Posts Tagged: California Naturalist
UC ANR provides the California home of Project Learning Tree, a national program founded in 1973, during the height of an environmental movement sparked by Rachel Carson's seminal book Silent Spring.
“Everyone began to realize we were having an impact on the environment,” said Sandra Derby, Project Learning Tree state coordinator.
Project Learning Tree (PLT), working with the forestry industry, developed an environmental education program and trained teachers to present it to children in formal and informal educational settings. In California, the program is funded by CAL FIRE.
Another UC ANR program, UC California Naturalist, has collaborated with PLT since 2013.
“There is a lot of shared interest in environmental education, stewardship and service in our two programs,” said Greg Ira, director of UC California Naturalist (CalNat). The CalNat Program recruits and certifies a diverse community of volunteers across California to conduct nature education and interpretation, stewardship, participatory science and environmental program support.
During the coronavirus pandemic, CalNat offered PLT courses to school teachers, volunteer educators and parents online. Completion of the six-hour course over three days resulted in their certification for teaching PLT curricula. The book, aimed for children pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, includes 96 activities, with objectives, assessment opportunities, online teaching connections, and more.
The teacher training course offered by CalNat engages participants with the same activities they will employ when teaching nature appreciation to children.
Learning to appreciate the environment
Even though online training focuses attention on a computer screen, the PLT curriculum gets pupils outside. After writing about and discussing a favorite tree from memory, the participants were asked to go outside to gather a variety of leaves around their homes, classrooms or offices. They observed leaf details, and sorted them by observable characteristics.
The participants reconvened and shared their leaves, divided into categories onscreen: Leaves with rough edges, rounded, oval or palmate; rough, waxy, furry and thick; drooping down or reaching up.
Teachers can use additional activities outlined in the curriculum to help students understand natural variations and biodiversity by engaging with the leaves through observation and art. For example, if the training is taking place in person, the children can trade leaves and then look for the trees where their peers found them. Or they can put a leaf under a plain piece of paper and rub the side of a crayon across it to show the leaf's margin, veins and other details.
There are also activities related to common core skills and abilities. For example, different leaf characteristics can be charted in a Venn diagram, with leaves' common characteristics appearing in the center – such as green, pliable, veins – and singular characteristics in the sections that do not overlap.
Making environmental learning accessible
PLT advances environmental literacy using trees and forests as windows on the world, said Cynthia Chavez, PLT community education specialist in Southern California. The hands-on, engaging activities help “teach students how to think, not what to think” about the environment and their place within it.
“Environmental education could be taught in a daunting way,” Chavez said. “PLT opens the door to kids who are different kinds of learners. This is important for environmental education.”
PLT's comprehensive collection of activities have won the confidence of the education community. Curricula is only offered to teachers who have completed workshops so PLT can share a proven system of implementation.
“PLT training encourages students to care for the environment and be interested in pursuing careers in environmentalism. They learn science is not just in the classroom. They could become a field biologist, if that's the way their brain works,” Chavez said.
Expressing engagement with nature in words
Among the ways to connect with nature outlined in the PLT curriculum are reading, journaling and writing. To close the educator training, participants were given 10 minutes outside to draw inspiration from nature and write a poem – haiku, free verse, rhyming or other style.
Below are samples of poetic nature observations written on the fly by teachers who will inspire California young people to appreciate and help conserve the natural world with the help of PLT.
A droplet of sun
Planted firmly in soil
Linking earth to sky
I have botany blindness, always looking for things that scurry, not sway
But I am asked to acknowledge the tree, and I do
A lone palo verde
There's a chevron lizard on the trunk
A small, yellow verdin in the branches
A line of busy ants along the roots
So I am grateful for this tree, after all
It sways, and upon closer inspection, it scurries as well
A fly comes by
As wind hits my hair
Almost as if
It moved here and there
Then Winston, my dog
Hears someone bark
And a bird starts to chirp
Like a crow or a lark
Green Jobs Personality Quiz
Project Learning Tree offers a one-time free trial intended for adults to test its Green Jobs Quiz. The quiz helps kids learn what green job fits their personalities. You'll receive information about how to administer this quiz to youth you work with.
'Attention is the beginning of devotion' --Mary Oliver
This quote resonates this month, amidst a variety of environmental holidays and celebrations including World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, California Invasive Species Action Week, and finally National Pollinator Week (this week) and Month. It seems in this increasingly digitally connected world, one day, week, or month doesn't pass us by in the calendar year without an official opportunity to observe, act, or celebrate nature.
