Tag Archives: California Certified Naturalist

Summer 2019 CalNat Class #9, 08-02-19

I got into Woodland around 10:00 am, so I went over to The Nugget and got some of their premade deli sandwiches and muffins to share with the students. Roxane had a similar idea and brought a box of cookies and some homemade Rice Krispies Squares. She makes hers with cinnamon, so they were extra yummy.  She also brought 10X “loops” (small magnifying glasses) for all of the students so they could bring them out into the field with them tomorrow. That was soooo nice of her!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Our guest speaker was Robyn from the River Otter Ecology Project.  He had done a lecture for the winter class earlier this year and we really enjoy having him come up.  He works primarily in the Bay Area, but he does a lot of outreach outside San Francisco County.  He’s a quiet, kind of retiring man, until he’s talking about the otters.  Then his passion really shows through.  One of the thing he pushes for is the citizen science projects his organization is doing all over California: Otter Spotters, https://riverotterecology.org/otter-spotter-community-based-science/.  If you see otters, their scats or their slides, you take photos and then load them up on the otter-spotter site. That way, the organization can create maps of where the otters are in the state and how many people are seeing them. 

An Otter Spotter sighting I made last year, now appearing in the Otter Spotter community-based science project. Members of the public assist scientists by supplying data and sightings online.

This was the class when we did the final exam quiz, what we call our “Your Naturalist Knowledge EcoBlitz Game”.  We split the students up into teams, and they answer questions based on what we taught them throughout the entire length of the course.  Whichever teams ends up with the most correct answer wins prize bags worth over $400.  This time around we had a relatively small class, so we broke them out into two teams: the Murderous Crows and the Eager Estivators.  The Estivators were ahead through most of the game, but then the Crows pulled out in front with their final lightning round of questions.

This class brings out the competitive spirit in otherwise low-key docile students, and also lets the quieter students shine when it’s their turn to answer a question for their team.  The energy in the room gets so high, especially toward the end, that everyone is exhausted by the end of it.  Hah!

Summer 2019 CalNat Class #6, 07-12-19

Around 11 o’clock, my co-instructor Bill Grabert and I took all of our stuff over to the library to set up for the Certified California Naturalist class, and our guest speaker arrived around the same time: Jenny Papka of Native Bird Connections.  She’d done a lecture for our winter class earlier this year so she kind of knew the drill. She set up her bird stuff while we finished setting up the classroom.

Jenny brought a Peregrine Falcon, a Swainson’s Hawk and her Eurasian Eagle Owl with her this time. Since she was ready to go when the students arrived, we just let her go first and did our announcements when she was finished. We also to a break when she was done, so the students could get photos of the owl and the props Jenny had brought with her.

 About halfway through Jenny’s presentation, our volunteer Roxanne Moger arrived with a box of bird’s nests she’d gotten from a retired teacher, and a HUGE live sphinx moth caterpillar in a jar. She’d been cutting down some grape vines for her neighbor and found the caterpillar on them.  Super cool.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

It kind of looked like a tomato hornworm, but was gray instead of green and had a eye-spot on its rump. I’m not sure but I think it’s the caterpillar of an Achemon Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha achemon).  They’re the kind of caterpillar that pupates underground, though, so Roxanne will have to put a couple of inches of dirt in the bottom of the jar, so the caterpillar can bury itself when it’s ready.  It might overwinter under the dirt, so we may not be able to see it until next year…            

After the break, Bill did the chapter on forest management, and I did a module on bird species identification.

CalNat 2019 Winter Class 10, Graduation, 04-12-19

Greg Ira, the UC California Naturalist Program Coordinator, came to the graduation of our winter 2019 #CalNat class on Friday, and brought Mark Bell, the Vice Provost for Statewide Programs, and Sarah Angulo, the Community Education Specialist from the university with him.

We also had some other special guests: a pair of newborn kittens brought in by our student, Fran Bowman. Fran is fostering the kittens which, at this stage, have to be fed every three hours. We let her bring them into the class and feed them during the break – and they got a LOT of attention. Hah!

We had Greg and Mark speak a little bit first on the UC Certified California Naturalist program, and then had the students who hadn’t presented their capstone projects already do their presentations.

Ten students presented their capstones, including a 2-person team.  I was impressed by the work they’d all done.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

CalNat 2019 Winter Class 9, 04-05-19

This was our 9th (of 10) Certified California Naturalist classes for the winter session.  This week it was our “final exam”, and I put that in quotes because it’s not really a test, per se, so much as it’s a recap of what we touched on throughout the previous weeks with some species identification thrown in. We do it like a game, in teams of 5 (or less) and the members of the team that get the most answers correct win prize bags worth over $400.  Everything in the bags was donated by a variety of manufacturers, publishers, distributors and other folks. For each winner, we had a clear backpack filled with field guides and other stuff, a bluebird box, a plushie elk, a plushie Saw-whet Owl and a Tuleyome camping mug.

We started off the class with some announcements and then explained to the students how the game was to be played. Ready… set… go!

