribute your iNaturalist observation skills to your local community organizations to help collect data for science!
The 2020 City Nature Challenge is April 24-27. With a variety of ways you can participate, we are offering naturalists and instructors who want to take their involvement to the next level an exclusive webinar on iNaturalist and how to host a Bioblitz on Wednesday, February 19 from 12:30 - 1:30 PM.
This webinar is intended for naturalists who are interested in engaging with the City Nature Challenge beyond contributing observations. Attendance is encouraged for those who are willing to commit to time to additional organizing on behalf of the California Naturalist program. RSVP here to receive access to the webinar link information.
Webinar topics will include:
- Tips for taking better photos for iNaturalist
- Essentials for hosting a bioblitz
- Steps for reporting your iNaturalist contributions to your city for the CalNat statewide program
- CalNat's goals for our naturalists in the City Nature Challenge
The City Nature Challenge began in 2016 as a nature-observation competition between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, organized around simple charge: “which city can find the most nature?” Since then, the competition has expanded rapidly, and this year over 250 cities will participate worldwide! This is an exciting opportunity for California Naturalist alumni to use their skills with iNaturalist, reconvene, and get involved in a global effort. Learn more about the cities participating California:
- City Nature Challenge Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma Counties)
- City Nature Challenge Sacramento Region (Sacramento, Yolo, Nevada, Ed Dorado, Yuba, Sutter, Placer, and Amador Counties)
- City Nature Challenge Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
- City Nature Challenge Costa Mesa (City of Costa Mesa)
- City Nature Challenge Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties)
- City Nature Challenge San Diego (San Diego County)
For more questions, email Sarah Angulo, firstname.lastname@example.org.
UC California Naturalist and our UC Agriculture & Natural Resources statewide program partner Project Learning Tree (PLT) have joined forces to offer a series of workshops with program partners in 2020. Join us to learn about ways to integrate this award-winning curriculum into your programs and teaching. These upcoming events are co-led and sponsored by California Naturalist. For a full list of PLT trainings, view their website.
- Become a Project Learning Tree certified educator
- Be engaged in a hands-on workshop for both formal and non-formal educators
- Investigate environmental topics in the oak woodlands with indoor and outdoor activities adaptable to all ages
- Receive PLT's PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide, correlated to national and state academic standards
Please bring a packed lunch. Coffee/tea and snacks provided. NO DOGS: Due to our management of sheep with guard animals on this site.
Instructors include UC ANR Community Education Specialists Hannah Bird (Hopland Research & Extension Center) and Brook Gamble (UC California Naturlaist Program). Please contact Brook Gamble 707-744-1424 x108 for details.
- Author: Sarah Angulo
The start of a new year is often a chance for many of us to reflect, start fresh, and make resolutions. This year, you might want to consider adding more time in nature to your list.
Many of our naturalists can attest that being outside just feels… good. It's a hard to describe feeling that perhaps Wendell Berry may have captured well in his poem, “The Peace of Wild Things”:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
This healing power of nature to soothe us in our worries of everyday life is shared by all who enjoy nature. No matter what the experience looks like to us individually, it's this common feeling that unites us and inspires us to value, protect, and advocate for natural spaces.
As it turns out, there is scientific research to back this up.
Jim Robin writes that a team led by Mathew White at the University of Exeter completed a study of 20,000 people and "found that those who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don't.” Multiple studies have documented improvements in blood pressure, stress hormone levels, nervous system arousal, self-esteem, anxiety, and mood.
Ming Kuo studies the effects that nature has on human beings at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research suggests that exposure to nature has lasting positive impacts on our immune systems. Natural killer cells can be boosted from the baseline by an average of 50% after a few day period of time in nature, and an approximately 25% boost can still last within your system a month later. The same period of time in an urban space does not yield these same benefits.
Benefits of green space may ripple out from individual health, too. In a study from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, neighborhoods where they added greenery to select vacant lots saw the amount of gun assaults go down in the neighborhood by a significant 9.1%.
Important to this discussion is who has access to green space, and consequently, who may have access to better health. Poorer communities tend to have less green space. In general in the United States, census tracts with a higher proportion of racial or ethnic minorities have less green space, even independent of income. While huge strides have been made to made to increase accessibility of public lands to people with disabilities, many may have to travel further to places that can fit their needs. It should also be noted that even if there is access to the space, community members may not feel welcome, safe, or comfortable in using it for all the benefits it offers.
Adding to the discussion, Katherine Toy of the San Francisco Parks Conservancy argues, “It's also important to consider why aspects of culture can drive people away. We spend a lot of time thinking about, ‘Is it a barrier that people can't get there? Is it a barrier that it's too expensive?' Yes, all these things are barriers, but it turns out that the number one barrier is actually irrelevance. People don't see themselves in that action.” Health might not always be the main motivator for people to be using their green space. There are so many other reasons to go outside, that in working to reduce all types of different barriers for ourselves and others, we can integrate health in nature into every visit.
With these challenges, UC California Naturalist encourages our naturalists to use their local natural history knowledge to think critically about what you've gained from nature, and why. If you're someone who is able to easily access nature and receive its benefits, the next time you go outside, you may ask yourself “Who is missing? Who don't I see here?” We all deserve to have the peace of wild things fill us up this year.
Casey, J.A.; James, P.; Cushing, L.; Jesdale, B.M.; Morello-Frosch, R. “Race, Ethnicity, Income Concentration and 10-Year Change in Urban Greenness in the United States.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 1546.
Robbins, Jim. “Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health.” Yale Environment 360, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. 9 January 2020. https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health
Toy, Katherine. CNRA Speaker Series - Improving Access to California's Natural and Cultural Treasures. California Natural Resources Agency. 14 January 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57mETx2vsb k
Vedantam, Shankar, host. “You 2.0: Our Better Nature.” Hidden Brain, NPR, 12 August 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/750538458/you-2-0-our-better-nature.
- Author: Gregory Ira
Gratitude, like all good things, is cultivated. For much of the year, we are running from one deadline to the next and the time for reflection is scarce. Thanksgiving is one of the few times during the year when the conditions and context put gratitude squarely on our table and it feels delightful. But, what if there was a way for us to experience that same feeling of gratitude all year long?
Can our work as California Naturalists help us rediscover gratitude with greater intention? As naturalists we share a few traits that might help us. We value the natural world, we seek to observe it, we reflect on our experiences, and we often share our wonder and discoveries with others. I would argue that these are also important elements of gratitude – especially sharing.
For many California Naturalists, sharing comes in the form of volunteer service. If we reframe this service as not simply giving time, but giving thanks, we can cultivate gratitude. Whether you volunteer as a California Naturalist, share your discoveries and experiences with friends and family, or give to a cause that has special meaning to you, you are not only providing a service to others, you expressing gratitude and extending the best tradition from the third Thursday of November.
On behalf of our entire CalNat team, please accept our most sincere thanks for making the UC California Naturalist Program a part of your world.