- Author: Eliot Freutel
Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps receive the Corps Network's Project of the Year Award.
Our California Naturalist partners at Southern California Mountains Foundation Urban Conservation Corps were recently honored for their work making the national parks and public lands of the Inland Empire more accessible to the communities that frequent these areas. In 2018, UCC members surveyed Spanish-speaking community members and the results showed that these community members were left out of learning and recreation opportunities due to a lack of representation and a lack of language support. With funding from the National Forest Foundation and support from bilingual instructor Claudia P. Diaz Carrasco (UC ANR Cooperative Extension Riverside Co.) and the UCC's own Gaby Nunez, the first bi-lingual California Naturalist program, Los Naturalistas, was born.
Meeting every Saturday for 4 months, the original cohort of 12 corps-members learned to interpret their parks and open spaces: Translated materials, various teaching methods, a diverse and multi-lingual expert speaker pool, and culturally relevant content were all deployed to ensure that the cohort was ready to address their audience. All 12 emerged as Los Naturalistas with their California Naturalist certifications, ready to make positive changes in environmental justice and access to public spaces for their community through nature and language interpretation.
The Corps-Network's 2020 Project of the Year award highlights Corps-member's work across the nation. This year, Los Naturalistas share the honor with one program that focuses on pollinators and 2 others working to break down barriers for differently abled & LGBTQ+ Corps-members. The takeaway is that empowering young people to represent and advocate for their communities yields incredible and innovative results. As more and more CalNat courses look towards bilingual delivery, we envision a network that represents the true demographic make-up of our diverse state.
- 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: 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: Gregory Ira
Over 3,000 Corpsmembers graduate from the California Conservation Corps (CCC) every year. Some jump right into the workforce, but many enroll in college courses or seek additional training and professional development.
The California Naturalist course is a perfect opportunity for Corpsmembers to continue their learning. Like the CCC, the California Naturalist program emphasizes experiential learning with lots of hands-on and field based activities. The California Naturalist Certification is increasingly recognized as an asset for job-seekers in environmental education and natural resource management fields. In addition, Corpsmembers can access four general education credits from UC-Davis Extension (now Continuing and Professional Education) if they are interested in furthering their studies.
The California Naturalist program was recently awarded a UC ANR Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) grant that will help us tailor certain aspects of the California Naturalist course to the needs of Corpsmembers. A pilot course hosted by UC ANR's Hopland Research and Extension Center will serve Corpsmembers based at the CCC residential camp in Ukiah. Three other residential camp representatives will also participate with the expectation of replicating the course in other regions of the state in subsequent years.
With over 45 California Naturalist partners around the state, and new partners joining every year, Corpsmembers will likely find a course within an hour of their current residence. We hope all our California Naturalist partners will unlock this new opportunity for young Corpsmembers. We think it is a perfect match that bodes well for the future stewardship of California's natural resources.