As these official observances pop up, we can also contemplate all the unofficial ways people celebrate, protect, and educate about nature in their daily lives. There are both small and incremental and heroic acts taken every day to make this a more livable world for all creatures. There is momentum behind a movement that says “we're paying attention and the environment is worth our time and energy and devotion despite all the other worthy competing causes.”
In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we want to highlight just a few of the many California Naturalists whose efforts benefit pollinators. Every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project of their choice to receive certification. These final projects require at least eight hours of volunteer service, and are often built upon by subsequent naturalists in following cohorts. They always benefit nature, and often benefit the recipient communities and organizations. Most California Naturalists would tell you they benefit the individual, too. Capstone projects are a culmination of service, learning, and “paying it forward.” Our community celebrates both the projects and the creativity, labor, and intentions of these naturalists.
Inspired by the intersection of science and art, California Naturalist Rose from the Hopland Research and Extension Center created this gorgeous outreach poster in both English and Spanish from her original pollinator garden painting for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project. Her goal is to spread awareness of the important ecological roll our native pollinators play and to share Xerces Society resources. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, bats and hummingbirds. According to Xerces Society, the ecological services that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. Honeybees get a lot of media attention, yet many other pollinator species like native bumblebees are in precipitous decline. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab is another excellent source of native bee information.
California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes, CA. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls. She reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help make three types of houses. The Girl Scouts leveraged the new learning opportunity and service work to receive an "Outdoor Journeys" badge. Then she met with four kindergarten classes of 24 students each and together built houses to take home. The houses in the picture aren't examples of her model but were ones she found online.
Mason bees are solitary bees named for their behavior of using mud in constructing their nests. Mason bees may defy some assumptions about bees. They don't sting, they don't live in a hive, and they don't make honey. They do, however pollinate flowers and fruits and vegetables and need a safe place to lay their eggs. When available, some species use hollow stems or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects which is where mason bee houses come into the picture. UC Davis Department of Entomology compiled this list of resources on where to find and how to make nesting sites for native bees.
Sue from the Tuleyome course built bat boxes for her local home owners association to hang in Arnold, Calaveras County. At least 45 species of bats inhabit the United States and Canada and there are at least 27 known species of bats in California. Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers, particularly in tropical and desert climates. In addition, they serve a very effective agricultural pest control purpose. Although they provide vital environmental services, bat populations are in decline globally. To make your own bat boxes, UC ANR offers a guide to build songbird, owl and bat boxes.
All of our certified California Naturalists know how to use iNaturalist. Since uploading at least one observation is part of the course requirements, the City Nature Challenge was the perfect opportunity for Naturalists to reconnect with each other, offer their skills to their city's efforts, and contribute to a global scientific database.
The 4th annual City Nature Challenge was a huge success around the world. Together with the 159 cities that participated, we uploaded almost one million observations of biodiversity to iNaturalist in just 4 days. More than 35,000 people took part across the globe, and over 31,000 species were documented, including more than 1,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species.
This was also the biggest week for observations recorded in iNaturalist history, as demonstrated in the graph below.
With the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County organizers publicizing the Challenge for their cities and working to highlight events, we wanted a chance for our Sacramento Region Naturalists to join the fun, too. Beginning in September of 2018, we co-organized for the Sacramento Region with Ryan Meyer and Julianna Yee from the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, our UC Davis Evolution and Ecology California Naturalist instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley, and environmental educator Chelle Temple-King.
- Partners that held Bioblitzes outside of city boundaries over the weekend: Hopland Research & Extension Center, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
- Sacramento Region CalNat partners: Many thanks to American River Conservancy, Yolo Basin Foundation, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and UC Davis' Wild Davis for organizing Bioblitzes as first year guinea pigs
- Bay Area CalNat partners: thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center for a Bioblitz and Grassroots Ecology for contributing observations during their class field trip
- Certified California Naturalist Cedric Lee as the number one observer for Los Angeles County!
- Certified California Naturalist and Tuleyome instructor Mary Hanson came in 5th for the Sacramento Region; UC Davis' Wild Davis instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley and 3 current CalNat students came in the top 10
- Certified California Naturalist Millie Basden came in 8th for San Diego County
- Certified California Naturalist Amy Jaecker-Jones is a co-organizer for the international City Nature Challenge through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Despite the final results, the real winner of the City Nature Challenge is science and nature. A database holding a greater number of research-grade observations to draw from allows scientists to further study our natural world. You can take a look at publications that have used data from iNaturalist to see just where our contributions are going. And of course, the more people who get outside during the Challenge, the more people engage with the nature around them. Everybody wins!
