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UC California Naturalist Lead Scientist

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Call for Nominations: Lead Scientist

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Submit nomination here

The UC California Naturalist (CalNat) Program is seeking nominations from across the University of California System for a Lead Scientist. We seek a UC academic who is widely recognized in environmental science, conservation biology, ecology, global change, natural history, or related fields. The lead scientist will work with the CalNat program director to enhance the academic profile and connections of the program. The primary purpose of this advisory role is to ensure continued high-level academic involvement and rigor for UC California Naturalist including the forthcoming Climate Stewards course. This opens an opportunity to connect directly with a growing public of amateur naturalists, community scientists, and environmental stewards (>4,000 statewide). The Lead Scientist will Chair the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) made up of UC academics and external partners who meet online quarterly to help ensure that CalNat courses and community events reflect the latest state of knowledge in environmental science and informal science education. This position would benefit academics interested in research and extension focused on natural history, environmental education, climate communication, natural resource management, and diverse public participation in scientific research in California’s ecosystems.

The lead scientist should have some service experience in their field such as with scientific societies and editorial boards. We are asking for a three-year commitment with the opportunity to renew once. This is a University service opportunity and there is no salary or stipend attached to this role, but reimbursements for approved travel and expenses will be provided according to available unit funds.

We encourage self-nominations or suggested candidates who have acknowledged to the nominator they would be interested. 

Nominations Close: April 24, 2020

Submit nomination here

Contact for Questions:

Gregory C. Ira



The California Naturalist program established the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) in 2016 and expanded participation to external members in late 2018. The PAC provides useful input on the direction of the program, the formation of strategic partnerships, agreements that support the program, and connections to academic expertise. The CalNat program seeks to build on these efforts by identifying a “Lead Scientist” who would serve on and chair the PAC and work with the program director to sustain and enhance the academic and scientific connections of the program to the UC system and beyond. The role is voluntary but aligns with and contributes to faculty requirements for university and public service.

The primary purpose of this new title is to maintain and enhance the scientific credibility and continued academic connections for UC California Naturalist, ensure that the CalNat trainings and community events reflect the latest state of knowledge in environmental science, and help extend UC research. This will require the Lead Scientist to foster connections with academics across the University of California with an eye to research and extension that would enhance California Naturalist education and service programming, and ensure that certified naturalists can be a resource to enhance scientific research and expand collaborative research afforded through extramural funding. It will encourage systematic involvement by academics in the California Naturalist community including opportunities to share their research, write high quality science materials and proposals, and ensure rigorous scientific design for all aspects of the program.

Examples of the type of involvement that the Lead Scientist may engage in include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Support the program as a member of the California Naturalist Program Advisory Committee (PAC), providing input into the agenda developed by the director and provide context on and synthesis on key topics from the perspective of a national/international expert.
  2. Help identify, prioritize, and outline topics for the California Natural History (UCANR 8000) publication series. Help identify lead authors and serve on the informal “editorial” committee to review and comment on drafts of publications.
  3. Help identify relevant grant funding opportunities that CalNat could pursue as the project lead or as a sub-recipient. Act as or provide support in identifying relevant PI’s or co-PI’s for various proposals.
  4. Help address strategic objectives including enhancing efforts toward increased diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  5. Provide input on the research design of various program elements including program evaluation methods.
  6. Foster connections with academics and graduate students across the UC system as well as external entities in support of major projects and events such as conferences or advanced trainings.

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About the Program

Mission - Vision

The UC California Naturalist Statewide Program fosters a diverse community of naturalists and promotes stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. It supports the UC ANR vision to “positively impact the life of each of California’s 40+ million residents by harnessing new scientific and technological innovations to protect our people, our environments and our food.”

Critical Issues

According to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment (State of California, 2018), the state faces a growing number of environmental challenges that will affect people, natural systems, and infrastructure. These include increases in Heat-Health Events, the frequency of extreme wildfires, coastal flooding and erosion, heavy precipitation events, and declining snowpack. In addition to these climate  related issues, the state faces complex challenges related to invasive species, loss of biodiversity, and air and water quality. These issues necessitate individual and collective action and require a workforce and population with the knowledge, skills, confidence, and ability to act as stewards of these resources and environments. Education and service programs play a vital role in creating this environmental literacy and strengthening the link between knowledge and actions. The UC California Naturalist Program addresses these issues and the need for public engagement by preparing adults with science-based content, practical skills, technology training, and connecting them to stewardship opportunities related to restoration, education, civic engagement, and citizen science.

