Ecology Blog

  • 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 […]
  • VIDEO: Sonoma Creek Falls Is Raging
    Thanks to the recent rains, Sonoma Creek Falls is currently putting on quite a show (see video below). This beautiful cascade in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, at the headwaters of Sonoma Creek, is easy to reach and always rushing after winter rains. To get there, take the main road just past the lower gate into Sugarloaf, then immediately park on the right in one of two pullouts. An easy trail begins between these two pullouts – take that for just a quarter-mile to reach the falls. Please be very careful around the creek, and drive slowly!     […]
  • Nathanson Volunteers Honor King’s Legacy
    Service was a big part of Martin Luther King’s message, which is why many celebrate his legacy by volunteering on MLK Day. Last Jan. 16 was no exception, as Sonoma Ecology Center’s Restoration crew organized a large group of volunteers at Nathanson Creek Preserve, there to help in the ongoing work of restoring this lovely creekside park. An estimated 50 volunteers turned out, representing the Boys & Girls Club, a leadership group from Altimira Middle School’s Boys & Girls Club, the Ecology Club from Adele Harrison Middle School, some Earth Club members from Sonoma Valley High School, plus a few other unaffiliated community members and as always, our own EnviroLeaders. With all their help, we are able to get 200 native plants into the ground while removing “a ton” of invasive […]
  • Water: Too Much in Winter, Too Little in Summer
    The big storms hitting our region this winter have been unusually powerful. And one of them was just plain unusual. The Dec. 15 storm which caused some minor flooding around the Valley was stronger here than at the coast, and it dumped more rain in unexpected places. It was a bigger storm, relatively speaking, for the Nathanson Creek watershed that surrounds the City of Sonoma than for Sonoma Creek’s watershed, and bigger for Sonoma Creek than for the Russian River. (Such things are easier to measure now thanks to a new stream-flow gauge on Nathanson Creek, which will inform planning for building, roads, water supply and habitat protection. Thanks to Sonoma County Water Agency and USGS for funding that! Another permanent stream-flow gauge on Sonoma Creek at Agua Caliente Road has recorded […]
  • How green was my Valley (in 2016)?
    We’re very proud of this op-ed piece which ran last week in the Sonoma Index-Tribune. Sonoma Valley’s environmental accomplishments of 2016 weren’t small, and they demonstrate how patience and dedication can pay off. They also provide a positive example for those of us ready to tackle 2017 in the same spirit of hopefulness. The full article is copied below, with original posting here. Many thanks to the Index-Tribune for running it!   Valley Forum: How green was my Valley (in 2016)? By Don Frances SPECIAL TO THE INDEX-TRIBUNE | January 2, 2017 Ask environmentalists for reasons to celebrate 2016, and they might mention the Paris climate agreement. Then they might scratch their heads, stare at the ceiling for a while, and tell you that’s all they can think of just […]
  • From ‘Side Hunt’ to Christmas Bird Count: How Citizen Science Won the Day
    In the late 1800s, an unfortunate holiday tradition was hastening the extinction of bird species all over North America. The Side Hunt, held each year on Christmas Day, was a festive slaughter whereby armed participants wandered the countryside shooting at every bird and small animal they saw. At the end of the hunt, teams tallied their kills to find out which side won. Needless to say, birds were not among the winners – and conservationists, including famed ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, became increasingly alarmed at the resulting destruction. So they decided to tweak the Side Hunt tradition, proposing that participants arm themselves with field glasses rather than rifles, and that they count the birds rather than kill them. So it was that the very first Christmas Bird Count was held […]
  • Salmon in Sonoma Creek, Part II
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  • Salmon in Sonoma Creek!
    This video shows the ripples of some sizable Chinook – at least three of them, each about two feet long – seen on Nov. 11 in Sonoma Creek near the Glen Ellen Bridge. They splashed around there for a while before heading further upstream to spawn. Chinook have been known to spawn in Sonoma Creek once there’s enough rain to create the right streamflow. Anyone who happens to see Chinook in the streams of Sonoma Valley is asked to let us know when/where and other details by emailing don@sonomaecologycenter.org. […]