- 1st place for number of observers with 1,947 (This includes more than 550 observers who were new to iNaturalist)
- 1st place for number of identifiers with 813
- 4th place for number of observations with 38,028
- 5th place for number of species found at 3,183
- Participants submitted anywhere from 1 to 698 observations
- Most observed species: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of observations over last year: increase of 14,702 observations!
- Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of people observing over last year: increase of 700 people!
- Over 1/3 of our observers were new to iNaturalist in the two weeks before CNC began
- Overall, Sacramento came in 30th out of 159 participating cities
- Of 27 the other participating cities with a population of 2,500,000-5,000,000, Sacramento came in 9th
- In all of 2019 leading up to the Challenge, post-Challenge our region was able to increase the number of observations by 7.8% (9832 observations), species by 2% (124 species), and observers by 3.5% (233 observers).
- Sacramento came in 5th for the number of total observers for a region > 20,000 km2
- For all the observations we collected in the Sacramento region, 57% ID'd to species became research grade (or useable for scientific quality data).
CDFA awards grant for Proactive IPM program
(Morning Ag Clips) April 30
The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded funding for one project in the initial funding cycle for the Proactive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Solutions grant program. The project, titled “Proactive Biological Control of Spotted Lantern Fly, Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae)” was awarded $543,936.
The three-year project will develop biological control agents for spotted lantern fly, an invasive pest that has not yet arrived in California but is spreading rapidly across the eastern US. This pest has the potential to affect many high-value California crops including grapes, walnuts, avocados, and pistachios. The project will piggyback on work that is already being conducted on the pest in the eastern US and abroad. Project leads are Dr. Mark Hoddle (UC Riverside) and Dr. Kent Daane (UC Berkeley). The biological control agent is a small (3 mm) stingless wasp, native to China, that parasitizes the eggs of the spotted lantern fly.
Learn about sheep, shearing, and more at Barn to Yarn in Hopland this week
(MendoVoice) April 30
If you've ever wondered how a sheep's wool becomes a sweater, you might want to check out the "Barn to Yarn" event in Hopland this weekend. This popular springtime event will return to the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center this Saturday, May 4.
The Barn to Yarn event will feature farmers and ranches, shearers, spinners, weavers, and knitters, and other local experts involved in the Northern California sheep industry. There will educational activities, presentations, workshops, take-home craft activities, and more for all ages.
Moth caterpillars are back for a rare second bite in the Bay Area
(Mercury News) Cat Ferguson, April 29
…Andrew Sutherland, University of California Cooperative Extension's urban integrated pest management adviser for the Bay Area, recommends a simple preventive measure: reach for the hose.
Right after the bugs have hatched, “use pressure washers to push the larvae off the trees before they start wandering around,” he said. “In the late summer and fall, if you've got egg masses, you can wash them off and you won't have an issue next year on that tree.”
Bay Area pest control and horticulture experts say most caterpillar calls come from Santa Clara and southern San Mateo counties, which Sutherland linked to warm weather and high densities of host plants — the caterpillars are particularly fond of oak and fruit trees. Sutherland said he doesn't field nearly as many calls from the East Bay.
Hopland Research Center holds BioBlitz for Mendocino County students
(Ukiah Daily Journal) Curtis Driscoll, April 26
The Hopland Research and Extension Center held its annual “BioBlitz” on Friday for over 200 students from across Mendocino County, giving them a chance to explore their interest in science by finding new species at the Hopland Research Site.
The BioBlitz went on at the same time as the 2019 City Nature Challenge, an international event where people find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe. Although students in Mendocino County couldn't participate in the national event, the Hopland Research Center decided to have the BioBlitz as a way to allow students to explore nature in Mendocino County.
…Experts also helped the students learn more about the area in Mendocino County and the many kinds of unique species that are in the county. Anna Holmquist, an arachnologist from UC Berkeley, entomology students from UC Berkeley, and California Naturalists, people who have gone through a UC naturalist training program, were all available throughout the day to help students and guide them as they made different discoveries.
“We will be looking for species with them and searching and trying to add to the list, but there will be a bit more depth to it with the kids actually trying to build on their understand of our Mendocino habitats,” said Hopland Research Center Community Educator Hannah Bird.
