The California Naturalist Program

“California is an incredible place to be a naturalist.”

So begins “The California Naturalist Handbook,” the standard textbook for a rigorous UC-approved course designed to turn local nature lovers into trained California Naturalists. These knowledge keepers act as park docents and as key leaders in the “citizen science” movement helping to shape California’s future.

Currently, Sonoma Ecology Center is teaming up with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to offer this accredited eight-week course locally. The course results in real college credits, and it turns nature lovers into certified graduates of the UC California Naturalist Program, making them valuable authorities on California’s plants and animals, geology and soils, water, climate, biodiversity and more.

CalNat courses are only available at certain locations throughout the state. Now, thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center’s educators, the course is being offered at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, with students gathering in Sugarloaf’s Robert Ferguson Observatory. Sonoma and Napa county residents interested in joining the elite and venerable league of California Naturalists are encouraged to register!

The course combines a science curriculum with guest lectures, field trips and project-based learning to explore the unique ecology and natural history of the Inner Coastal Range of Sonoma and Napa. As their final project for the program, each naturalist-in-training will complete an eight-hour volunteer service project for a local community organization. Participants will graduate with a specialized knowledge of the oak woodlands indigenous to the Mayacamas Mountains.

There is currently room available in our Spring 2017 course from March 14 to May 16. Classes are 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings, with the exception of two Monday evenings (on April 10 and May 8). Saturday field trips held at various locations around Sonoma Valley – including Sugarloaf, Jack London and Annadel State Parks – are mandatory and take place from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration is $425, with need-based scholarships available. (Students also must purchase their own copy of “The California Naturalist Handbook.”)

To register, go to http://sugarloafcalnat.bpt.me/For more information, contact Tony Passantino at 707-996-0712 ext. 124 or tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.