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UC California Naturalist Conference, Oct. 7–9, highlights environmental challenges, diverse voices

UC California Naturalist course participants from Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District in the Bay Area deliver an interpretive trail program as their capstone project. Photo by Greg Ira

Climate change, extreme drought, intense wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic can all be linked to humanity's troubled relationship with the natural world.

For more than a decade, healing and deepening connections between people and the environment have been pillars of the UC California Naturalist Program. Partnering with over 80 organizations across the state, the program – a part of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – has trained over 6,500 participants and certified more than 5,350 volunteers who engage fellow community members in advancing environmental stewardship and climate resilience.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the program is convening a statewide conference Oct. 7–9 along the north shore of Lake Tahoe, under the theme of “Celebrating Community, Nature and Resilience for a Just Future.” Keynote speakers are José González, founder of Latino Outdoors; Rhiana Jones, director of the Washoe Environmental Protection Department; and Obi Kaufmann, artist and eco-philosopher. Members of the public are invited to register for the conference.

UC Naturalists and Climate Stewards (the latter program was established in 2020), as well as instructors for both certification courses, will gather with community members to reflect on their work, share best practices and chart a path toward a more sustainable and equitable future.

Graduates of the National Forest Foundation-sponsored course for UC California Naturalists went on to intern with Cleveland National Forest. Photo courtesy UC California Naturalist program

“We're striving to create a welcoming and safe space where we can challenge our own long-standing assumptions and perspectives and hear from a wide range of voices on crucial topics, including the latest on climate change and resilience; participatory science; and equity, diversity and inclusion in the conservation space,” said Gregory Ira, director of the UC California Naturalist Program.

Ira also highlighted the conference's equity-based registration fee structure, aimed at minimizing cost as a barrier to participation.

“We encourage anyone with an interest in learning more about California's unique ecosystems – and becoming a better steward of the environment – to join us for the weekend,” he said. “We truly value the perspectives and experiences you can bring to our conference.”

The conference agenda will feature engaging presentations, hands-on workshops and field trips to the area's natural wonders. Presenters include:

  • Herman Fillmore, culture/language resources director, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California
  • Don Hankins, Professor, Geography and Planning, Chico State University
  • Patricia Maloney, Forest and Conservation Biologist, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, UC Davis
  • Adina Merenlender, co-founder of the California Naturalist Program and UC Cooperative Extension professor in conservation science
  • Jennifer Norris, deputy secretary for biodiversity and habitat, California Natural Resources Agency
  • Ken-ichi Ueda, co-founder and co-director of iNaturalist, UC Berkeley School of Information

For more information and to register, visit the conference website at  

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2022 at 1:45 PM
Focus Area Tags: Environment, Innovation, Natural Resources

Adopted Vine in Lodi

Yes, this is my first adoption and it is a 'Zinfandel' vine on the property of Lucas Winery in Lodi. The vines in this California Certified Organic Farm, CCOF, are over 80 years old. A friend took me there to celebrate my birthday and I saw an opportunity to take part in the winery’s educational series. At the first event in March, we learned how to do spring pruning of the vine. Winemaker and owner, Heather Lucas demonstrated how to prune the spurs from the “arms” of the vine. The idea is to prune away any spurs, except one that is closest to the arm. Then on the remaining spur it is pruned down to two buds. This sounds easy, but there are agonizing decisions to make. Should the thicker spur remain even though it is further away on the arm? It is often just a judgment call, as we saw Heather and her husband, David, discuss their cuts. Well, we will see what happens at the next class in May, when we go back to remove weak shoots to help the vine produce the best quality wine.

Karen and her vine.
Karen and her vine.

Heather Lucas pruning.
Heather Lucas pruning.

Posted on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Redwood Damage

The winds of late spring are an uncomfortable reality in Solano County. They blew through on June 8 and 9, blustery, drying north winds that disrupted graduation ceremonies, outdoor weddings and picnics at the park.  Broken tree branches and piles of leaves and twigs, pushed up against north-facing fences and gutters, were evidence of the onslaught.

A realist would shrug off the loss of large branches as Mother Nature’s rather brutal pruning plan. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow. A friend of ours lost the top third of a redwood tree planted in his front-yard lawn. When I heard this, I immediately thought of another friend who had recently told me about losing the top portion of a redwood tree on her property. Turns out, that loss was due to lack of water, but both of my friends now face a tricky situation: What do you do with a fast-growing evergreen that loses its terminal bud leader?

Redwoods that have been topped — whether by nature or humans — tend to freak out, sprouting from masses of dormant buds just below the topping cut and under the bark. This results in an extremely fast-growing tangled mess of unstable branches where once there was one tidy and elegant trunk. These masses are weak and tend to peel away in strong winds (which we know will return in late spring).

What my friends now face is quite possibly annual pruning of those redwoods. They must be prepared to maintain the sprouts and trim any large branches regularly. And they should consult with a certified arborist to do this work.

Redwood trees are considered to be wind-resistant trees. It appears my friend’s front-yard tree, though robust and healthy in appearance, faced prior stress and had become weakened somewhere along the way. Leave it to the winds of late spring to test that stress. Maybe it’s Mother Nature’s pruning plan after all.

Late spring’s strong north winds caused this otherwise healthy redwood tree to lose its leader. The tree is located in southeast Vacaville. (photo by Ken Williams)
Late spring’s strong north winds caused this otherwise healthy redwood tree to lose its leader. The tree is located in southeast Vacaville. (photo by Ken Williams)

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:10 AM

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