Ecology Blog

  • What’s Your Vision for Sonoma Garden Park?
    Help determine the future of Sonoma Garden Park! Take part by: * Reading the Plan * Leaving Comments * Attending our Oct. 14 Open House * Sonoma Garden Park was once the home of beloved local schoolteacher Pauline Bond, who granted it to the City of Sonoma on the condition that it be designated a public park. We’ve been managing the property since 1993, and transformed it into the city gem it is today. But there’s always room for improvement – and to improve it we need a plan. Today’s Sonoma Garden Park is a gem with many facets: demonstration farm, native plant nursery, public gathering place, model of water-wise landscaping, host for workshops and educational programs, perfect relaxation spot, and much more. We need a working plan to keep the momentum going, which is why we’re starting […]
  • Image courtesy Audubon Canyon RanchPreparing for Sonoma Valley Wildfires
    Certain wildfires remain fresh in people’s minds in these parts. One was in 1923, when a fast-moving blaze swept westward through the Mayacamas and into Sonoma Valley, reducing much of the Springs to ashes. Four decades later, in 1964, the Nunns Canyon Fire followed a similar trajectory, burning 10,000 acres over three days. Both fires came in September, and both decimated large swaths of Sonoma Valley. There have been others since then, too, like the Cavedale Fire of 1996, although none quite as destructive. Today the danger of wildfire in Sonoma Valley is higher than ever, and it’s important for locals to know the proper ways to deal with this threat. Too often, fear makes people cut away indiscriminately at the plants around their houses, creating dead zones, erosion, and invasions of […]
  • Exploring Nature Together
    As summer marches along, so do we – leading a group of engaged youngsters through the wilderness of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park as part of our Introductory Backpacking Camp. That’s just one of several educational camps we’ve provided this summer, both at Sugarloaf and at Sonoma Garden Park, in our ongoing Summer Science Camp series. SEC educator Tony Passantino has led most of the outdoor camps at Sugarloaf, teaching kids about native wildlife and backpacking fundamentals. Meanwhile, at the Garden Park, fellow SEC educator Holland Gistelli (a.k.a. “Professor Hedgehog”) has led her campers through games and gardening – with a big dose of magic – in the Harry Potter-themed summer camps. Somehow, despite their busy schedules, Tony and Holland also managed to attend a multi-day residence […]
  • Tracking Streamflow in Sonoma Valley
    How’s your local stream flowing? At Sonoma Ecology Center we’ve been watching the streams closely, and in some cases – along specific streams where landowners gave us permission – we’ve set up gauges that are generating useful data on streamflow in Sonoma Valley. It’s all part of our Streamflow Stewardship Program, launched in partnership with Trout Unlimited with the goal of creating a plan to enhance streamflow in the upper Sonoma Creek Watershed. Better streamflow would not only support steelhead and other aquatic wildlife, but improve the water supply for the Valley’s human residents as well. So far we’ve installed five gauges, and we’ll be looking for three more locations next summer. The hosts of these gauges say they’re happy to take part in solving the problem of low streamflow, […]
  • Sustainable Sonoma Offers a Better Path Forward
    At times the problems facing our Valley can seem insurmountable. But we know from experience that with enough patience, commitment and teamwork, there is no obstacle that can’t be overcome. Which is why we’re proud to announce a new initiative dedicated to making our home a better place today and for future generations: Sustainable Sonoma. Sonoma Valley, with its mild weather, rural character and beautiful open spaces, remains one of California’s best places to live. But concerned citizens are realizing that without better coordination among its many agencies, nonprofits, businesses and individuals, the Valley is in danger of being overwhelmed by a worsening housing market, environmental degradation and other challenges. These concerns prompted local leaders from the realms of […]
  • SBI Builds ‘Forest to Farm’ Biochar Operation in Mendocino
    The reach of our Sonoma Biochar Initiative continues to grow, with SBI director Raymond Baltar – who is also executive director of the newly formed California Biochar Association – now making weekly trips to Mendocino County as a project manager for Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc., or RFFI. Up in Mendo, Raymond has been braving rough terrain, inclement weather and even mudslides in order to get a new project off the ground for RFFI in which overabundant tanoaks in the 50,000-acre Usal Forest are being turned into biochar – making more room for the forest’s redwoods and conifers while producing a substance that is highly valuable to growers because it saves water, improves soil health and, as a bonus, sequesters carbon. “Basically I’ve been running a startup,” Raymond said. RFFI purchased […]
  • 30 Ways to Honor World Environment Day Locally
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  • Team Sugarloaf Turns 5!
    Five years ago, California’s State Parks system was hurting financially, leading to a decision to close several of its parks including Annadel, Jack London and the 3,900-acre Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. But Sonoma Ecology Center came to the rescue, forming a group called Team Sugarloaf which reopened the park on June 1, 2012. Sugarloaf has remained open and thriving ever since. Team Sugarloaf is a group of five nonprofits with Sonoma Ecology Center at the lead, assembled in order to take over operations at Sugarloaf and keep the park strong both fiscally and environmentally. SEC still works closely with State Parks, but day-to-day management now falls on us and our four valued partners: United Camps Conferences and Retreats, Sonoma County Trails Council, Robert Ferguson Observatory and […]
  • Sonoma Garden Park’s Seasonal Harvest Market Starts this Weekend
    Sonoma Garden Park is kicking off its seasonal Harvest Market this Saturday, May 20 – and aside from the usual variety of fresh locally grown produce in a rustic and beautiful setting, the market will also feature members of UC Master Gardeners of Sonoma County, who will be on hand to answer any and all of your gardening questions. The Harvest Market, which runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. through October, is known locally for its fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and eggs, all harvested at Sonoma’s six-acre demonstration farm. Spero olive oil, produced by a local Sonoma family, also is available at $20 per bottle. But besides the fresh produce, there’s another great reason for locals to visit Sonoma Garden Park on Saturday mornings, and that’s free advice from the Master […]
  • How Our Research Helps Sonoma Valley Thrive
    When Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department was tasked with reducing sediment pollution from roads in the Sonoma Creek watershed, they knew that clear, precise data would be essential to getting the job done. Sonoma Ecology Center was able to help. Our researchers assessed 350 culverts throughout Sonoma Valley, flagging those that are most likely to dump sediment into creeks, and helping PRMD know where to focus its efforts. It’s just one example of how research conducted by Sonoma Ecology Center, and the data we provide, makes the work of public agencies easier and more effective. Over the years our researchers have monitored a variety of factors, such as pathogen levels and pesticide levels in Sonoma Creek, sending samples to a lab and posting the results in state […]