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Volunteer Portal Help

What counts as volunteer service for UC California Naturalists?

We greatly appreciate you logging your volunteer hours in the CalNat Volunteer Portal. Collecting this data helps us all demonstrate the power of our community and the impacts California Naturalists have on our landscape and communities. And of course we love sending you a pin for volunteering 40 hours or more per year and recognizing our super volunteers!

Volunteer hours are defined as any time you spend tending nature, teaching others, doing environmental science, or taking action on behalf of conservation for which you are not paid. This includes working on your capstone project while you are a CA Naturalist in training!  

Log at least 40 hours of volunteer service in the calendar year and receive the California Naturalist annual service pin! 

Help Guides and Videos

There are resources available to help you familiarize with the volunteer portal's new look and commonly used features.  Check out our help guides and videos geared toward users and program administrators.

If you have any questions about the portal, please contact vmscanaturalist@ucanr.edu.


Quick Tips - Commonly Used Features

I. Access the Volunteer Portal for the first time.

1. Check your email for a message from the volunteer portal system [from no-reply@ucdavis.edu Subject = Accessing California Naturalist System]. Clink on the link in the email text or paste it into your browser.  You will need to set up a password if you do not already have one.

Once you have a password you can always access the portal by clicking on the "Record Service Hours" tab at the top of the CalNat home page http://calnat.ucanr.edu/ 

2. Passwords must be at least 6 characters in length and the system is case sensitive.

3. You can log into the volunteer portal using your email address and your password at https://vms4.ucanr.edu/ This link can always be accessed from the top yellow menu of any California Naturalist web page: http://calnat.ucanr.edu/

4. When you first log onto the portal, you will be asked a few questions about yourself.  We recognize the vast diversity that makes up California's population, and are encouraging state and federal agencies to move to a more flexible reporting system that will allow for entries that reflect our true diversity. In the meantime, we want you to know that the information requested does help us evaluate how we are doing with our mission to foster a diverse community of naturalists. The form is voluntary and we thank you for your help with self reporting.

5. Please take a minute and edit your profile by clicking on your name in the upper right hand corner.  You mailing address must be updated for us to send you an annual pin to recognize 40+ hours of service (January-December).  Also, adding some key words will help make sure you hear about advanced training opportunities in areas you may interest you most.

4. Always log out of the portal when you are finished by clicking on your name on the upper right corner and selecting Logout.

Forgot your password?

1. First check that the caps lock button is off and make sure you are using the same email address as you have in the past, and try logging in again.

2. If unsuccessful, click on "Lost your password" at the bottom of the log in plate. Then add your same email address and click on send email.

3. Open the email sent to you (check spam if you don't see it in your inbox) and click on the link inside the email or paste it into your favorite browser. 

4. Enter a new password, retype it and click on "Save Password."

II. Entering your volunteer hours

1. Event Title: Add a brief title.

2. Event Date: Select the date you did the work.

3. Event Description: Add a short description of the work or volunteer event you participated in.

4. Organization: If you are volunteering for another organization besides the organization where you took the CA Naturalist course, please enter the organization here (e.g. Analy High School). 

5. Location: Enter the organization's location information.

6. Apply to Project: Check the drop down menu and select the project name if one exists that matches what you were doing. Your instructor can add new projects.

7.  Select Category: Please select the category that best fits  from the drop down menu. Below are short definitions of the category options.

8. Volunteer hours: Please enter the amount of hours volunteered. If you repeatedly volunteer for the same activity, you can add up hours you contributed over multiple days and enter this information ONCE for one date during your period of service, even if the total exceeds 24 hours.

9. Miles driven: If you had to drive, please enter the approximate number of miles.

10. Activity Impact: If you conducted a listed activity (e.g. coastal cleanup) and captured the measurements of the area impacted, please enter the data.

11. Contact Information: If you were helping others learn or care for the environment, we would really appreciate you filling this information in as best you can about who was benefiting from your service. This is important data for us to document the multiplicative effects California Naturalists are having on the California's local communities.

8. Comments: We would love to hear what your experience was and if you would recommend others contribute to this effort.

12. SAVE HOURS  Make sure to go to the bottom of the form and click on SAVE HOURS

III. View your hours.

You can see a summary of the hours you submitted this year or in total on the homepage under "Your Hours."  You can also select "View Hours" on the homepage or "Hours" within the main menu.

IV. Calendars

Here you can see events that may be going on in your area including volunteer opportunities.  A more complete training calendar may be found here: http://calnat.ucanr.edu/Advanced_Trainings/

V. General Information

Please take the time to explore these options which include a link to a collaborative tools site for online discussions and document uploading and viewing. A list of ongoing projects and newsletters, where relevant. You may find that these resources expand as your local program matures.  You can help by getting in touch with your instructor alerting them of local opportunities and offering some time to populate this site -- and don't forget to the log the hours as program support!

Project Types


Things that are done for the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources would be considered conservation activities. Restoration activities are conducted to improve the natural conditions of damaged ecosystems, such as invasive species control or planting native species. These types of activities and many others are essential for land and water stewardship.

Citizen Science or Public Participation in Scientific Research:

The collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists or scientific institutions. This includes national projects such as iNaturalist, eBird, and local watershed monitoring efforts. See a list of vetted citizen science opportunities at http://calnat.ucanr.edu/California_PPSR/

Interpretation and Education:

Interpretation is a process of communication designed to reveal the meaning of natural and cultural resources to help inspire and educate others. Helping adults or young people learn about nature and gain a sense of place through experiencing nature is at the crux of these volunteer efforts. These activities can include activities ranging from lecturing and providing guided tours to making brochures, signboards, slide shows, and exhibits.

Program support: Here we include any activities with the purpose of supporting a non-profit or education organization which can include office work, tabling at events, art, photography, writing newsletters, and social media.                              

Help Videos & Webinar Playlist