Students, Students Everywhere!

by Linda Lane

Did you know a primary goal of the Arboretum is to host, support, hire, and educate students? To that end, each quarter around fifty UC students are mentored and trained in a variety of jobs and educational programs. Most are student workers, who assist the Arboretum’s staff and curators. The remainder are enrolled in the California Naturalist Program (CNP), one of the most successful educational ventures supported by the Arboretum. These partnerships are truly reciprocal. Student workers gain invaluable experiences that enhance their educational goals, and the Arboretum benefits greatly from their dedication and hard work. CNP participants gain knowledge and skills to further their careers, and, at the end of the course, design and implement a final project that enriches the Arboretum or local communities (and the world).

Student Workers

General Interns
UC students, many of them enrolled in Environmental Studies (ENVS) classes, become Arboretum interns to learn about the gardens while earning course credit. For three months, (one UC quarter—though many students repeat the program), five to fifteen hours each week, these dedicated workers perform typical gardening responsibilities of watering, weeding, mowing, pruning, and general maintenance, but also assist with special tasks, such as large landscaping projects or installing Art in the Arboretum sculptures. One cohort, joined at times by Cabrillo students and community members, works directly with Brett Hall, the Arboretum’s California Native Plant Program Director, as “Interactive Ecology Interns.” IEI students participate in fieldwork and building plant collections through seed germination, propagation, and nursery work as well as learning how to care for plants, about natural communities, and how a botanical garden engages in plant conservation. Hall, a master teacher, thoroughly enjoys mentoring interns: “running the internship program and working with students is one of the greatest experiences in my professional life.” Tom Sauceda, Curator of the New Zealand Collection, mentors and trains a smaller group of interns (his “master-gardeners-to-be”) who assist him in maintaining the New Zealand garden. The interns who assist Samantha Spurlin, Plant Inventory Specialist, track individual plants across time to produce the information labels and tags used in the gardens for the public and data used for research.

Special Interns
This year, UC student Alicia Jolly (on left) is the Provost’s Sustainability Intern (PSI), a one-year appointment focusing on advancing the Arboretum’s sustainability goals. For example, she manages the waste generated from member and public events and finds creative and the procurement of solar lights for our paths. In previous years, the Arboretum hosted students from the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP), also a one-year appointment.

Office & Garden Assistants
Many assistants started as general interns and then, because they enjoyed office assistantsworking with Arboretum staff and loved the beauty of the gardens, signed on for other jobs. This year, three UC student workers—Victoria Tichy, Vanessa Cortez, and Elizabeth Johnson (on right)—are the Arboretum’s Office Assistants. Providing clerical help, they process memberships, design flyers, answer phones, create/update social media posts, fill-in at Norrie’s, and do whatever is required at the moment. Each has a special assignment: Victoria organizes meetings/schedules, Vanessa responds to donors, and Elizabeth helps setup with events.

studentOver twenty student workers are assigned as Garden Assistants to Nursery Manager Helen Englesberg, Brett Hall, or Tom Sauceda. Taelor Whittington (on left) is Englesberg’s helper this year. Some tasks are seasonal (summer is watering, watering, watering), but her everyday routine is maintenance and care of the greenhouses and planting areas. Her very favorite “job” is seeing the tiny seedlings grow into big, beautiful, healthy plants. The garden assistants for Hall and Sauceda take on a variety of tasks, from operating big machinery and clearing fields to repairing outbuildings.

California Naturalist Program Students
CNP at the Arboretum engages and educates UC students, along with other cnp logocollege students and community members. Its goals are to foster and train volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists to take an active role in natural resource conservation, education, and restoration and to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking skills. It started in 2012 when Brett Hall set up a pilot class. Hall is renowned in the plant and ecological communities for his devotion to and knowledge of native plant habitats as well as his passion for and expertise at teaching. Over the past six years, CNP has gathered a collection of exceptional speakers and field trip guides, who, because students are wholly engaged, return year after year.

studentEach class of 25-30 students strives to balance age, gender, and interests, so the only common thread for all participants is a passion for volunteering and a love of nature. UC students receive credits for the coursework and, upon completing all requirements, all students earn a CNP certificate, which is recognized state-wide and can lead to jobs in schools, the park service, and a variety of restoration and horticulture careers. students

CNP’s 2018 curriculum includes classes such as The Natural History of Insects, Behavioral Ecology of Birds, Groundwater Recharge, and Restoration and Management of Coastal Ecosystems. But there’s much more. “What is unique about our program,” says Linda Anderson, CNP’s volunteer coordinator, “along with our incredible speakers, is the number of field trips we offer. There is no better way to get participants invested in advocating for, protecting, and teaching cnp studentsabout the incredibly beautiful and diverse central coastal environments, than getting them out into it.” A few of last year’s remarkable final projects include Salmon: An Animated Life-Cycle Game (David Fierstein); Arboretum Tree Walk (Shannon McDonald); Watsonville Wetlands Watch (Rich Palm); Life-Death, Poetry, and Pesticides (Cassandra Brown); Private Eye Program for the Arboretum (Denise Chasin); and Designed Plant Communities for Santa Cruz Gardens (Lucy Ferneyhough).

Recent UCSC graduate Mary Simonis recalls, “What I found in CNP was a group of studentintelligent and bright individuals of all ages ready to become California naturalists. Everyone was incredibly helpful and brought so much of their own knowledge to the table, whether it be about herpetology, bird watching, or geology. Their excitement, passion, and knowledge steadily passed onto me, a novice.” Her CNP project, a butterfly garden at a historic ranch park in San Jose, California, educates visitors about local butterflies and the dwindling monarch population.

cnp graduateCNP graduate Darrow Feldstein did not grow up connected to nature, but, after having his mind “opened to the beautiful intricacies of the natural world” at UCSC, he set out to ensure more young people have an opportunity to enjoy and understand their natural surroundings. Thus, soon after completing CNP, he co-founded The Bird School Project, based in Santa Cruz, an outstanding supplemental education program which uses outdoor experiential learning to inspire students and teachers to develop a scientific understanding and appreciation of their local environment.

Students interested in more detail about CNP or in joining the Arboretum family as interns or garden assistants can contact Brett Hall (