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UC CalNat Certification by Nature Up Close Class Syllabus
California Naturalist Course Overview
The California Naturalist Program seeks to create a committed corps of naturalists and community scientists excited to be involved in nature appreciation, resource conservation, environmental education, and habitat restoration.
The California Naturalist course will introduce you to the wonders of our local ecology, engaging you in the California’s natural communities, and introducing you to the cultural connections we have with our landscape. The 40-hour course combines science curriculum, guest lecturers, field trips and project-based learning to immerse you in the natural world of California.
This specific location will focus on the natural history of the central coast, the watersheds leading to the bay and ocean, emphasizing natural and cultural resources, and how humans have used and continue to use this area. A side benefit will be making new friends, building a “community of practice,” and learning about opportunities in environmental fields.
By the end of this course, participants will be able to:
• Describe the role of the scientific method in understanding natural history.
• Understand what it means to be a naturalist and environmental steward.
• Understand the interconnectedness of abiotic, biotic, and cultural factors that make California and San Luis Obispo County natural history and ecology unique.
• Understand the historical and current interactions between people and the landscape, and how native Californians have shaped California’s natural systems.
• Demonstrate skills in making and recording natural history observations in a field notebook and on iNaturalist.org
• Understand the role of community science in informing natural resource decision making.
• Demonstrate skills in communicating and interpreting natural resource information.
• Apply knowledge of San Luis Obispo County ecosystems to local and global environmental issues.
Who, Where, and When?
Chris Cameron is the Course Instructor. A naturalist helping people discover this amazing world, Chris shares a lifetime of skills teaching throughout California, especially on the central coast and in the Sierra. Chris has been a naturalist for the SLO County Office of Education, a CREEC Network Coordinator for the CA Department of Education and served 17 years as Executive Director of Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria where he started the Coastal Institute outdoor education program. He is presently an instructor and guide for Road Scholar, and Executive Director of the Morro Bay Bird Festival. Chris is comfortable integrating a variety of perspectives, encouraging discussion and hands-on experience. He has developed the schedule for the course, gathered amazing instructors, and will serve as the lead instructor for lessons and field trips during the 7-day immersion course. He is looking forward to meeting you!
Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria will provide food and lodging for the course. This camp is an inholding on the Ken Norris Rancho Marino UC Natural Reserve, a 600-acre ranch with two miles of coastline and 225 acres of Monterey Pines. Camp Ocean Pines has been serving the public since 1946, providing lodging in unique passive solar cabins constructed with local lumber and straw bales. Cabins have an indoor shower and bathroom – and the whole place has an amazing ocean view. We aren’t the first ones to eat, learn, and celebrate on this site – many have come before us. Native Californians obtained shellfish along the shore, fished, and gathered acorns and other plants here for food as far back as 10,000 years ago. This land was part of a Spanish land grant given to Julian Estrada by Mexico in 1841. Swiss dairymen grazed cattle here, early settlers logged this forest of Monterey pine, and Chinese seaweed farmers used intertidal resources from 1900 to 1960, burning intertidal rocks in winter to encourage new sea lettuce growth. The Sibley family bought the property as a ranch/retreat and started Camp Ocean Pines to give people an opportunity to explore this pristine intertidal, coastal prairie, and Monterey Pine and Coast Live Oak forest. They also serve good food.
Components of the Course
Class Times: The class begins Saturday afternoon at 1:00 PM, August 17, and concludes after lunch, 2:00 PM on Friday, August 23. Each day will be a mix of indoor lectures and discussions, and outdoor field excursions. We will eat breakfast at camp, make a sack lunch, and drive personal cars to daily field trip sites led by local experts. Come prepared each day with
water, snacks and lunch, sun hat and sunscreen. Afternoons and evenings include discussions, lectures, and capstone project time in the meeting room at Camp Ocean Pines. The exception is one night where we will enjoy a night out with new friends, buying your own dinner at a restaurant.
Field Notebooks: All participants are required to keep a field notebook during the course. We will be using these notebooks during class, on field trips and on your own time. Keeping a field notebook is one of the best ways of fostering continued learning and getting to know a place intimately. Field notebooks will be checked by the instructor periodically during the week.
iNaturalist: Before class, each participant will create an iNaturalist account on their smart phone and join the Plants and Animals of Camp Ocean Pines California Naturalist project . We will learn about iNaturalist on the first day of class and use it all week, and adding at least 3 observations, at least 1 achieving research grade.
Capstone Project: Participants are required to complete a Capstone Project. Participants can work individually or in teams to design and implement their Capstone Project. On graduation day, everyone will take 5 minutes to share their project with the group. Projects combine what you are learning in an area of your interest in stewardship, education, interpretation, citizen science, or program support. The instructor will provide a Capstone detailed directions and give you time during the week to prepare.
Attendance: Participants must attend all classes. If a class is missed, the participant will be expected to complete make-up activities on their own time at the direction of the instructor. Please talk to me if you are going to miss a class.
Textbook: The California Naturalist Handbook must be read before attending the class. There will be daily questions on the reading. (Use discount code UCPSAVE30 at checkout)
We also suggest the free downloads: “Natural History of the California Current” and “Natural History of the Central California Bioregion” in the UCANR California Naturalist Series.
Graduation Day: Graduation day will be Saturday, August 23, 2024. The course will end after lunch around 2pm.
Volunteer management system (VMS): Participants will be provided an on-line account to track their volunteer hours, including hours spent on their Capstone project. Tracking volunteer hours is an essential way to prove the impact of a program like the California Naturalist Program and to support your favorite environmental organizations. You’ll also earn an annual pin!
UC Davis Extension Credits:
Participants may opt to pay an additional $100 to receive 4 UC Davis Extension undergraduate academic credits upon course completion and certification. More information will be provided.
Other Helpful Items:
● A smart phone with these free apps downloaded before class: iNaturalist, SEEK, Merlin Bird ID.
● A field notebook for nature observations and drawings, a pen/pencil, and a few colored pencils
● Suggested but not required: hand lens and binoculars.
Suggested Supplemental Reading:
● Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions: 2013
● Secrets of the Oak Woodlands, Marianchild, Kate. Heyday Press. 2014
● An Island called California, Bakker, E., University of California Press. 1984
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