Sonoma Ecology Center

Since 1990, we’ve worked to increase appreciation and stewardship of Sonoma Valley’s natural heritage and create measurable benefits in areas of land, water, climate change and biodiversity. Supporting our work enables us to move us all towards a better future.

Who We Are

Sonoma Ecology Center works to address challenges related to water supply and quality, open space, rural character, biodiversity, energy, climate change, and a better quality of life for all residents.


We envision a future where people, land, water, and wildlife thrive.


Our mission is to work with our community to identify and lead actions that achieve and sustain ecological health in Sonoma Valley.

Read SEC’s Position on the Future of the Sonoma Developmental Center

How can people, land, water, and wildlife thrive in a fire-adapted landscape?

Watch this video on how we keep people safer while supporting our environment.

Upcoming Events

Sugarloaf Trail Crew @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Jan 27 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Help Sugarloaf with trail restoration work. Work includes bridge and step construction, installing signs, clearing, lifting, carrying and hiking. Bring gloves, hat, and water that you can carry hands-free (i.e. bring a backpack). Wear long pants, boots or sturdy shoes and sunscreen. Poison oak is present, so long sleeves are suggested. We have tools and trained crew leaders with tasks for all. Minors must be accompanied by a responsible adult. We will provide tools, and if allowed, lunch.

If you are a current Sugarloaf volunteer,  log in to Better Impact to sign up. Otherwise, start here to become a volunteer.

Hike at Saddle Mountain Preserve with Open Space District @ Saddle Mountain Preserve
Jan 29 @ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Hike at Saddle Mountain Preserve with Open Space District @ Saddle Mountain Preserve

Meeting at Mario Carrillo High School to caravan

Join us for a guided hike at the beautiful 960-acre Saddle Mountain preserve above Rincon Valley, on the eastern boundary of Santa Rosa in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. The hike will be led by Ag + Open Space stewardship specialist Monica Delmartini and SEC education program manager, Tony Passantino. This hike is organized by Sonoma Ecology Center on Ag + Open Space owned land that was recently touched by the Glass Fire. Delmartini is the resident fire ecologist and will discuss land management in a post-fire setting including, wildfire ecology, forest resiliency and the benefits of fire on California landscapes.

This is a moderately strenuous hike of approximately 3-4 miles with substantial elevation gain on established trails/fire roads. Please bring water and lunch, and be prepared for that day’s weather. There is a shallow water crossing. The hike will go on in light rain, but heavy rain will cancel the outing. There is no charge for this outing, which is made possible by the voters of Sonoma County who fund the work of Ag + Open Space with a quarter-cent sales tax.

For any other questions or concerns, Please contact Tony Passantino, by emailing

Inaugural UC Climate Stewards Course w/ Sonoma Ecology Center @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Jan 29 @ 9:00 am – Mar 12 @ 1:00 pm
Inaugural UC Climate Stewards Course w/ Sonoma Ecology Center @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park


As one of 9 pilot programs across the state, the 7-week UC Climate Stewards  Course seeks to foster a committed corps of volunteers ready to effectively engage in transformative local solutions to promote community and ecosystem resilience in a changing climate. The UC Climate Stewards course will introduce you to social-emotional learning and trauma-aware practices, climate change communication, climate science, and community resilience planning.

This UC Climate Stewards Course will integrate locally relevant themes of fire, water and inclusion. Through guest speakers, field activities, and participatory science we will learn about and discuss principles and practices towards increasing community and ecosystem resilience to fire, drought, and floods.

Learning Outcomes

• Increase access to up-to-date and locally relevant climate science to improve climate literacy

• Improve participants’ self-efficacy and agency by fostering climate change communications skills development, civic engagement, and local conservation and community action

• Establish an inclusive community of practice focused on stewardship, communication, and community solutions to advance resilience

• Build statewide support and capacity to effectively advance state and local climate goals

Link to the UCANR Website for more FAQ and information on the curriculum:

Winter Treasures: Salamanders, Lichen, Mosses, and A Waterfall @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Jan 29 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Winter is newt breeding season! Join us as we walk through the sublime beauty of sage green lichen on burgundy Manzanita bark and moss bedecked oaks down to the 25-foot dramatic plunge of Sonoma Creek. Beginning at the Visitor Center, we’ll follow Pony Gate Trail’s grassy slope, into mixed evergreen forest, along Canyon Trail’s shady riparian corridor (with the promise of Pacific Giant Salamanders) to the waterfall. The return takes us back uphill, across Adobe Canyon Road to the now familiar Pony Gate trail.
This stroll is approximately 2 miles with 450-foot elevation gain. Tickets are $10 for general admission, or $5 for Sugarloaf members, volunteers, seniors, students, and minors. Heavy rain or wind cancels and will be announced the day of the hike. Parking fees apply. Be prepared to follow County Health guidelines such as physical distancing or mask wearing.

RFO Public Star Party @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Jan 29 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

The Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) is open to the public at least once a month, usually on a Saturday near the time of the New Moon.

Star Parties: Presentations on astronomical topics are given in the classroom throughout the course of the evening. Starting at dusk, the Observatory’s three main telescopes are open for your viewing. Docents set up additional telescopes in front of the building. Friendly and knowledgeable docents are available to answer your questions.

You must have a ticket to attend, as we are limited to 40 attendees per County Health Orders. Proof of vaccination or a negative rapid test taken within the last 48 hours are also required to attend.


  1. Map and Directions
  2. When to arrive: We keep the observatory open as long as there are visitors, but you must arrive within 3 hours after start time to ensure that we remain open for you. Summer Star Parties begin with tours and presentations until it’s dark enough for observing.
  3. Bring warm clothing, even in summer—observing is done outdoors.
  4. There is a short walk from the parking area to the Observatory and you may wish to bring a small flashlight.
  5. White Light: No white lights should be used after dark; the observatory is a red-light-only area to protect everyone’s night vision. We will supply red cellophane to cover flashlights. Please note:
    ◦ Bring a SMALL flashlight (large camp lanterns, light sticks, etc., cannot be adequately covered by red cellophane).
    ◦ Cell phones or cell-phone flashlights are acceptable but must be covered in red cellophane. (No cell service at the observatory).
    ◦ Some head lamps are difficult to cover with red cellophane. Once covered, head lamps should be worn around the neck or used pointing down as they are usually very bright at eye level.
    ◦ Red flashlights are available for $5 at the observatory.
  6. Alcohol is prohibited on Observatory grounds.
  7. The Observatory is not open to the public except for scheduled events.

Classroom presentations are always offered on Star Party nights even if the weather is poor. For current conditions call the observatory at (707) 833-6979.
For more info please visit the Robert Ferguson Observatory website.

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The Ecology Blog

The Project to Uncover SDC’s Biodiversity

The Project to Uncover SDC’s Biodiversity

When taking a walk through the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) campus, one is struck immediately with its striking buildings and the plane trees that arch over this charismatic and much-discussed property. However, there’s much more than first meets the eye in this...

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Staff Highlight: Cali Pearce

Staff Highlight: Cali Pearce

Introducing Cali Pearce: AmeriCorps Member for Volunteer Infrastructure ServicesCali Pearce joined our team as our first ever Americorp volunteer to help Sonoma Ecology Center bring it’s volunteer management system into the digital age and shape our volunteer culture....

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The Life Cycle of Chinook in Sonoma Creek

The Life Cycle of Chinook in Sonoma Creek

The Chinook salmon that have been making their run up the Sonoma Creek watershed are reaching the end of their life cycle. In the video below you can catch a glimpse of changes their bodies undergo as they enter a rapid senescence - a process observed in salmon in...

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