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Posts Tagged: California Naturalist

California Naturalists' efforts benefit pollinators

'Attention is the beginning of devotion' --Mary Oliver

This quote resonates this month, amidst a variety of environmental holidays and celebrations including World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, California Invasive Species Action Week, and finally National Pollinator Week (this week) and Month. It seems in this increasingly digitally connected world, one day, week, or month doesn't pass us by in the calendar year without an official opportunity to observe, act, or celebrate nature.

As these official observances pop up, we can also contemplate all the unofficial ways people celebrate, protect, and educate about nature in their daily lives. There are both small and incremental and heroic acts taken every day to make this a more livable world for all creatures. There is momentum behind a movement that says “we're paying attention and the environment is worth our time and energy and devotion despite all the other worthy competing causes.”

In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we want to highlight just a few of the many California Naturalists whose efforts benefit pollinators. Every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project of their choice to receive certification. These final projects require at least eight hours of volunteer service, and are often built upon by subsequent naturalists in following cohorts. They always benefit nature, and often benefit the recipient communities and organizations. Most California Naturalists would tell you they benefit the individual, too. Capstone projects are a culmination of service, learning, and “paying it forward.” Our community celebrates both the projects and the creativity, labor, and intentions of these naturalists.

Inspired by the intersection of science and art, California Naturalist Rose from the Hopland Research and Extension Center created this gorgeous outreach poster in both English and Spanish from her original pollinator garden painting for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project. Her goal is to spread awareness of the important ecological roll our native pollinators play and to share Xerces Society resources. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, bats and hummingbirds. According to Xerces Society, the ecological services that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. Honeybees get a lot of media attention, yet many other pollinator species like native bumblebees are in precipitous decline. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab is another excellent source of native bee information.

California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes, CA. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls. She reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help make three types of houses. The Girl Scouts leveraged the new learning opportunity and service work to receive an "Outdoor Journeys" badge. Then she met with four kindergarten classes of 24 students each and together built houses to take home. The houses in the picture aren't examples of her model but were ones she found online.

California Naturalist Cynthia showed a local Girl Scout troop how to make three types of houses to support native mason bees. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls.

Mason bees are solitary bees named for their behavior of using mud in constructing their nests. Mason bees may defy some assumptions about bees. They don't sting, they don't live in a hive, and they don't make honey. They do, however pollinate flowers and fruits and vegetables and need a safe place to lay their eggs. When available, some species use hollow stems or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects which is where mason bee houses come into the picture. UC Davis Department of Entomology compiled this list of resources on where to find and how to make nesting sites for native bees.

Sue from the Tuleyome course built bat boxes for her local home owners association to hang in Arnold, Calaveras County. At least 45 species of bats inhabit the United States and Canada and there are at least 27 known species of bats in California. Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers, particularly in tropical and desert climates. In addition, they serve a very effective agricultural pest control purpose. Although they provide vital environmental services, bat populations are in decline globally. To make your own bat boxes, UC ANR offers a guide to build songbird, owl and bat boxes.

Bat boxes can be constructed to attract bats, which are very important pollinators and seed dispersers.
 
Hummingbirds, along with other birds, bats and insects, are pollinators.
Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at 6:15 PM
  • Author: Brook Gamble
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

The City Nature Challenge: A win for science and nature

All of our certified California Naturalists know how to use iNaturalist. Since uploading at least one observation is part of the course requirements, the City Nature Challenge was the perfect opportunity for Naturalists to reconnect with each other, offer their skills to their city's efforts, and contribute to a global scientific database.

The 4th annual City Nature Challenge was a huge success around the world. Together with the 159 cities that participated, we uploaded almost one million observations of biodiversity to iNaturalist in just 4 days. More than 35,000 people took part across the globe, and over 31,000 species were documented, including more than 1,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species.

This was also the biggest week for observations recorded in iNaturalist history, as demonstrated in the graph below.

With the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County organizers publicizing the Challenge for their cities and working to highlight events, we wanted a chance for our Sacramento Region Naturalists to join the fun, too. Beginning in September of 2018, we co-organized for the Sacramento Region with Ryan Meyer and Julianna Yee from the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, our UC Davis Evolution and Ecology California Naturalist instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley, and environmental educator Chelle Temple-King.

