- (Public Value) UCANR: Developing an inclusive and equitable society
Guest author Blanca Villalobos is a certified UC Riverside Palm Desert Center California Naturalist, and writes about the South Coast Biogregion for California Biodiversity Week 2021. You can follow more of Blanca's work at www.blancasvillalobos.com or on Instagram at @blanca.s.villalobos.
Tecolotlán & El Totole, nahuatl names given to the lands from which my parents were raised in: their origin meaning place of owls and turkey hen, respectively. My parents are therefore birds, who eventually migrated north in the 1970s across colonial borders until settling as guests on Cahuilla & Yuhaviatam/Maarenga'yam ancestral lands to raise their family. I grew up in the San Gorgonio Pass in Southern California surrounded by the Peninsular & Transverse Mountain Ranges, craving stories about my ancestors, cultural practices and post Mexican revolution folk tales. Lucky for me I was blessed with amazing storytellers for parents who compliment oneanother's approach to storytelling through performance & wit.
In 2018 I landed my first environmental job working at a local nature preserve after years of social work & organizing. Due to this new field of work, I quickly learned to drive slowly through the desert canyon out of concern for wildlife like bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes and the usual gambel's quail. Never did I expect to spot & identify a bird unknown to me except from the stories I had heard over the years from my dad.
On my way out of the canyon one evening, I spotted something drab & not much larger than a robin in the middle of the road. Red glowing eyes fixated on my car, I approached the relative slowly until it haphazardly took flight only to quickly rest their body on the asphalt once again. I smiled upon realizing who they were: un tapacaminos, one who covers roads. I grew up hearing my dad tell animated stories about this nightjar, how he'd be traveling in Jalisco and how he'd come across them on his path “¡No se mueven! They don't move!” he would say grinning.
Still in my car, I noticed that the illumination from my headlights helped this nocturnal bird locate their dinner: a plethora of insects under a crepuscular desert sky. Once they had their fill they eventually flew out of my path, allowing me to reflect on the metaphor of their Spanish common name while I made my way out to the Coachella Valley.
It is critical to understand the connection between the migratory paths of these birds across North America with those of my parents and other migrants. Every year I look forward to seeing the monarch butterflies journey between Canada & Mexico and just recently I became aware of the black bear in my neighborhood that travels up and down the Sand to Snow National Monument for water & refuge. What I would like folks to consider during this year's California Biodiversity Day is a compassionate & intersectional reflection on the absurdity that is a border for all living beings.
With love & in solidarity,
Blanca S. Villalobos, they/she
September 4-12, 2021 is California Biodiversity Week. Join us in celebrating the unique biodiversity and renewing our commitment to stewarding the state's incredible natural heritage! During the Week, CalNat is posting blogs authored by members of our community, ending in our September 14th CONES event from noon-1:00 PM. Be sure to also check out a list of activities and resources online from the CA Natural Resources Agency!
- 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: Brook Gamble
- 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.