Hero Image

About the Program


The UC California Naturalist Program is designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage the public in study and stewardship of California’s natural communities. The California Naturalist program uses a science curriculum, hands-on learning, problem-solving, citizen science, and community service to instill a deep appreciation for the natural communities of the state and to inspire individuals to become stewards of their local resources. 

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.

The UC California Naturalist Program is the hub of a collective impact network. We have worked with over 56 partner organizations that deliver the course and have certified a community of over 3720 Naturalists. California Naturalists perform service in the areas of education and interpretation, stewardship, citizen science, and environmental program support. To date (9/2019), Naturalists have volunteered over 168,000 hours, worth over $5 million dollars, in 51 of 58 counties.

The California Naturalist Program promotes environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action. Many other states have similar naturalist programs, but this is the first statewide program in California. To become a certified California Naturalist, participants need to enroll in a 40+ hour course with one of our partner organizations

Courses combine classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. Students are taught by an instructor and team of experts who are affiliated with a local nature-based center or natural resource focused agency. Upon completing certification requirements, participants are eligible for four academic credits through UC Davis Extension for an additional nominal fee.

Subjects covered in each California Naturalist course include:

  • ecology
  • geology
  • plant communities
  • forest/woodland and range resources and management
  • wildlife
  • communication and interpretation
  • citizen science
  • energy and global environmental issues
  • and more...

In addition to the course, California Naturalists will be encouraged to complete 40 hours of volunteer service in one of four areas: program support, interpretation/education, restoration/conservation and/or citizen science. Yearly incentives are offered for volunteers that log their hours.

Once certified, Naturalists have opportunities to volunteer all over the state with various federal, state, local and non profit organizations. Naturalists can get involved in many different kinds of activities:

  • Scientific research—plant identification or data collection
  • Environmental monitoring—bird counts, stream sampling, invasive species monitoring
  • Restoration or conservation plans—seed collection, native plant propagation and planting
  • Education—developing signs or brochures or leading nature hikes to help make science more accessible to others through support for the Naturalist Program, or other outreach activities.

The California Naturalist Program will allow Californians to help protect and preserve our unique and diverse wildlife, habitats, river, lakes and coastal resources, wild and urban alike.