Douglas Iris from Certified California Naturalist Bruce Hartsough.
The California Naturalist program wants to recognize the contributions of our Naturalists to their city's final counts. We know many of you were out there at bioblitzes or in your backyards taking photos all weekend, and celebrate all that you contributed to science and nature. Congratulations on your achievements both large and small! We want to take a moment to highlight a few of our certified Naturalists, instructors, and partners for their involvement this year:

  • Partners that held Bioblitzes outside of city boundaries over the weekend: Hopland Research & Extension Center, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
  • Sacramento Region CalNat partners: Many thanks to American River Conservancy, Yolo Basin Foundation, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and UC Davis' Wild Davis for organizing Bioblitzes as first year guinea pigs
  • Bay Area CalNat partners: thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center for a Bioblitz and Grassroots Ecology for contributing observations during their class field trip
  • Certified California Naturalist Cedric Lee as the number one observer for Los Angeles County!
  • Certified California Naturalist and Tuleyome instructor Mary Hanson came in 5th for the Sacramento Region; UC Davis' Wild Davis instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley and 3 current CalNat students came in the top 10
  • Certified California Naturalist Millie Basden came in 8th for San Diego County
  • Certified California Naturalist Amy Jaecker-Jones is a co-organizer for the international City Nature Challenge through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Despite the final results, the real winner of the City Nature Challenge is science and nature. A database holding a greater number of research-grade observations to draw from allows scientists to further study our natural world. You can take a look at publications that have used data from iNaturalist to see just where our contributions are going. And of course, the more people who get outside during the Challenge, the more people engage with the nature around them. Everybody wins!

California Sister butterfly from Certified California Naturalist Kim Moore

Highlights of San Francisco Bay Area City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • 1st place for number of observers with 1,947 (This includes more than 550 observers who were new to iNaturalist)
  • 1st place for number of identifiers with 813
  • 4th place for number of observations with 38,028
  • 5th place for number of species found at 3,183
  • Participants submitted anywhere from 1 to 698 observations
  • Most observed species: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

 

Western Kingbird from California Naturalist Academic Coordinator Greg Ira

Highlights of Los Angeles County City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of observations over last year: increase of 14,702 observations!
  • Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of people observing over last year: increase of 700 people!
  • Over 1/3 of our observers were new to iNaturalist in the two weeks before CNC began

Highlights of Sacramento Region City Nature Challenge 2019:

  • Overall, Sacramento came in 30th out of 159 participating cities
  • Of 27 the other participating cities with a population of 2,500,000-5,000,000, Sacramento came in 9th
  • In all of 2019 leading up to the Challenge, post-Challenge our region was able to increase the number of observations by 7.8% (9832 observations), species by 2% (124 species), and observers by 3.5% (233 observers).
  • Sacramento came in 5th for the number of total observers for a region > 20,000 km2
  • For all the observations we collected in the Sacramento region, 57% ID'd to species became research grade (or useable for scientific quality data).
Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 8:49 AM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Documenting urban nature in the City Nature Challenge April 26-29

Have you ever been on a walk and observed an interesting plant you couldn't identify? Encountered an unusual insect trapped in your home? Have you wondered why you used to see certain species in nature and you don't now? Or have you thought it might be neat to compile a species list for a special place, like a favorite park or your own backyard? All California Naturalists already know that there's an app (and website) for all that!

What is iNaturalist?

The free iNaturalist app is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. Available for android, iPhone, and by a website, iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society that allows users to upload one or more pictures, provide a location, and make relevant notes like whether the subject is captivate or wild.

In response, the artificial intelligence in the app suggests what the species might be based on visual similarity and whether the species has been observed nearby. Members and organizations can set up projects and download data within defined taxa or locations to follow presence and absence, abundance, seasonality and change over time.

All California Naturalists use the iNaturalist app.

