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CONES Archives

Welcome to CONES (California Online Naturalist Event Series) archives.  This series is created by and for UC California Naturalists and UC Climate Stewards to connect across the state on topics including natural history, ecology, climate change, and the intersections of pressing human and environmental issues. Each talk is available to the public afterward, pending speaker approval.

GO-SEA Project with Dr. Rebecca Helm and Ari Puentes

View the recording here
January 25, 2023

Rebecca Helm is a marine biologist studying life in the open ocean and at the ocean’s surface. Helm grew up in Arizona and completed her undergraduate degree in Marine Science at Eckerd College before conducting research on jellyfish life cycles as a Fullbright Fellow in South Africa. Helm received a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University, where she was an NSF Graduate Student Research Fellow and an NSF EPSCoR fellow. Her Ph.D. work focused on the evolution of open-ocean and coastal jellyfish species. Helm then conducted research on circadian rhythms as a postdoc at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and later at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, where she continued her research on coastal and open-ocean jellies. For the last four years, Helm has been an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville, where she has led multiple interdisciplinary projects on the biology of life on the high seas. She is now an assistant professor at Georgetown University.

Ari Puentes is an undergraduate Biology student at UNC Asheville. He is interested in mycology and is working on a research project assessing the effects of prescribed fires on fungal communities. In addition to this project, he recently co-created the UNC Asheville Fungarium, the first fungarium in western North Carolina. He is an avid naturalist and community science enthusiast and has been the community outreach manager for GO-SEA since the start of the project.

Here is a link to the iNaturalist GO-SEA project.

Here is a link to the project's field guide.

Click here to download a "How to Look for Surface Life" guide.

Click here for a "Beach-combing Guide".

Bumble Bee Atlas Project with Dr. Leif Richardson

View the recording here

July 27, 2022

Dr. Leif Richardson is a conservation biologist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, where he runs the California Bumble Bee Atlas, a three-year community science project to survey the diversity and distributions of the state's 25+ native bumble bee species. His work focuses on interactions among species, in particular those involving bees, their parasites, and the plants they pollinate. He also study agricultural pollination, effects of pesticides on bee pollinators, and the causes and consequences of bee species declines. Join us for a discussion about this Participatory Science Project and how you can get involved.

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City Nature Challenge 2022 in Review with Amy Jaeker-Jones 
July 1st, 2022

Amy Jaecker-Jones is a Coordinator for the Community Science Program at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She joined the program in 2018 and works on the City Nature Challenge at both the local and international levels and on the Backyard Bat Survey. Amy received her California Naturalist certification at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum in 2015.

Natural History of the California Current 
November 9, 2021
Dr. Christopher Pincetich is a long-time UC California Naturalist course instructor, now with the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, an Associate Environmental Planner with Caltrans, and lead author of the new California Naturalist Series publication The Natural History of the California Current. He has a doctorate in Environmental Toxicology from the University of California, Davis and a B.S. in Marine Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz. His passion for promoting ocean and sea turtle conservation has been shared through speaking engagements ranging from international scientific conferences to elementary school classrooms.
Co- Author Dr. Sabrina Drill is the Natural Resources Advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and former Director of UC California Naturalist. Her current areas of research and extension include urban ecology, restoration of urban streams, climate change resilience, terrestrial and aquatic invasive species, fire ecology and recovery, and public participation in science. Throughout her extension career she has worked to build capacity for community-based resource management, and to substantively engage under-represented communities in stewardship of their local watersheds and ecosystems.

Sam Sandoval
Understanding the Natural Water Landscape of California and Today's Heavily Altered System
October 19, 2021

Dr. Samuel Sandoval Solis is a member of the UC California Naturalist Program Advisory Committee, an Associate Professor at the University of California, Davis and a Cooperative Extension Specialist in Water Resources Management at the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the University of California (UC ANR). In his dual role as professor and specialist, he is responsible for the California statewide outreach, education and applied research program on water resources management for UC ANR; and as a professor he is responsible for fundamental research, teaching, and graduate student mentorship at the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources in UC Davis. His research interest focuses on integrated water resources management through a holistic approach, mixing different methods, tools and processes to improve water resources management.