We asked about 2 hours’ worth of questions and then took a 20-minute break so folks could nosh, chat and clear their heads. I had several people tell me how much fun they were having and how much they were learning as they listened to everyone answer the questions.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When we came back from the break, we had 6 of the students present their capstone projects. And all of them are doing such great things. The capstones are projects of the student’s own choosing, during which they have to volunteer at least 8 hours on something related to nature and/or the natural sciences.

One student created a coloring book and picture cards to teach children the names of different birds and animal in the region based on their color.  Another one updated and created new identification cards for the plants around the demonstration pond at the Yolo Basin Foundation’s main office.  A third student built a bat box of her own design based on research she did of other designs.  It had three compartments with circular “doorways” so the bats could move from one compartment to another if they wanted to.  She’d been noticing a decrease in the number of bats in the night sky around where she lived, so she built the box (and will build several others) to place around her house and neighborhood with the hopes of providing bats with more protected night roosts – in the hopes that their numbers will increase again.

A fourth student used an app to photograph and collect information on the “assets” for different parks in Yolo County. The app connected through the cloud to a detailed map of the area, so now each of the parks can see where each of their assets are in relation to others and can track their condition.  The assets recorded included everything from buildings to trails to parking lots and even water spigots related to their fire-suppression systems. Eventually, he wants to generate a map of Tuleyome’s properties and the assets on them…

Another student (with a background in archaeology) took over a box of Native American artifacts that had been sitting around at the Cache Creek Conservancy, went through them, catalogued them, and is going to work up a display case for them once he figures out the “story” they’re telling.

The last student who presented today did her capstone on researching milkweed plants and the requirements of Monarch Butterflies, so she could turn a 6 x 10 patch of dirt at a local grade school into a butterfly garden.

We still have about 11 students who will present next week during our last class, just before the graduation ceremony. I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m so proud of all of them.

After the presentations, we finished off the questions and awarded the winning team, The Might Mallards. There were only four people on that team, and we had five prize packages, so we did a drawing among the remaining students to award the last package. We broke that one down into increments, so more people could win something. One person got the camping mug and plushie owl; one got the plushie elk; one got the bird box; and the last one got the backpack full of stuff.

Next week, we’re also going to host a potluck, so everyone is supposed to bring their favorite comfort food. #CalNat

The Naturalist Course is at Class 8 of 10, 03-29-19

We’re already in week 8 of the 10-week Certified California Naturalist course. Wow!  Next week is the final exam, and the week after that is graduation. Seems like the time just flew by!

The speaker today was Christy Berger who did a presentation on Crows and Other Corvids.  She’s with the Heron and Egret Rescue but has a live rescued crow and does speaking engagements on corvids throughout the area, so we’re having her do her crow thing today and then come back for the summer class to talk about the herons and egrets (because that’s when those birds are nesting and having babies.) she brought her crow Onyx with her. Onyx has an eye condition he’s had since birth so there’s a white film over his eyes all the time, and he’s very sensitive to different kinds of light. Christy gave her talk with a PowerPoint presentation, then had us turn on the room lights and turn off the projector before she brought Onyx out for us to see.  He spent most of the time trying to get his jesses off. Hah!

Christy’s talk focused mostly on crows and ravens, but also included a smattering of facts about different kinds of native corvids such as the endemic Yellow-Billed Magpie and California Scrub Jay.  She talked for about 2 hours, and then the class took a break.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When everyone came back from the break three of the students presented their capstone projects. Michele Sheehan did one on the interpretive signs she created for the Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, CA.  Then Fran Bowman did a presentation on the upgrade of an exhibit she’s doing for the Cache Creek Nature Preserve. They have a mastodon fossil (part of a pelvis and a tusk) and she’s updating the interpretive information on it.  Lastly, Rebecca Rubio-Aliaga did a presentation on the monitoring of Bluebird Boxes she’s doing for Napa-Solano Audubon… They were incredible.  I am so proud of the work they’re doing outside of class!

We also took a moment to thank Roxanne (who had brought candy, grapes and mandarin oranges to share with the class) for all the help she’s given us during the classes and field trips.  We gave her the plaque I’d made and a small felted fox.  She was very touched by the gesture.

Then Bill did his presentation on the last chapter of our textbook, one on “Energy and Global Environmental Issues”. We call it the “sad chapter” because it talks about all of the yucky stuff the environment has to deal with: air and water pollution, fragmentation, fracking, habitat degradation, neo-nic and Round-Up poisons, etc. Bill tried to rush through, hoping we’d get in some species ID time, but he finished right at 4:00 pm. Class over.  As I mentioned, next week is the final exam and the week after that is graduation. The students all decided they’d like to do a potluck for that day, so that should be fun!  #CalNat

Update on the Polyphemus Moths, 03-18-19

Our naturalists class’s first Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) hatched out of its cocoon on Thursday, March 14th, and was a female. By March 18th it was already winding down in it life processes, but the reproductive instinct is strong. Even though they’re not fertilized, our moth was found laying eggs in her enclosure. #CalNat

Later in the day, our second Polyphemus moth hatched. It’s a boy! Notice those impressive antennae. His wings are wrinkly because he just hatched from his cocoon.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.