Have the Tough Conversations: Koopmann Family Ranch Transfer
(Capital Press) Ashley Rood, April 26
… The next generation of Koopmanns, Carissa and Clayton, are well-poised to continue the family legacy of conservation and ranching. Both are building up their own cow herds on leased land while, as partners in the family LCC, they help make the big decisions. They also have full-time agriculture jobs off the ranch focused on grazing. Clayton is the range manager for the local water utility, the SFPUC, and has a grazing management consulting business. Carissa is a livestock and natural resources advisor for University of California Cooperative Extension in Siskiyou County. Both Carissa and Clayton emphasize how hard it is to make a living ranching alone, even with all the advantages of the family ranch. But getting out on the land, despite the hard work, is a place of relaxation for both of them.
For others considering succession planning, Carissa says, “Get started early and don't ever make assumptions. It's vital to know what everybody truly wants. Ultimately, the end goal that is that you're still a family, regardless of what happens.”
Fresh, local and sustainable advice
(Marin Independent Journal) Jane Scurich, April 26
Ah, spring! Time to visit the local farmers market for tender locally grown asparagus, luscious spring peas and great gardening advice. Wait — what's that last item — advice? Yes — and it's free!
Knowledgeable, UC-trained volunteers in the University of California Marin Master Gardener program officially open their market advice tables in May to provide research-based information on horticulture and sustainable gardening practices to Marin residents.
Love science? Free app allows you to assist in research!
(ABC10) Monica Woods, April 25
…In the words of Laci Gerhart-Barley, iNaturalist is "Instagram for biology and nature enthusiasts." The professor with the biological services department at the University of California, Davis, is even incorporating it into her classroom.
… Each year iNaturalist users participate in a "competition" to see what region can upload the most photos in the matter of a few days. The City Nature Challenge started as a competition between the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and gradually grew to include regions all over the world.
The Sacramento region is getting on board for the first time in 2019. [Sarah Angulo, community education specialist for the California Naturalist Program, is helping organize the challenge.]
The City Nature Challenge Sacramento will take place from Friday, April 26 to Monday, April 29.
UC Extension head updates supervisors on programs and leaders
(Plumas News) Victoria Metcalf, April 24
The face of the Farm Advisor's office is changing.
Plumas and Sierra county Farm Advisor Director David Lile was before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors April 9, explaining just how much his staff has changed.
… Holding up a copy of the local University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources annual report for last year, Lile said, It's “easy to look at with plenty of pictures.”
…Lile then introduced Ryan Tompkins as the new forestry advisor. He replaces longtime representative Mike DeLasaux who retired in 2018.
…Natural resources and livestock liaison with local ranchers was introduced next. That's Tracy Scholr [Schohr].
…Most 4-H members and their parents already know 4-H Program Representative Kari O'Reilly.
… Tom Getts was also introduced as the technical assistance for Plumas and Sierra farmers and Susanville area land managers.
… And Barbara Goulet, as administrative assistant, provides support to the staff, but also works with local Master Gardener volunteers and 4-H volunteers, according to Lile.
Can California get cows to burp less methane?
(NBC News) April 24
California is now requiring the beef and dairy industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Some scientists are testing and growing a red algae seaweed that can reduce methane from cow burps.
How to Control Thrips in Blueberries
(California Fresh Fruit) Matthew Malcolm, April 24
Citrus thrips have been a major nuisance for California blueberry growers, but how do you keep them under control and when should you apply crop protection materials? Is there an organic treatment available? Watch this brief interview UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor David Haviland as he answers all these questions. Read more about blueberry pest management in California Fresh Fruit Magazine.
UC: Older vineyards can be modified for mechanization
(Ag Alert) April 24
Saying they have proven that older vineyards can be converted to mechanization, University of California Cooperative Extension specialists say winegrape growers in the San Joaquin Valley do not have to replant vineyards if they want to switch to mechanical pruning.
Growers who want to make the switch can retrain the vines to make the transition, without losing fruit yield or quality, according to a UCCE study.
UCCE specialist Kaan Kurtural said the study found that "growers do not have to plant a new vineyard to mechanize their operations."
"We have proven beyond a doubt that an older vineyard can be converted to mechanization," he said.
There is no loss in yield during conversion, Kurtural said, "and post-conversion yield is better and fruit quality is equivalent to or better than hand-managed vines."
No replanting needed for mechanical pruning
(Farm Press) Tim Hearden, April 24
University of California (UC) researcher Kaan Kurtural has gained recognition in recent years for automating a vineyard operation in the Napa Valley, which was planted at a density conducive to the practice.