Celebrating California Biodiversity Day: Biodiversity in Your Spaces
September 14, 2021
This CONES included 4 California Naturalist program instructors, who discussed how their organizations use participatory science projects to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues in their unique bioregion. The annual California Natural Resources Agency sponsored California Biodiversity Day celebrates our state’s exceptional biodiversity, while also encouraging actions to protect it. 
Suzie Fortner completed a B.S. in Marine Biology at UC Santa Cruz. After working as an environmental educator, Suzie pursued a M.A. in Social Science through the Environment and Community Program at Humboldt State University, focusing on place-based nature education and equal access to positive experiences in nature. Suzie has been working with Friends of the Dunes since 2007, currently as Programs & Operations Director, overseeing all of Friends of the Dunes’ education and stewardship programs and managing a nature center. Suzie remains dedicated to connecting people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to Humboldt’s diverse coastal environments.
Hillary Holt joined the Catalina Island Conservancy’s Education department in 2016. Having completed her Master’s in Zoology, with a certificate in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, she is enraptured by evolution and biodiversity on Islands. As the lead of the Conservancy’s Naturalist Training Program and outreach programming, she is dedicated to bringing stewards of Catalina Island the most current information from the most relevant sources.
Ali Stefancich is the Outreach and Education Coordinator at Sierra Streams Institute in Nevada City, CA (the land of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan). Ali has recently rejoined Sierra Streams after having been an AmeriCorps member with them in 2012-13. She, and Sierra Streams Institute, feel deeply about the importance of communities guiding scientific inquiry and local land and waterway management for the betterment of human and environmental health. In addition to spending as much time as she can at her local waterways, she also loves independent cinema, books, and making funny art calendars of her cat, Libby.
Dr. Laci Gerhart-Barley is an Assistant Professor of Teaching (LPSOE) in Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis. Her research focuses on instructional technology both within the classroom and beyond. She has been a California Naturalist instructor since 2018, teaching the Wild Davis certification course to UC Davis undergraduates. She also partners with the UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science to integrate participatory science projects into environmental education at UC Davis and beyond, including in non-traditional educational environments such as the Insight Garden environmental education program for incarcerated Californians. She is also a co-organizer for the Sacramento Region City Nature Challenge global bioblitz through iNaturalist. 

Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California
August 24, 2021
In this CONES, Dr. Adina Merenlender discusses her newest book, the UC Climate Stewards text Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California by Adina Merenlender with Brendan Buhler (Authors), Greg Sarris (Foreword), and Obi Kaufmann (Illustrator) (UC Press 2021).  Special guest book contributors David Diaz, Executive Director at Active San Gabriel Valley and Tracy Bartlett, Certified Naturalist and Climate Steward from UCR Palm Desert and founding member of the Cactus to Cloud Institute talk about their engagement and strategies for community resilience at this CONES.
The book is available for pre-order with a 30% off code in the link at UC Press and will ship September 2021.
Adina Merenlender
Dr. Adina Merenlender
 is the UC California Naturalist Founding Director and the Cooperative Extension Specialist and Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Department at University of California, Berkeley. Her primary focus is in the field of conservation biology. In particular, she is interested in the forces that influence loss of biodiversity at all hierarchical levels from genes to ecosystems. 
Tracy Bartlett holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of Iowa and a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion. In addition to being a founding member of the new Cactus to Clouds Institute, Tracy is a volunteer scientist with the Center for Conservation Biology, and a volunteer with the Desert Sands and Sky Islands California Naturalist program at University of California-Riverside, Palm Desert Center. Tracy is happiest volunteering for conservation efforts in the Coachella Valley, scouting for lizards, and traveling.
David Diaz is the Executive Director at Active San Gabriel Valley and a d
edicated public servant and advocate who has successfully worked with youth, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations and cities to advance environmental justice, equity and public health. David is also a Metro San Gabriel Valley Service Council Member, Metro Sustainability Council Member, and an El Monte Union High School District Board of Trustees Member. He holds a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Management and Policy from Claremont Graduate University.

Monitoring Wildlife Communities Following California Megafires
July 27, 2021
Kendall Calhoun
Kendall Calhoun
is a PhD Candidate with the Brashares Lab at Environmental Science, Policy, & Management- UC Berkeley. His research interests revolve around understanding how global change pressures impact community ecology and conservation. Currently, Kendall uses camera traps and acoustic recorders to understand the impacts of California wildfires on native mammal and bird communities. He was raised in the Central Valley of California, but currently lives in Oakland. You can find out more about his work and interests on Twitter and at Black Mammalogists. Listen to this talk to learn more about how wildlife species may be responding to the recent uptick in severe wildfires occurring across the state. 

