Ecology Blog

  • Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor Continues to Expand
    Recently, our friends at Sonoma Land Trust announced acquisition of a 40-acre property near Hood Mountain Regional Park. The rugged and undeveloped canyon land, home to breeding steelhead and “the last stand of redwoods in the upper Santa Rosa Creek watershed,” augments the already indispensable Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor – a cornerstone of our local environment which Sonoma Ecology Center played an important role in creating. As described in a recent blog post, the amazing Christy Vreeland, a longtime volunteer at the Ecology Center, had a vision in the 1990s that a wildlife corridor could connect undeveloped land from Sonoma Mountain to the Mayacamas and beyond. We brought together the community, elected officials, and state and local agencies to create the Wildlife Corridor and […]
  • Earth Week 2018 a Celebration of Spring
    Spring is all about renewal, a theme near and dear to the hearts of Sonoma Valley residents these days as they recover from last October’s wildfires. Maybe that’s why they’ve been so appreciative of our fire recovery work of recent months, and why our Fire Recovery Walks are always so well attended. The wonders of spring – the green meadows and hillsides, colorful blooms, pleasant rain showers, and of course the wildflowers – serve to enhance that feeling of rebirth and recovery, right when we needed it most. So what better way to usher in spring’s bounty than with an Earth Week celebration – a series of events, activities, partnerships and calls to action designed to bring our Valley together around the appreciation and enjoyment of Earth’s gifts. As our Earth Week 2018 listings […]
  • Sign Up Now for Summer (and Spring) Camps
    Sonoma Ecology Center educators are proud to announce our upcoming Summer Science Camps, replete with the outdoor adventure, scientific enrichment and fun themes that Sonoma Valley families have come to expect. This summer, in addition to the backpacking camps, creek camps and Harry Potter camps of past years, we’re also offering an Advanced Youth Backpacking Trek designed for middle school and high school students able to hike several miles per day up steep inclines. Kids in many of our camps will learn about fire ecology as well. All of our camps are based at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park or Sonoma Garden Park and run between mid-June and late July. For full details or to register, see our Summer Science Camp page. Looking for something sooner? Our educators are also preparing a Spring […]
  • Next Post-Fire Peril: Erosion
    October’s wildfires burned almost 30 percent of Sonoma Valley. While occasional fire is largely beneficial to land in its natural state, these huge uncontrolled fires threatened Sonoma Valley’s watershed with toxic ash and debris – an issue we’ve been tackling – as well as with another hazard: large-scale erosion and even mudslides. By organizing several dozen volunteers, who by themselves put in more than 1,000 hours of work, Sonoma Ecology Center contained 279 burned structures in Sonoma Valley, including 82 percent of our high-priority sites within 100 feet of a steelhead stream. Most of the toxic ash and debris has been removed, but the other threat – of erosion, landslides, sediment pollution, and risk to life and property – will remain for a while longer. In fact, research from […]
  • Christy Vreeland’s Legacy Lives On
    March 8 is International Women’s Day, which reminds us of the incredible women of Sonoma Valley who have done so much to protect and preserve this beautiful place. One such woman is Christy Vreeland, a onetime volunteer at Sonoma Ecology Center who, in the mid 1990s, decided to do something about the weedy and trash-filled Nathanson Creek. Thanks to her effort and vision, today’s Nathanson Creek Preserve is a three-quarter-mile greenbelt through the heart of Sonoma, enjoyed by people of all ages and supporting a variety of wildlife. In the late 1990s, Christy took on an even bigger project: protecting the undeveloped parts of Sonoma Developmental Center and its neighboring properties, resulting in a wildlife corridor connecting Napa County to Sonoma Mountain. At SEC we took up her cause, […]
  • Community, Volunteers Make Protecting Watershed Possible
    Late last year, as locals were picking up the pieces following historic wildfires, we at Sonoma Ecology Center put our heads together to figure out how best to leverage our strengths – which include community outreach, mobilizing volunteers, and an unparalleled knowledge of Sonoma Valley’s watershed – to help the Valley recover. One thing became clear to us right away: dozens of burned structures in Sonoma Valley would need to be contained, and quickly, so that upcoming rains don’t wash their pollutants into our watershed. In answer to this problem, we developed the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, designed to keep asbestos, heavy metals and other pollutants – found in the toxic ash and debris of burned structures – from washing into Valley streams, which support steelhead, beaver, […]
  • 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 […]