Now Kurtural and other UC Cooperative Extension scientists are applying their knowledge in the San Joaquin Valley, where they say growers who wish to switch from hand to mechanical pruning to save labor won't have to replant to do so.
Wet winter in Sonoma County may have helped spread virulent oak disease
(Press Democrat) Derek Moore, April 24
Now that the North Coast is finally drying out from an unusually wet winter, concern is growing over the potential rapid spread of sudden oak disease, renewing calls for the public's help tracking the deadly forest pathogen.
“Now is when we might expect the pathogen to take off a bit,” said Kerry Wininger, a UC Cooperative Extension staffer in Santa Rosa.
Wininger is a local organizer of annual sudden oak death surveys known as the SOD Blitz. This year's survey occurs from April 25 to 28 across Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Organizers are hoping for a good turnout of volunteers, who will become educated spotters and collectors to help scientists slow the disease's spread.
Young chefs: Local students prepare and taste international meals at fourth annual Culinary Academy
(Lompoc Record) Lorenzo J. Reyna, April 24
Twenty-one elementary school students spent part of their spring break learning to cook various international recipes inside Rice Elementary School's cafeteria Wednesday.
The fifth- and sixth-graders from 4-H Student Nutrition Advisory Council Clubs took part in the fourth annual Culinary Academy, spearheaded by six adults from UC CalFresh Healthy Living.
…Janelle Hansen helps oversee the 4-H SNAC Clubs as supervisor of the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo group.
She said Wednesday's five-hour event from 1 to 6 p.m. was much more than just students learning how to create various dishes.
“The hope is that they will learn the life skill of healthy living and nutrition — and that's really one of our goals,” Hansen said as the students were preparing their meals.
Close to home or farther afield, visit California's native plants and gardens
(Los Altos Online) Tanya Kucak, April 24
If you're in the mood for some road trips, immerse yourself in an atmosphere of beautiful plants and enthusiastic people by attending the Going Native Garden Tour, now in its 17th year.
Sponsored by the California Native Plant Society in association with the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, the tour offers an unparalleled chance to talk with gardeners and designers, view gardens of different types and compare gardens planted a year ago to those planted a couple of decades ago. More than 50 gardens are scheduled to be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 4 and 5. Gardens in San Jose and other southern Santa Clara County cities will be open May 4, while May 5 will feature visits to northern gardens from San Mateo to Sunnyvale, including Mountain View. No Los Altos gardens will be on display this year.
AgriTalk: How Agriculture is Managing High-Level Issues
(Agweb.com) Ashley Davenport, April 23
Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California-Davis recently was awarded the 2019 Borlaug Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) award. He talks about what that award means for him, how he started on social media, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mechanical Vineyard Pruning Possible Without Replanting
(AgNet West) Brian German, April 23
One of the major concerns regarding mechanical vineyard pruning is the time and cost associated with replanting a vineyard in a manner that would accommodate the process. However, a report from University of California Cooperative Extension researchers that was published in HortTechnology demonstrates that replanting is not necessary. Research conducted in Madera County found that growers can mechanize their operations by retraining vines without suffering any fruit loss or decline in quality.
“The trial actually ran for three years,” said Kaan Kurtural, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. “In the end, there was like no loss in yield even during the conversion years and the quality was actually much better in the mechanically managed plants.”
Is a small farm or ranch your dream? The Beginning Farming Academy is for you!
(Yuba Net) April 23
Is your dream to start a small farm or ranch? Are you ready to get started on your dream? Apply for the Beginning Farming Academy offered by the University of California Cooperative Extension on April 26th and 27th, 2019. The class is held in Auburn and runs from 8 AM to 8 PM on Friday, April 26th, and from 8 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, April 27th. April 23 is the application deadline for the April class.
The Academy is an intensive 2-day introduction to starting a small commercial farm or ranch and will help prospective farmers jumpstart their operations. “Participants will learn to assess their land and resources, research markets, and analyze the potential economic viability of their operation,” says Dan Macon, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor.
California's high-value crops, like fruits and nuts, are the ones most vulnerable to climate change
(Fast Company) Larry Buhl, April 22
Agronomy, a peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal, laid out a stark future for California agriculture, predicting it will be vastly different by the end of the century. Led by Tapan Pathak of the University of California, Merced, the research team concluded that almost all of California's crops, together valued at more than $50 billion a year, will be endangered by rising temperatures and unstable weather patterns brought by climate change. The state will face wildly fluctuating precipitation patterns, leading to severe droughts and flooding, warming temperatures, more heat waves, and shorter chill seasons. The researchers wrote that the increased rate and scale of climate change “is beyond the realm of experience for the agricultural community,” and that changes in the state's crop output “would not only translate into national food security issues, but also economic impacts that could disrupt state and national commodity systems.”