Environmental Education and Social & Emotional Learning
View the Recording Here
June 22, 2021
Estrella Risinger
Estrella Risinger is the Executive Director of the Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education (AEOE), where she works to advance the impact of environmental and outdoor education in California. She recently served as the National Education Manager at NatureBridge, the largest education partner of the National Park Service. As the project manager of the Residential Environmental Education Partnership, a national collaborative convened by NatureBridge which was focused on understanding and elevating the role of Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) within residential learning centers, Estrella helped to launch the website Grow-outside.org, a Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit for Residential Environmental Learning Centers. A former classroom teacher and camp counselor, Estrella has a background in both formal and informal educational settings. She lives in Oakland, CA, where she is the mother of two active children, who love being outside almost as much as she does. Join this interactive session where we explore the intersections between environmental education and Social & Emotional Learning (SEL). In addition to gaining familiarity with several leading educational frameworks, you will walk away with resources to use with students and program participants.

Getting to the Heart of Science Communication
May 25, 2021
Faith Kearns is the Academic Coordinator for the California Institute for Water Resources, UC Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources. A scientist and science communication practitioner who focuses primarily on water, wildfire, and climate change in the western United States, her work has been published in New Republic, On Being, Bay Nature, and more. She has been working in the science communication field for more than 25 years, starting with the Ecological
Kearns SciComm Book
Society of America and going on to serve as a AAAS Science and Policy Fellow at the US Department of State, manage a wildfire research and outreach center at the University of California, Berkeley, and bridge science and policy advocacy efforts at the Pew Charitable Trusts. 
In her new book, Getting to the Heart of Science Communication, Dr. Kearns has penned a succinct guide for navigating the human relationships critical to the success of practice-based science communication. This meticulously researched volume takes science communication to the next level, helping scientists see the value of listening as well as talking, understanding power dynamics in relationships, and addressing the roles of trauma, loss, grief, and healing. Listen to this CONES to learn how emotional and high-stakes issues have shaped communication, and the tools key to navigating the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of people with whom you engage.

The CALeDNA Program: Transforming How We View Community Science
April 13, 2021
Dr. Maura Palacios Mejia is a UC California Naturalist and a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UCLA. Her research focuses on applying environmental DNA (eDNA) to address issues in conservation management and urban planning. Her projects use eDNA to assess species assemblages in the Mojave Desert Springs, a threatened ecosystem and to explore microbial community changes in relation to hazardous materials at Brownfield sites throughout Southern California, for potential bioremediation practices. Dr. Palacios Mejia also uses eDNA as a tool for education and outreach. She is a recent recipient of the Sloan’s Scholar mentoring network Career Development grant to carry out a new project in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy titled “Establishing a baseline of biodiversity and ecology of Jalama Creek in the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve using environmental DNA to assess stream restoration success”. California has thousands of species found nowhere else in the world, but over 70% of its natural habitat has been lost. CALeDNA aims to address problems in biodiversity monitoring by pairing volunteer community scientists with University of California researchers to collect soil, sediment, and water samples from across California. By analyzing the environmental DNA (eDNA) from the soil samples, we can assess the biodiversity of microbes, fungi, plants and animals. Join this CONES to learn more about CALeDNA and stay for a special highlight at the end on CalNat, participatory science, and the upcoming City Nature Challenge by Sarah Angulo, UC California Naturalist staff.

What Lizards Tell Us About a Warming Planet
March 30, 2021
Cameron Barrows
Dr. Cameron Barrows is an Associate Research Ecologist with UC Riverside, coordinating the Center for Conservation Biology's Desert Studies Initiative. The initiative develops risk assessments and implements regional conservation programs for desert flora, fauna and natural communities and enhances secondary level science education in surrounding schools. Dr. Barrows is a recognized ecologist and naturalist who has studied, managed, and explored a huge swath of our diverse state from Humboldt County to the Mojave Desert. As the first UC California Naturalist Program Lead Scientist, he recognizes the importance of California Naturalist and Climate Stewards courses in revitalizing natural history training, increasing community & ecosystem resilience, engaging the public in participatory science, and capturing the sense of urgency that climate change brings to our work. In this talk we'll learn about climate change in deserts, using common lizards as a means of answering ecological questions, and successes in engaging naturalists with participatory science.

Diversity from the Ground UP: What works
February 23, 2021
Claudia Award 2020
Claudia P. Diaz
Carrasco, 4-H Youth Development Advisor and UC California Naturalist instructor for the Southern California Mountains Foundation: Urban Conservation Corps of Inland Empire course. Since joining UC ANR in 2014 as a 4-H Youth Development Advisor, Claudia has provided expertise, visibility, and a keen understanding of local issues, particularly in the areas of cultural competence, social justice, positive youth development and science literacy. Claudia´s work focuses on piloting new models to better serve under-represented populations and places, including Latino and/or low-income youth and families in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Claudia is interested in the interconnections of culture, nature and education. In partnership with the National Park Service, she developed a bilingual guide to help youth and families explore Camp #59 of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Expedition. Claudia also plays a key role in helping the Urban Conservation Corps develop greater capacity to engage youth of color in environmental education and stewardship. In this talk, Claudia will draw from these experiences to present the findings of one of her latest research projects which identified new strategies that foster inclusion of diverse youth and families in programs.