Verified observations are sent to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world's governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on earth. Valuable open-source data is available to aid scientific research, government and conservation organizations, and the interested public. Nearly instant gratification for species ID combined with the ability of members to contribute to a greater good whenever they venture outdoors are huge motivators for much of the existing iNaturalist community, which currently exceeds one million users and 14 million observations.

iNaturalist observations and the upcoming City Nature Challenge

One of the biggest BioBlitzes naturalists and others can participate in is the annual City Nature Challenge. The City Nature Challenge — essentially a four-day global urban bioblitz — began in 2016 as a friendly nature-observation competition between the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, organized around a simple charge: “which city can find the most nature?” Participants use the iNaturalist app to photograph, catalog, identify and organize observations of wildlife in their areas. The city with the highest number of observations wins. Since the first challenge, the competition has expanded rapidly, and this year more than 150 cities will participate worldwide.

How does it work?

The City Nature Challenge takes place April 26-29, 2019. During this window, anyone can contribute observations via iNaturalist. There will are also be a variety of events organized to help cities win the challenge. Cities are competing against each other to see which city can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people. At the end of the observation window on April 29, other events will be held to help participants identify and complete their observations in iNaturalist. 

A California Naturalist from the Dominguez Rancho Adobe course takes a photo to upload to iNaturalist.

How can we participate in 2019?

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Naturalist program is teaming up with the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, UC Davis Evolution and Ecology Department, and other partners in the region to put the Sacramento region in the competition for the first time. Stay updated and learn more information about how to join the fun on the Sacramento City Nature Challenge website as we add events. Experienced and beginner naturalists alike are invited to attend these events.

For those outside of the Sacramento region, participate in the Natural History Museum of LA County's Los Angeles County City Nature Challenge, San Diego Natural History Museum's San Diego County City Nature Challenge, and the California Academy of Sciences' San Francisco Bay Area City Nature Challenge. All you have to do is log in to your account and join the project. Any observations uploaded from within the project boundaries from April 26-29 are automatically contributed to the challenge.

Last year, 6 percent of the nearly 7 billion total observations uploaded to iNaturalist were contributed during the City Nature Challenge, making the challenge the single-most uploaded period of 2018. With the City Nature Challenge growing internationally in 2019, even more observations will be added in the hopes of getting more people outside, engaging with the natural spaces within urban environments, spending time with fellow nature enthusiasts and community organizations, and learning and contributing to science.

California Naturalists learn to identify flora and fauna using iNaturalist at the UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station.
Posted on Sunday, April 21, 2019 at 6:18 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Connect more deeply with nature and contribute to a greater good

Have you ever been on a walk and observed an interesting plant you couldn't identify? Encountered an unusual insect trapped in your home?  Have you noticed you used to see certain species in nature that you don't now? Or have you thought it might be neat to compile a species list for a special place, like a favorite park or your own backyard?

There's an app (and website) for all that!

The free iNaturalist app is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. Available for android, iPhone, and by a website, iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society that allows users to upload one or more pictures, provide a location, and make relevant notes like whether the subject is captivate or wild.

In response, the artificial intelligence in the app suggests what the species might be based on visual similarity and whether the species has ever been observed nearby. Once the observer has made an ID, the observation is available on the web for the world to see and verify or dispute via crowdsourcing. The individuals that verify observations are often experts in their particular field who leave encouraging messages or identification tips about the observation to help the original observer. Members and organizations can set up projects and download data within defined taxa or locations to follow presence and absence, abundance, seasonality and change over time.

Verified observations are sent to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world's governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth. Valuable open-source data is available to aid scientific research, government and conservation organizations, and the interested public. Nearly instant gratification for species ID combined with the ability of members to contribute to a greater good whenever they venture outdoors are huge motivators for much of the existing iNaturalist community which currently exceeds one million users and 14 million observations.

California Naturalists (USC Sea Grant and LA Conservation Corps Sea Lab) document a harlequin bug on iNaturalist

In a world where the term “nature deficit disorder,” coined by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, is widely understood to refer to the modern maladies that occur as a broken bond between children and nature, we need to provide culturally and contextually relevant outdoor exploration time for kids. Many children love technology, and in response iNaturalist recently developed the Seek app, which differs from iNaturalist in its safety features where no user data or location information is gathered or stored. Kids make observations in the same way, but they can collect badges and learn facts about the nearby biota.

