Ecology Blog

  • 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 […]
  • A Message on the Fires
    Dear Sonoma Valley Friends and Neighbors: It’s been a frustrating, heartbreaking, terrifying week – possibly the worst few days for Sonoma Valley in living memory. And yet, we’ve never been so full of respect and hope for this place and its amazing people. Since the fires began we’ve seen heroism from every corner of the Valley, even as neighbors and loved ones fled from their homes with their lives and little else. Some are now staying with friends or relatives, others with welcoming strangers, and many thousands are in emergency shelters set up around the county and beyond. In every case, it is courage, compassion and selflessness that gets us through – and that in some cases saves lives. One example hit especially close to home. In the early hours of Monday morning, as the fires were […]
  • 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