Smokey the Beaver: Can Beavers Prevent Wildfires?

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January 19, 2021

Dr. Emily Fairfax, Assistant Professor, California State University Channel Islands. Dr. Fairfax leads the BEAVS Research Group: Beavers, Ecohydrologyand Visual Storytelling. Her current research focuses on the ecohydrology of riparian areas, particularly those that have been impacted by beaver damming. Dr. Fairfax uses a combination of remote sensing, modeling, and field to work understand how beaver damming changes these landscapes and on what timescales those changes operate. In addition to learning about beavers and Dr. Fairfax's research, participants in this CONES will have an opportunity to practice finding signs of beaver in both on ground photos and in satellite images.

Environmental Justice as a path to solving the global climate crisis: simple and not-so-simple things we could do differently to make the world a better place

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December 8, 2020

Joana Flor TavaresĀ 

Joana Flor Tavares (she/her/hers) is a marine scientist, an educator, and a mom. She is currently completing a PhD at the University of California, Irvine in the Earth System Science Department, where she is investigating the impacts of pollution on marine life with funding from NASA.  Joana serves as a board member and community science advisor for local non-profit organizations: the Amigos de Bolsa Chica, and the Newport Bay Conservancy, both in Southern California. Joana is interested in intersectional environmentalism, the nexus between climate change and environmental justice, and the challenges and opportunities to effectively address systemic racism and cultural, social, and economic oppression.


Changing the climate of fear through elemental activism

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November 17, 2020

 AshEL “Seasunz” Eldridge, MA. Transpersonal Psychology, resides in Oakland, CA. AshEL has worked with the Alliance for Climate Education, been a Green For All Fellow, a Climate Justice, Race, and Activism instructor at San Francisco State University, and taught conflict resolution skills with Soul Shoppe. He is the founder of Soulestial Church, Earth Amplified, and S.O.S (System out of our System) Juice. He is a co-founder of United Roots – Oakland’s Green Youth Arts and Media Center. He serves on the board of Hip Hop is Green, an international organization promoting the 10th Element of hip-hop: Health and Wellness. AshEL's most recent project is EFAM, a collective of community organizers, farmers and gardeners, and healers committed to bring essential food and medicines to all.

How resilient communities respond to climate change

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October 27, 2020 

UC California Naturalist panel discussion moderated by Francis Mendoza. 

Francis Mendoza
Moderator Francis Mendoza (Salmon Protection And Watershed Network California Naturalist) is a Supervising Naturalist at the East Bay Regional Park District in the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area. He has worked for Literacy for Environmental Justice, served on the Steering Committee Chairperson for ChangeScale (an Environmental Education Collaborative in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas), and specializes in working with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and other marginalized communities. 

Panelist Brandon Barragan (Point Reyes National Seashore Association CalNat partner) works for the Point Reyes National Seashore Association in the education department where he focuses on a variety of weekend programs for the general public to participate in. After graduating from Saint Mary’s College of California with a degree in Environmental Studies, Brandon has been devoted to improving visitor relationships in Point Reyes National Seashore and working on outreach to expand the opportunities available there for all potential visitors. 

Panelist Emily Cobar (UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & Botanic Garden Naturalist) is the Community Program Manager at Los Angeles Audubon Society, a nonprofit organization that focuses on wildlife conservation through research, education, recreation, and habitat restoration. Emily leads many environmental education programs for varying audiences from inner-city elementary school students to high school students to community college students. She enjoys teaching about the natural history of Los Angeles, including topics such as water conservation, plant communities, urban wildlife, geology, and more. 

Panelist Jerome Gaw (Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum California Naturalist) is a wildlife photography hobbyist, science communicator, and conservation educator. A mental health practitioner by profession, he is a firsthand witness to the power of nature to promote community involvement and facilitate well-being. 

Panelist Brenda Kyle (Pasadena City College California Naturalist) is a Southern California based naturalist who leads environmental programs all over the L.A. area. She rates herself an 11/10 on the, "I love nature scale!" Brenda is deeply connected to the mountains in L.A., and is descended from the Tarahumara and Tepehuan peoples from Mexico.