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources California Naturalist Program has required participants to join iNaturalist and log at least one observation during their certification coursework since the inception of the program. To understand and protect California's unique natural resources, we need all the information we can gather across many different disciplines. Community or citizen science is one crowd-sourced approach to gathering that information, and iNaturalist is one useful tool in a broad toolkit.

While some individuals don't feel that technology has a place in the observation of natural history, through the use of iNaturalist, many others have had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of their local area, create online journal pages, keep species lists, contribute to specific iNaturalist observation projects of their favorite organizations, and participate in BioBlitzes with other community scientists across the state. Our partner organizations benefit from the concentrated focus on their land, the discovery of new species, and the long-term data sets that accrue. The UCANR Hopland Research and Extension Center's 5,500-acre iNaturalist project, initiated in 2013, boasts 1,075 observations of 498 species. 

This review of iNaturalist isn't an ad, but a testament to the power of the iNaturalist community to assist with conservation efforts globally. Used by an individual, it can be a simple social tool to learn more about nature and find others that also think certain species and places are special. Used by an organization, iNaturalist can assist with data collection, training, and naturalist recruitment. Globally, iNaturalist is a powerful way to connect humans more deeply to nature and generate scientifically valuable biodiversity data from personal observations.

The UC ANR Hopland Research and Extension Center's 5,500 acre iNaturalist project boasts 1,075 observations of of 498 species.
Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 8:41 AM
Focus Area Tags: Environment

UC California Naturalists interpret nature with art

Art is an expression of creativity, a conveyance of beauty, and for naturalists, it is a way to process, remember and interpret nature.

Many branches of nature art are popular, such as photography, painting and sketching. The UC California Naturalist Regional Rendezvous in October introduced an old but uncommon method for documenting natural objects – cyanotype.

A completed cyanotype print.
Cyanotype is a photographic printing process invented in the mid-1800s. It is best known as the long-time technique for duplicating building designs and the reason they are still called “blue prints.” Now the deep cyan blue can be an artistic backdrop to the interesting shapes and forms of natural treasures.

At the CalNat Rendezvous at the Pepperwood Preserve, Santa Rosa artist Jessica Layton taught the cyanotype process to volunteers certified by the UC California Naturalist program, giving them a new tool to use in educating and engaging children and adults in conservation organizations they work with around the state.

The cyanotype process begins by mixing two chemicals - ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide – to create the blue photo reactive solution. The chemicals may be purchased at art stores and online by searching for cyanotype solutions.

California Naturalists paint on the cyanotype solution in a darkened room.

Once blended, the chemicals are painted on paper or cotton cloth and allowed to dry. Leaves, grasses, seeds, pine cones, flowers, stones – any number of natural objects collected outside may be artfully arranged on the blue background and, if needed, held in place with a pane of glass.

The project is then set out in bright sunlight for 5 to 7 minutes, brought back inside to be washed in clean water and allowed to dry. The areas of the paper or cloth exposed to the sun are a radiant lapis blue; the areas that were shaded by the natural objects appear in silhouette.

Director of the UC California Naturalist program, Adina Merenlender, collects natural objects at Pepperwood Preserve for making cyanotype art.
The director of the UC California Naturalist Program, Adina Merenlender, participated in the cyanotype training.

“I have come to appreciate art as a way to improve observation skills and deepen an appreciation for nature,” Merenlender said. “We offered this session to our volunteers for them to improve their capacity and become better naturalists.”

Artist Jessica Layton, left, shows a cyanotype mural project made by the group. The fabric was commercially treated with the cyanotype solutions and captured the silhouettes of a wide variety of objects, including feathers, hands, sunglasses and a water bottle.
 
California Naturalist Kat Green said she's seen cyanotype before and always wanted to try it, so jumped at the chance to practice the project at the CalNat Regional Rendezvous.
 
"Different people connect with nature in different ways," Greene said. "I don't have an artistic knack, so being able to share this experience with people allows me to connect with them in a way I couldn't connect otherwise."
Posted on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 10:15 AM
Tags: art (1), California Naturalist (20), nature (7)

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