Michael previews the UCCE Annual Spring Garden Tour
(Fox 26) Stephen Hawkins, April 22
The University of California Cooperative Extension Fresno County Spring Garden Tour & Plant Sale takes place this weekend.
Michael Ikahihifo spent the morning at Garden of the Sun on Earth Day to give us a preview.
California Has Farmers Growing Weeds. Why? To Capture Carbon
(KQED) Lauren Sommer, April 22
…“I think there's great potential for agriculture to play a really important role,” says Kate Scow, professor of soil microbial ecology at UC Davis, of the state's climate goals. She's standing in a large wheat field at Russell Ranch, seven miles west of the campus, where the university plants crops to study sustainable agriculture.
“Soil is alive,” she says. “There's farmers that know that.”
California farmers try new strategy to cut carbon
Mitloehner To Receive CAST Award
(Drovers) Greg Henderson, April 19
Frank Mitloehner has been chosen by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) as 2019 Borlaug CAST Communication Award recipient. A professor and air quality extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis, Mitloehner is the 10th recipient of this award.
“I'm honored to be selected by CAST, an org I've long admired, and to be in the company of so many recipients who have inspired me during my career,” Mitloehner said. “Being recognized with the Borlaug CAST Communication Award is an affirmation of the importance of sharing research and academic pursuits well beyond labs, classrooms and universities.”
Have you ever been on a walk and observed an interesting plant you couldn't identify? Encountered an unusual insect trapped in your home? Have you wondered why you used to see certain species in nature and you don't now? Or have you thought it might be neat to compile a species list for a special place, like a favorite park or your own backyard? All California Naturalists already know that there's an app (and website) for all that!
What is iNaturalist?
The free iNaturalist app is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. Available for android, iPhone, and by a website, iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society that allows users to upload one or more pictures, provide a location, and make relevant notes like whether the subject is captivate or wild.
In response, the artificial intelligence in the app suggests what the species might be based on visual similarity and whether the species has been observed nearby. Members and organizations can set up projects and download data within defined taxa or locations to follow presence and absence, abundance, seasonality and change over time.
Verified observations are sent to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world's governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on earth. Valuable open-source data is available to aid scientific research, government and conservation organizations, and the interested public. Nearly instant gratification for species ID combined with the ability of members to contribute to a greater good whenever they venture outdoors are huge motivators for much of the existing iNaturalist community, which currently exceeds one million users and 14 million observations.
One of the biggest BioBlitzes naturalists and others can participate in is the annual City Nature Challenge. The City Nature Challenge — essentially a four-day global urban bioblitz — began in 2016 as a friendly nature-observation competition between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, organized around a simple charge: “which city can find the most nature?” Participants use the iNaturalist app to photograph, catalog, identify and organize observations of wildlife in their areas. The city with the highest number of observations wins. Since the first challenge, the competition has expanded rapidly, and this year more than 150 cities will participate worldwide.
How does it work?
The City Nature Challenge takes place April 26-29, 2019. During this window, anyone can contribute observations via iNaturalist. There will are also be a variety of events organized to help cities win the challenge. Cities are competing against each other to see which city can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people. At the end of the observation window on April 29, other events will be held to help participants identify and complete their observations in iNaturalist.
How can we participate in 2019?
The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Naturalist program is teaming up with the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, UC Davis Evolution and Ecology Department, and other partners in the region to put the Sacramento region in the competition for the first time. Stay updated and learn more information about how to join the fun on the Sacramento City Nature Challenge website as we add events. Experienced and beginner naturalists alike are invited to attend these events.
For those outside of the Sacramento region, participate in the Natural History Museum of LA County's Los Angeles County City Nature Challenge, San Diego Natural History Museum's San Diego County City Nature Challenge, and the California Academy of Sciences' San Francisco Bay Area City Nature Challenge. All you have to do is log in to your account and join the project. Any observations uploaded from within the project boundaries from April 26-29 are automatically contributed to the challenge.
Last year, 6 percent of the nearly 7 billion total observations uploaded to iNaturalist were contributed during the City Nature Challenge, making the challenge the single-most uploaded period of 2018. With the City Nature Challenge growing internationally in 2019, even more observations will be added in the hopes of getting more people outside, engaging with the natural spaces within urban environments, spending time with fellow nature enthusiasts and community organizations, and learning and contributing to science.