Ecology Blog

  • Team Sugarloaf Is Turning 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 […]
  • Today Is Our Favorite Day of the Year
    It was the end of Earth Day, 1990, when a few local environmentalists gathered together to talk about the day and about Sonoma Valley’s future. This small group – Richard Dale among them – saw that our Valley could use some guidance in dealing with its environmental challenges. As a result of this conversation, Sonoma Ecology Center was born. The years since have been busy ones, with SEC playing a vital role in preserving our open spaces (including Montini, Van Hoosear and the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor), educating more than 12,000 local youths, founding and operating Sonoma Garden Park, reopening and operating Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, and many other successes. That’s why every Earth Day we feel a special sense of accomplishment and optimism. Small actions can make a big […]
  • 10 Ways SEC Makes a Difference
    Earth Day, April 22, is Sonoma Ecology Center’s de facto birthday. And every spring, as the next Earth Day nears, we always get to thinking about the many ways SEC has improved the wellbeing of our Valley and its residents – and how, with your support, we’ll continue to do so for years to come. Below are 10 ways that our work has made a positive impact here in Sonoma Valley over the past 27 years. We’re proud of these accomplishments, which show that by working together, our community can overcome any obstacle. 1. Saving Sugarloaf Ridge State Park When the state threatened to close Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, a 4,000-acre state park and local treasure, Sonoma Ecology Center pulled together a team of skilled nonprofits to create Team Sugarloaf, which reopened the park in 2012 and assumed […]
  • Courtesy photoStatement on SVHS student Brandon Barmore
    Sonoma Ecology Center is deeply saddened by the loss of Brandon Barmore, a Sonoma Valley High School student who died tragically on March 26 in Nicaragua. We extend our sincerest sympathies to the Barmore family. Among his many talents, Brandon was an aspiring beekeeper and worked with our staff at Sonoma Garden Park, where he kept a beehive as part of his senior project. Brandon was so adept at beekeeping that he was scheduled to co-host our Beekeeping Seminar this Saturday. (As testament to the health of his bees, Brandon’s hive split into two colonies earlier this week.) SEC educator Tony Passantino, who knew Brandon, noted that, “Last year he had a project to only eat things that he helped grow, so he’d pull shifts at the garden and take some produce and eggs home afterwards.” It is […]
  • Doctor’s Orders: Get Outside to Sugarloaf
    The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Now, medical professionals are calling it medicine. A simple walk in nature shows measurable health benefits, doctors say – so much so that a new nationwide initiative called “ParkRx for Health” has them literally writing prescriptions for walks in the great outdoors. For Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa area residents, the program – which launches Sunday, April 23 – will mean free parking for all participating visitors to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. ParkRx is a collaborative program between health care providers and park professionals designed to improve the well-being of Sonoma County’s residents through regular exercise, fresh air and closeness with nature. Through the program, local health care professionals will prescribe low-impact […]
  • Changes in the Biochar Landscape
    As word about biochar grows – thanks in large part to the efforts of our own Sonoma Biochar Initiative – coordination grows among biochar’s many advocates, who note how this super-charcoal can help California save water while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, for example, a group of advocates met at a biochar conference in Corvallis, Oregon and decided to form a new California Biochar Association – and they named our own Raymond Baltar executive director. The purpose of the new group, Raymond said, is “to have a more cohesive and centralized voice to help scale biochar in the state.” Sonoma Ecology Center has been asked to serve as the group’s fiscal sponsor, and “the organization will essentially be housed here at SEC, though we have an Advisory Board of farmers around the […]
  • With Water Comes Watershed Education
    The rains give us our best opportunities for teaching Sonoma Valley kids about watersheds. Which is why Sonoma Ecology Center’s Watershed Education Programs are in full swing right now. Our in-house educators, Holland Gistelli and Tony Passantino, are busy as ever this spring semester, bringing our Wildlife Defenders and Water Wonders programs – for second graders and fifth graders, respectively – to classrooms around the Valley. For example, at Flowery, Dunbar and Prestwood elementary schools, dozens of Valley second graders have learned about the oak life cycle, investigated animal skulls to determine their adaptations, discovered the importance of habitat, and had a special presentation from Wildlife Fawn Rescue. Soon the students will be taking a field trip to Montini Open Space […]
  • The Path Forward
    Environmentalism should not be a partisan issue. Healthy land, clean air and water – these things benefit everyone. And yet, amid today’s extreme political polarization, there is a fear that our environment is in the crosshairs – and this fear has many in our community understandably worried. Watching politics at the national level obscures an important point: When you stand on the ground in a particular place, alongside other people who also love that place, you find that people mostly see eye-to-eye. Here in Sonoma Valley, while political opinions may differ, there is much agreement that we should protect the land, water, and wildlife, and often even on how to go about it. This is true at the county level as well. Consider the success of Measure K last November. With the most […]