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California Naturalist Blog

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    Celebrate Participatory Science This Month

    Spring is here! Despite the dry winter across California, flowers are in bloom, leaf buds are opening, and birds are singing. It's a great time to get outside, and while you're there, contribute to science! Led by SciStarter, April is Citizen Science Month, and now more than ever scientists are relying on volunteers to help fill critical data gaps. For all of 2020, iNaturalist recorded 22.5 million observations of 194,000 species, with 30 million identifications. Our naturalists have...


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    Words Matter: They Can Inspire Hope and They Can Incite Hate

    If there is any doubt about the power of words, one only has to look to the writings of Rachel Carson, a naturalist and biologist who is credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement. The power of a few well-chosen words can inspire and leave a lasting impact: “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” Sometimes words and phrases are so powerful that just hearing them once is enough to...


  • Desert tortoises do not live centuries, but they might live as long as we humans do.
    Tomorrow’s environments will be different

    A "Natural History Note" From UC California Naturalist's lead scientist, Dr. Cameron Barrows. In nature, species are constantly “striving” to be “better” species. To be clear, this is not a conscious effort, rather that improvement can occur through reproduction, there are new combinations of genes being created with every generation, both through mutations and through the mixing of genes through sexual reproduction. For asexual species, gene mutations are the...


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    ¡Los Naturalistas!

    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...


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    You Can't Retire From Being Amazing

    In December, amidst the holiday Zoom parties and anticipation of the end of a rough year, we said "Happy Retirement" to one of the California Naturalist Program's favorite colleagues, environmental educators and mentors, Sandy Derby. To mark this milestone, the CalNat team held a small but meaningful surprise Zoom celebration, attended by some of Sandy's colleagues spanning decades. A quiet, "very 2020" way to celebrate a kind and generous person with a wide-reaching, impactful...


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    Have You Heard the Story of Lake Cahuilla?

    A "Natural History Note" From UC California Naturalist's new lead scientist, Dr. Cameron Barrows.   When scientists underestimate complexity, they fall prey to the perils of unintended consequences.  Siddhartha Mukherjee About five million years ago the uplifting Colorado Plateau changed regional drainage patterns and in doing so created the Colorado River. The Colorado River extends into western and southern Colorado where, depending on the year, the annual snowpack can...


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    2020: Reflections on a Challenging Year

      We can rise to challenges, or we can resign ourselves to fate. Many have been quick to label 2020 as a “bad” year, as if we had no role in its making or how we respond to it. The challenges were real: a global pandemic, a renewed fight for racial justice, the increasingly present manifestations of environmental change, all converging on an already unequal economy. Yet, all of these were familiar challenges and unfortunately none of them will magically disappear when we...


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    2020 Service Pin Updates

    2020 Service Pin Updates  Each day brings us closer to 2021 and we find ourselves taking inventory on the lessons learned from this past year. We all did our best to make it through the isolation and despair and now hope is on the horizon for a brighter tomorrow. 2020 was a uniquely difficult year and we want to recognize our partners, instructors and naturalists for their poise and resilience in weathering the trials of COVID 19. It's a relief to shift into the thoughts of renewal...


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    Biodiversity at all Scales is Good

    A "Natural History Note" From UC California Naturalist's new lead scientist, Dr. Cameron Barrows.     “To many people, ‘biodiversity' is almost synonymous with the word ‘nature,' and ‘nature' brings to mind steamy forests and the big creatures that dwell there. Fair enough. But biodiversity is much more than that, for it encompasses not only the diversity of species, but also the diversity within species.” – Cary...


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    Baby Animals are the Icons of Spring (Unless You are a Lizard)

    A "Natural History Note" From UC California Naturalist's new lead scientist, Dr. Cameron Barrows.     “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson We often associate spring with when nature renews itself. Flowers and baby animals are the icons of spring. Except if you are a lizard. Lizards do breed in spring and early summer; however, it takes...


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    Why Do We Need Naturalists?

