- (Public Value) UCANR: Protecting California's natural resources
- 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.”
With how much we all have lost in the past few months, we really needed a win. And the win came from a somewhat unexpected place: nature. Our naturalists have long had a strong connection to their local flora and fauna, but recently more people have sought solace in the outdoors. These certified naturalists teamed up with fellow nature enthusiasts in their neighborhoods this year in the annual City Nature Challenge. With access to open space more limited in cities across the globe, the 5th event became a City Nature Celebration this year. Instead of a friendly competition, the event turned into a collaborative effort to collect observations of nature through photos and sound to upload to the iNaturalist app. Despite a global pandemic, thousands more people participated compared to last year, and more species were documented: a huge win for science, nature, and people.
The City Nature Challenge encourages people to explore their urban nature, connect with local advocacy organizations and other iNaturalist users, and learn how to participate in community biodiversity science. From its first competition between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, it quickly has grown to include about 250 cities around the world. The search for nature over a period of 4 days each April inspires over 40,000 people to tromp through snow, find wildflowers, chase butterflies of all sizes, and tune in to the nature in their backyards thousands of miles apart.
Within California, a global biodiversity hotspot, we encouraged certified naturalists to participate safely this year by observing nature in and around home. Using our growing UC California Naturalist Certified Naturalists project, which certified naturalists can join, we are able to better track the contributions of individual naturalists. Once a certified naturalists joins the project, observations made in California over all time are counted (email Sarah Angulo, email@example.com with questions). An amazing 6,500+ species have been documented by certified naturalists who have so far joined the project, who make up just a fraction of the 4,000 certified to date. Naturalists are making a huge contribution to science through these observations.
Participation expanded to 7 cities in California in the City Nature Challenge 2020: the Bay Area, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Sacramento Region, Orange County, Inland Empire, and Mendocino County. Certified California Naturalists contributed to the over 93,000 total observations made in the 7 cities. Of these 93,000 observations made in the state, California Naturalists in the top 20 observers for each city contributed 10%! On average per city, California Naturalists in the top 20 observers contributed 14% of observations to their city's totals. Within the top 20 users,
Los Angeles County: Ron Matsumoto (Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum) #4, Kat Halsey (Pasadena City College) #5, Kim Moore (USC Sea Grant) #8, Laura Schare (Catalina Island Conservancy) #11, Amy Jaecker-Jones (Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum) #13, Diego Tamayo (Riverside-Corona RCD) #16, and Brynna Campbell (Pasadena City College) #19 made 11% of their city's observations.
San Diego County: Alex Bairstow (Preserve Calavera) #5, Millie Basden (Preserve Calavera) #8, and Susan Heller (Preserve Calavera) #15 made 6% of their city's observations.
Sacramento Region: Lauren Glevanik (UC Davis) #2, Hailey Adler (UC Davis) #3, Laci Gerhart (UC Davis) #4, Mary Hanson (Tuleyome) #5, Roxanne Moger (Tuleyome) #6, Cliff Hawley (Effie Yeaw Nature Center) #9, Sarah Angulo (Sierra Streams Institute/UCANR) #10, Charlie Russell (Tuleyome) #11, Ingrid van Dijk (Effie Yeaw Nature Center) #16, and Shane Hanofee (Sierra Streams Institute) #17 made 27% of their city's observations.
Orange County: Devon Bradley (Sagehen Creek Field Station) #16 made 1% of their city's observations.
Inland Empire: Colin Barrows (UC Riverside Palm Desert) #1, Sendy Hernandez Orellana (UCR Palm Desert) #4, Elizabeth Ogren Erickson (UCR Palm Desert) #6, Scott Cummings (UCR Palm Desert) #10, Susan Shigenaga (UCR Palm Desert) #13, Kristin Cummings (UCR Palm Desert)#14, Carol Blaney (Riverside Metropolitan Museum) #16, and Spider Fawke (UCR Palm Desert) #18 made 24% of their city's observations.
Mendocino County: Asa Spade (Hopland REC) #1, Brook Gamble (UCANR) #4, Steven Prochter (Hopland REC) #6, Hannah Bird (Hopland REC) #10, Andrea Davis (Hopland REC) #11, Brianne Nelson (Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods) #15, Dave Barry (Pepperwood Preserve) #16, and Maureen Taylor (Hopland REC) #19 made 31% of their city's observations.
The impact of our naturalists is even greater than just the few who are in the top 20 observers for their city. Even for naturalists who contributed one observation or identification this year, every documentation of our state's unique biodiversity is important. Thank you for each one of you who took a moment to contribute this year, especially given the difficulties we each face. We can't wait to be all together for next year!
California Naturalists are getting ready to participate in and around their homes for the City Nature Challenge 2020! If you want to participate, find out if your city is on the list this year. They told us using the survey what they are looking forward to seeing in their city this year. Chris Sulots, City College of San Francisco certified naturalist, describes one of this favorite iNaturalist observations from last year's City Nature Challenge in the San Francisco Bay Area:
During this nest-building period, male ospreys will fly high and then dive repeatedly in vicinity of nest sit with nesting material clasped in their talons. When feeding ospreys will also orient the fish they catch headfirst to ease wind resistance.
Discovery. Stewardship. Action. Service is at the core of being a certified California Naturalist. It's why for the start of National Volunteer Week, we take this special opportunity to thank our naturalists for their 47,055 hours of volunteer hours recorded in 2019 alone. While these hours hold an astonishing monetary value of $1,409,297, what's done within these hours holds so much more value to the people and places of California. From designing new interpretive walks, creating guides, monitoring water quality, creating art, participating in restoration work days, and almost 4,000 other volunteer projects from our certified naturalists, they have all changed the way others learn about and experience the natural world.
Volunteering time to complete a 40-hour course, plus an 8-hour capstone project, shows dedication to learning and sharing California's natural history. Our naturalists turn the content knowledge gained in our courses into a deeper love, appreciation, and understanding for the places they live. Naturalists are stones dropped in a pond, whose work creates ripples effects into their communities and throughout the statewide program.
As we experience changes in access to the outdoors and natural spaces, volunteering in the same capacities also changes. We celebrate the work of our naturalists and offer a chance to continue doing what our naturalists do best! We ask our naturalists to join our statewide California Naturalist iNaturalist project to help us continue to consolidate all contributions into one statewide project. If you are a certified naturalist, simply join the project, and all your observations taken in California will be added to the project.
Engaging with iNaturalist is not only a core requirement for becoming a certified naturalist, it's a tool for staying connected. With the coming City Nature Challenge April 24-27 encouraging us to safely explore and record the nature in our immediate homes and neighborhoods, naturalists have an opportunity to do what they do best. You can contribute your observations or ID skills towards scientific biodiversity data. How have you gotten ready for the City Nature Challenge? Let us know by filling out one of the prompts in our survey. If you want to learn more about the City Nature Challenge, go to the main page.
From the CalNat team, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in service to California's natural ecosystems!