Tuesday, February 13, 2018

University of California's California Naturalist Program

It's an exciting time of the year: the California Naturalist Certification Program is starting up again at the UC Merced Vernal Pools & Grasslands Reserve!

I graduated from this program two years ago, and highly recommend it for anyone interested in the nature of California.  Naturalist courses prepare invested individuals for active roles as naturalists and citizen scientists in their local communities.  The goal of the program is to turn everyday citizens into engaged naturalists who take part in local natural resource conservation, citizen science projects, education, and restoration.

Courses are taught by teams of expert naturalists, and include guest speakers, field trips and hands-on projects.

Topics covered by the 10-week course include:
  • San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada foothill ecology
  • Nature interpretation (how to teach others about nature)
  • Wildlife and plant communities
  • Water and aquatic ecosystems
  • California geology and soils
  • Bird study
  • Invertebrates and insects
  • Global environmental issues and climate change
  • Vernal pool ecology
  • Rangeland ecology
  • Wildflower identification
  • Nature journaling and sketching
(As listed on this year's flyer.)

Visit the website and check out this year's flyer for more information, including class times and registration. 

UC Merced isn't the only location where these classes are held!  If you're located anywhere in California, chances are there is a naturalist certification program near you.  Visit the website (follow the link here) to find one of the 45 locations nearest you!

Yours truly, proudly wearing my California Naturalist hat while birding on the coast.

The statewide California Naturalist Program is a fantastic way to get your feet wet in the world of natural history.  It is a suitable introduction for anyone who has a passion for and curiosity about the world around us, specifically those who want to know more (What is this wildflower called?  What bird is that?  What is the best way to manage our wildlands?) but don't know where to start.  The classes are a great way to get back in the classroom if you've been out for a while, but equally appealing to current students who want to add a little something extra to their resume.  The class I was a part of consisted of retired folks, college students, teachers eager to pass on natural history knowledge to their students, landowners, and all sorts of interested people in between.

Naturalists are something of a rarity these days, as we become more and more disconnected from the natural world as a society.  These classes are an excellent way to take the first step you may need to become reacquainted with the natural world.

If you too would like to "promote environmental literacy and stewardship through discovery and action," the California Naturalist program is definitely worth checking out!  Besides the great information available through the program, and the nifty certificate you will earn... it is a huge amount of fun!

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