    A colleague recently posed a rhetorical question, “Why do we need naturalists?” It gets to the question, “Why is the UC California Naturalist program important?” a question we don't often ask ourselves or contemplate in part because its value is such an integral part of who we are, it's ingrained and deeply-held, and we don't often stop to fully articulate an answer. While it is easy to describe what we do and why that is important to us and the nearly 4000...


  • Western Poplar Sphinx from California Naturalist Steve Kerr.
    Spooky Staff Picks

    Warning: this blog post discusses some creepy crawlies. If you have an insect or arachnid phobia you may want to skip this post. It's spooky season, and we're getting in the spirit with some natural history, of course! Unless you're one of the entomologists with our sister program UC IPM, most people, including CalNat staff, find an aversion to least one type of invertebrate. Despite their their aversion inducing qualities, as naturalists we know that each creature fills an...


  • During the online class, participants went outside to gather and compare a variety of leaves.
    UC Inspires a Love of Nature to Ensure Future Environmentalists

    Children learn math, reading and writing in school to prepare them for their future careers. UC Agriculture and Natural Resources supports their learning about California's natural environment in order to protect the planet. 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 Rachael Carson's seminal book Silent Spring. “Everyone began to realize we were...


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    Participatory Scientists Make a Huge Contribution

    A "Natural History Note" From UC California Naturalist's new lead scientist, Dr. Cameron Barrows.  Back in 2016 I published a paper that quantified the added value of volunteer community scientists contributing to field surveys of lizards in Joshua Tree National Park. The reason for the paper was that there was and, in some cases, still is a cultural bias ingrained in many professional scientists against the quality of the data that volunteers collect. If I was going to incorporate...


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    Beneath the Ash are Seeds Prepared to Sprout

    The frequency of disasters doesn't diminish the pain they bring. With 28 major fires burning across the state and the greatest area burned in a year, the scope of this disaster is unprecedented even in the context of recent record breaking fire seasons.   Within the places directly affected by these disasters are California naturalists, staff from our partner organizations, their families and the communities that they serve. This year, everyone knows someone who has been affected. For...


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    UC California Naturalist PAC Member, Course Instructor Claudia Diaz Carrasco Honored

    Please join us in congratulating UC California Naturalist Program Advisory Committee Member and course instructor Claudia P Diaz Carrasco for an award and recognition she received from Senator Mike Morrell for her work engaging underserved youth in environmental stewardship. Diaz Carrasco is an Area 4-H Youth Development Advisor with UC ANR in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including the Coachella Valley. Her...


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    UC Climate Stewards Unveils Course Emblem

    The UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, through the California Naturalist Program, is developing a UC Climate Stewards certification course. In collaboration with partners including formal and informal science institutions, we will deliver a public program that improves climate change literacy and civic engagement for community and ecosystem resilience throughout California. The UC California Naturalist Program will prepare UC Climate Stewards to communicate and engage...


  • Dr. Cameron Barrows, the UC California Naturalist Program's first Lead Scientist
    UC California Naturalist Program Advisory Committee Update

    The California Naturalist Program's Program Advisory Committee (PAC) is a volunteer advisory group to the Director designed to provide feedback to the program, guide priorities, assist in evaluation, strengthen collaborations, and support program development efforts. I want to thank several of our members who have completed their term and welcome those who have recently joined the PAC. Those completing their term include Dr. Peggy Fiedler (UC Natural Reserve System), Jessica Bautista (UC ANR),...


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    UC Climate Stewards Instructor Training Launch

    On July 7, 2020, we launched the first UC Climate Stewards Instructor Training with 17 instructors from 11 pilot partner organizations across the state. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on meeting in person, we turned our planned 3-day, in-person training into a virtual venture. We chose to spread our 24 hours of training out over 8 days to best accommodate our trainers' schedules and offer the breaks and timing needed in the virtual environment. Our first day of training focused on the key...


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    A Small Change for a Big Impact

    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...