- Author: Sabrina Drill
Over a decade ago, Dr. Adina Merenlender had a vision - a vision for a corps of Californians dedicated to appreciation and stewardship of our natural heritage, with UC California Naturalist building the capacity to care for it. I was deeply honored when she invited me to join forces in 2012 to engage with expertise around the state, and together with an advisory group of extension, education, and conservation experts, we built a solid team with strong commitment from a growing network of partners. I served as the Associate Director for the program beginning in 2014 and as the Interim Director since the start of 2019, and I am incredibly proud of having built up the program in Southern California, expanding efforts to diversify participation, and encouraging the application of CalNat as a tool for conservation workforce preparation.
Adina returns this summer from a sabbatical leave spent re-focusing her energy in conservation and climate education at Cambridge University, and will be coming back to the CalNat community as Chair of the CalNat ANR Workgroup and lead investigator on the UC Climate Stewards initiative. I am heading out on my own sabbatical leave at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Biological Survey, during which I will be investigating the nexus between urban nature conservation and responses to extreme weather events. Next year when I return to my duties as Natural Resources Advisor for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, I look forward to continuing to support our CalNat urban community with the results of my research.
The word sabbatical comes from the concept of rest on the sabbath, which itself comes from shmita, an agricultural concept which essentially means a fallow period when soils can rejuvenate. We both wish to thank the University of California for supporting these opportunities to reflect and re-focus. What a gift this time was for Adina and will be for me, and how wonderful to leave the program in Greg's capable hands!
The UC California Naturalist program just successfully completed our first UC Agriculture & Natural Resources five-year statewide program review. The final report recognized our early program accomplishments at developing a new education and service program, creating a network of more than 47 statewide partner institutions, and training over 2,600 certified California Naturalists who have contributed over 140,000 hours of volunteer service (as of June 2018) – promoting the stewardship of California's natural resources. The year-long process was overseen by a committee who solicited input, reported on program performance, and made informed recommendations for us to consider including more post-course community engagement. Many thanks to California Naturalists, instructors, and partner organizations that shared feedback that led to a positive review and constructive next steps. Thank you for your contributions and we look forward to the next five years!