Ecology Blog

  • See Tim Wetzel’s Fire Recovery Time Lapse Video
    Not long after the fires, Sonoma filmmaker Tim Wetzel of 9 Mile Productions came to us with an idea: he’d photograph various burned locations in Sonoma Valley, then return to those same spots over time and photograph them again to record how the land was healing. The resulting images – which Tim combined into a time-lapse video – are not only beautiful, they’re a lasting example of the “citizen science” we encourage everyone to practice in their daily lives. Tim has been back taking more pictures since this video was made, including the shot below – a familiar view of Sonoma Developmental Center land taken today, Jan. 31. “Things are really changing,” he said, noting lots of mushrooms and “new growth seven feet up an absolutely blackened oak tree.” We love Tim’s time-lapse project and […]
  • Upload Your Fire Photos to Our Wildfire Story Map!
    The wildfires that recently swept through the North Bay left behind ruined homes and charred landscapes, and researchers are now studying those fires to better understand how and why they burned the way they did. To support this effort, Sonoma Ecology Center announces North Bay Fire Images, a citizen science platform that allows anyone to upload photos taken during the fires into a single database. Using geographic information systems (GIS) technology, this database, developed by Sonoma Ecology Center’s GIS Manager, Alex Young, creates a “story map” online, allowing researchers and the general public to sort and view the thousands of images captured throughout the North Bay during the fires. The crowd-sourced data — covering the North Bay between Oct. 8 and Oct. 30 of last year — will […]
  • Fire Walk Series Continues in Beauty
    Burned areas are healing across the Valley, showing in colorful splendor the swift regeneration of our landscape – and giving us multiple opportunities to take the public on walkabouts that are both gorgeous and educational. Our ongoing Fire Recovery Walks will only get more interesting in the coming months as things continue to grow. But already we’ve seen the land respond with tender green sprouts, stems and grasses. As spring approaches, wildflowers – including rare “fire followers” like the Kellogg’s snapdragon, whose germination is stimulated by wildfire – will emerge in ever-greater numbers. To continue sharing these wonders, Sonoma Ecology Center is adding several new outings to our Fire Recovery Walk Series. So far, Sonoma Developmental Center, the Keen Property and Arrowhead […]
  • Reasons for Cheer in the New Year
    Bill Clinton once advised Americans to “Follow the trend lines, not the headlines.” We have always agreed with this approach (both locally and globally), and here at the start of 2018 one big, positive and very important trend line is readily apparent. Put simply, Americans – including Sonoma Valley residents – are more engaged with environmental issues than ever before. This is true for a few different reasons. For many of us the stark politics at the federal level have been clarifying, forcing us to reexamine our beliefs and principles – and compelling many to become involved in local issues. We know, from long experience, the power of this kind of grassroots work and the dramatic change it can lead to. In addition, last October’s wildfires have caused Sonoma County residents to […]
  • MLK Day of Service Leads to a Better Sonoma Valley
    Each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sonoma Ecology Center organizes volunteer efforts in Sonoma Valley as part of the nationwide MLK Day of Service, held in honor of that great American who told us that “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” Part of the local MLK Day tradition involves Sonoma Valley residents, and especially the Valley’s youth, helping to clean up Nathanson Creek Preserve. And this Monday, Jan. 15, will be no different, with several young people meeting at 9 a.m. that morning at the Nathanson Demonstration Garden at the corner of East MacArthur Street and 2nd Street East. Patrick Willis, a Sonoma Ecology Center restoration specialist and regular MLK Day organizer, noted that two of the youths, whom he mentors, are taking the volunteer effort a step […]
  • Rejuvenated by Fire
    All around the Valley now, we’re seeing new sprouts from the branches and roots of fire-scarred oaks, madrones, toyons, and coyote brush. Grasses have transformed blackened ground to bright kelly green. (The photo above shows beargrass rising from its roots in the chaparral on Arrowhead Mountain.) And fire followers – native flowers that germinate after wildfire – are close behind. In other words, the Valley is doing what it’s done for countless centuries after a fire. Given this swift regeneration, what can we do to help burned land? The answer is simple. When it comes to burned areas that are away from roads, ditches, and buildings, most often the best response is just to watch and be amazed. The land is glad for these fires and knows how to respond. In these areas, our urge to “clean […]
  • See Our ‘Healing with the Land’ Slideshow
    Many have asked to see a copy of the slideshow presented by Sonoma Ecology Center staff during our “Healing with the Land” community forum held last Monday, Nov. 27 at Burlingame Hall. HERE IT IS, in pdf format. The forum was a great success, with several dozen concerned Sonoma Valley residents in attendance and asking informed questions. Topics covered included California’s fire ecology and wildfire history, how the October fires started and spread, watershed protection, the use of data and maps to guide our fire response, best practices on reseeding burned landscapes, how Sustainable Sonoma can help the Valley recover, how our NeWTs program also can help in the recovery process, how to get involved, and much more. Thank you to all who attended, and a special thank you […]
  • Don’t Cut Those Trees!
    Sonoma Ecology Center has an urgent message for local residents cleaning up fire-scorched properties: Please don’t cut down those trees and shrubs. They may look dead after last month’s wildfires killed their leaves and blackened their bark. But most are not dead – and more often than not, letting them alone will result in vigorous new growth next spring, just a few months away. “California’s trees have adapted to wildfire over thousands of years,” explained Sonoma Ecology Center research program manager Caitlin Cornwall. “That’s especially true of the many varieties of oak trees here, which really make up the backbone of Sonoma Valley’s forests and woodlands.” Cornwall added, “The bigger the oak, the thicker its bark, the greater the likelihood the tree survived.” As University of […]
  • SEC Maps Help Residents Get Their Bearings
    If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a map worth? For many Sonoma Valley residents, maps displaying the regions burned in October’s wildfires have been invaluable. Three such maps produced recently by Alex Young, our geographic information systems (GIS) manager, were viewed, shared and commented upon widely by locals hungry for information on how the fires have altered our Valley’s landscape. The first map Alex produced, encompassing all of Sonoma Valley’s watershed, went viral on Facebook and was viewed by tens of thousands of people and shared hundreds of times. Valley residents appreciated the chance to see precisely where the Nuns and Oakmont fires spread, and to find their own home on a map showing that more than a quarter – 28.5 percent, to be precise – of the Valley had […]
  • Post-Fire Tips for Sonoma Valley Residents
    UPDATE: For more complete tips and information, please see our new Sonoma Valley Fire Recovery page.   Wildfires swept through more than a quarter of Sonoma Valley in October 2017. Many returning residents want to expedite the healing of their land but aren’t sure how to go about it. The most important rule is to be safe. Assess the property carefully before acting. Watch out for potential hazards. Consult with professionals as appropriate. Remember that the land has burned frequently over thousands of years. The native plants and animals are adapted to recover from fire. Be patient. Anticipate the wildflowers next spring!   Don’t Do not enter the area where a building has burned, or handle the ashes of a burned building, without prior testing and protective gear: proper […]