Public Value and Impact

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 The California Naturalist program is protecting California’s natural resources and building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems by:

  • Strengthening environmental literacy: Since the program’s inception in 2012, over 3,150 graduates have been certified as California Naturalists after completing 40 hours of training in California natural history including geology, water, plant and animal communities, interpretation, management and environmental issues. To date, over 1,800 naturalists have shared environmental information with 76,000 secondary contacts mostly through education and outreach programs.
  • Promoting civic engagement through volunteer service: In each of the last two years, the economic value of the volunteer service (over 35,000 hours each year) by California Naturalists has exceed $1 Million (based on the Independent Sector’s value of volunteer service). This service includes ecosystem restoration; community and citizen science; environmental education, and support to community-based conservation organizations.
  • Supporting stewardship of conservation lands: Many of our partner organizations rely on the naturalists they train to help manage their land and resources. The area of land potentially affected by these conservation, restoration, monitoring, and management efforts has grown as our partners have grown and now includes over 700,000 acres with California Naturalists volunteering in 51 of 58 counties.

The California Naturalist program is developing a qualified workforce for California by . . .

  • Preparing the next generation of green collar workers and leaders. Young adults attending five workforce development organizations such as the California Conservation Corps and nine community colleges are preparing to serve as the next generation of resource managers and green collar leaders. Anecdotal evidence suggests that California Naturalist certification makes these participants more attractive to future employers.

Target Audience

The UC California Naturalist program has two levels of target clientele: 1) the partner organizations and their instructors who we train to deliver the course; and 2) the participants who attend the course to become certified California Naturalists. Currently, California Naturalists include retirees (60%); mid-career professionals (25%) including teachers, park rangers, non-formal educators; and pre-career young adults (15%) including green workforce-development participants and community college students. Across all groups, 20% of California Naturalists identify as non-white – inspiring ongoing strategies to broaden participation. 

What We Do

  The UC California Naturalist Program is designed to introduce Californians to the wonders of our unique ecology and engage the public in the study and stewardship of California’s natural communities. The program develops the curriculum, trains partner organizations, and provides program monitoring and evaluation. We collect data at the end of each course to evaluate the quality of the course content and delivery, the instructor, and changes in knowledge, skills, and efficacy among the participants. Volunteer hours and information on behaviors related to these activities are collected through self-reporting to measure collective impact and are rewarded with a series of annual service pins. California Naturalist certification offers a transformational learning experience to participants, designed to inspire and engage them long after the course is over.

Statewide Presence and How We Connect

Collaboration is at the heart of the California Naturalist program. Our program delivery model involves partnering with over 45 well-established institutions with shared goals for environmental education to form a statewide network of organizations that offer the California Naturalist certification course. UC ANR provides critical coordination and support as the “backbone organization” to this network of partners to sustain the program and support a growing naturalist community of practice which engages in peer-to-peer sharing and life-long learning. We also connect with 19 natural resource and education related agencies to help fulfill our mission. The program collaborates widely across UC ANR through program teams, workgroups, publication teams, and special projects such as the UC ANR-wide Community and Citizen Science Research Project with the UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science. We facilitated the joint implementation of California Project Learning Tree together with UC ANR 4-H, and the development of instructional materials such as “Pests in natural areas” curriculum with UC IPM. While the California Naturalist program is not delivered by staff based in county Cooperative Extension offices, we coordinate with county office staff in partner selection, identification of guest speakers, and course promotion.

Business Operations

The California Naturalist Program has a core budget (permanent and  temporary) of approximately $270,000 supporting five full time employees. In addition, the program generates over $80,000/year from course fees. Grants, donations and contracts vary significantly from year to year but totaled over $87,000 in FY 17/18. The diagrams below show the organizational chart and a financial snapshot of the program.

Org Chart

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2016 conference