UC California Naturalist Program

The California Naturalist class will introduce you to the wonders of California’s unique ecology and engage you in the stewardship of our natural communities. This intensive certification program will utilize a combination of scientific curriculum, guest lecturers, field trips and project-based learning to immerse you in the natural world of the central coast.

The fee for the program is $400.00.  A limited number of scholarships are available for those with need.

To directly support CNP and students needing financial assistance, please consider donating  here

 Applications for the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum's 2023 California Naturalist Program will be opening soon!

Program Goals:

  • Foster a committed corps of volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists trained and ready to take an active role in natural resource conservation, education, and restoration
  • Provide training, in collaboration with local sponsoring institutions, for adult environmental stewards through an adaptable outdoor and in-class curriculum which can be easily applied in a variety of settings
  • Engage adults in interactive learning which provides them with scientific literacy and critical thinking skills

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand what it means to be a naturalist
  • Integrate knowledge about the interconnectedness of abiotic, biotic and cultural factors and their influence on the natural history of the central coast
  • Demonstrate skills in making and recording natural history observations in a field notebook
  • Apply knowledge of central coast ecosystems to local and global environmental issues.
  • Meet all of the course requirements.

Questions? Contact a host for the Arboretum's 2023 California Naturalist Program, Linda Anderson or Joel Mckelvey.

Consider becoming a sponsor! Your sponsorship will be greatly appreciated. Sponsors are acknowledged in class literature, on the Arboretum's website, in-class presentations, and in-class communications. For more information, contact Linda Anderson.

The 2023 schedule will be posted soon - see last year for reference  

Schedule of Lectures and Field Trips for 2022
March 26 - June 4,  2022

Plan to attend ALL lectures, our first field trip, birding introduction with Clive Bagshaw, plant and habitat presentations, CAPSTONE Presentations, and at least 7 of 9 field trips (although you will not want to miss even one).  

A list of supplemental, optional, outings will be provided at the beginning of the program (organized and presented by previous years California Naturalists) for those interested.

Campus COVID restrictions will be strictly followed including full vaccination for all participants, masking, and adequate distancing.  In-person sessions are highlighted below in Green . Most lectures will be online from 7:00 – 9:30pm on Thursdays except as noted below .   Field Trips will generally be on Saturday from 9:00 - 4:00pm unless otherwise noted . 




March 26


In-person, UCSC Arboretum

Program Introduction

  • Participants meet and greet
  • Introduction to iNaturalist
  • Journaling

Field trip: UCSC Arboretum

Linda Anderson, Joel McKelvey, Elizabeth Evans, and Clive Bagshaw

March 31


In Person, Arboretum meeting room, 7:00-9:30pm

Introduction to natural history

California plant ecology and evolution

Ingrid M. Parker

Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz, and Faculty Executive Director, UCSC Greenhouses

April 2


In-person, Quiroste (Año Nuevo)

Native American Land Use and Management Practices

Field trip: Quiroste

Rick Flores

Director of Horticulture, Steward of Amah Mutsun Relearning Program, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden

April 4,5,6


In-person, UCSC Arboretum

Morning, 8:00 am (4 th and 5 th

Evening, 6:30 pm (6 th )  

Birding Observations and Interpretations

Sign up for a time, 5 attendees max/session

Clive Bagshaw

Professor Emeritus, Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Leicester, UK

April 7


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

Behavioral Ecology of California Birds

Bruce Lyon

Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

April 9


In-person, Long Marine Lab, 8:00-12:00

Bird Behavior
Field trip: Long Marine Lab 

Bruce Lyon and Clive Bagshaw

April 14


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

Restoration and Management of Coastal prairie, coastal scrub, riparian, and maritime chaparral ecosystems

Grey Hayes, PhD

Education & Research Coordinator for California Polytechnic State University’s Swanton Pacific Ranch 

April 16


In-person, Upper Marshall Meadow, UCSC

Coastal Prairie: field techniques Field trip: Upper Marshall Meadow

Grey Hayes, PhD

April 19  Tuesday

Online, 7:00-9:30pm

NOTE:  This lecture is on TUESDAY

Amphibians and Reptiles of California

Sean Reilly

Lecturer Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Science, UC Santa Cruz

April 23


In-person, Fort Ord Reserve, Marina

Amphibians and Reptiles of central coast

Joe Miller

Field Manager, Fort Ord Reserve

April 28


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

The Natural History of Insects

Peter Oboyski

Executive Director, Essig Museum of Entomology

April 30


In-person, Upper Marshall Meadow, UCSC

Insect Ecology and Campus Bioblitz

Field trip: Upper Marshall Meadows

Peter Oboyski, participants, and facilitators

May 5


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

A brief geologic history of California

Elise Knittle

Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, UC Santa Cruz

May 7


In-person, Santa Cruz to Año Nuevo

Coastal Geology

Field trip: Various stops between Santa Cruz to Año Nuevo

Gavin Piccione

UCSC Graduate Student

May 12


Online, 7:00-9:30pm Groundwater recharge: a critical surface- subsurface connection for California's central coast        

Andy Fisher

Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, UC Santa Cruz

May 14


In-person, UCSC Arboretum

Plant and habitat presentation

Linda Anderson, Joel McKelvey, Elizabeth Evans and Clive Bagshaw

May 19


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

Mammals of central coastal California

Alan Shabel

Lecturer, UC Paleontology Museum, UC Berkeley

May 21


In-person, UCSC Arboretum and Natural Bridges State Beach

Plankton Activity

LiMPETS Project

Field Trip: Tide Pools at Natural Bridges 

Clive Bagshaw

Hannah Sarver

Coordinator of LiMPETS project for Monterey Bay Sanctuary, Pacific Grove

May 26


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

Solutions for climate change, food systems, and water security

Heather Tallis

Assistant Director for Biodiversity and Conservation Sciences, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President. Visiting Professor, UC Berkeley School of Public Health 

May 28


In-person, San Vicente Watershed, 7:30am

Forest Management Matters
Field trip:  San Vicente Redwoods protected landscape

Nadia Hamey

Registered Professional Forester, Hamey Consulting

June 2


Online, 7:00-9:30pm

Global climate change: geologic perspective

Linda Anderson

Paleoceanography researcher (emeritus), Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

June 4


In-person, UCSC Arboretum

Capstone presentations and potluck lunch

Participants, facilitators, and speakers

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woods walk
lending a hand


Course Requirements

Required Coursework


Books (Required)

  • California Naturalist Handbook   Price $32.46
    Available for purchase first day of class.
  • The Natural History of the UC Santa Cruz Campus  $12.03
    Available for purchase first day of class.
    [ Required reading schedule.]

Book (Suggested)

  • The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, by Sibley, D.A.
hand lens viewing

Supplies (Required)

  • Field Notebook (Sokkia mining transit, Moleskine watercolor or the equivalent)
  • Water proof ink pen or pencil, small plastic ruler.
  • Hand lens (at least 10x jewelers loop, magnifying glass) 

Supplies (Suggested)

  • Binoculars
  • Digital camera or smart phone