Sonoma Ecology Center California Naturalist Program

“California is an incredible place to be a naturalist.”

So begins “The California Naturalist Handbook,” the standard textbook for a rigorous UC-approved course designed to turn local nature lovers into trained California Naturalists. These knowledge keepers act as park docents and as key leaders in the “community science” movement helping to shape California’s future.

Sonoma Ecology Center is teaming up with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to offer this accredited nine-week course locally. The course results in real college credits, and it turns nature lovers into certified graduates of the UC California Naturalist Program, making them valuable authorities on California’s plants and animals, geology and soils, water, climate, biodiversity and more. Recent classes have featured a special emphasis on the wildfires in Sonoma Valley and how they have affected our forests and wildlife communities.

CalNat courses are only available at certain locations throughout the state. Now, thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center’s educators, the course is being offered at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, with students meeting for lectures in a virtual format, supplemented by safe socially distanced field trips in person at the park.*NOTE* All activities facilitated during the program will be based on the guidelines from public health officials* Sonoma and Napa county residents interested in joining the elite and venerable league of California Naturalists are encouraged to register for the next course!

The course combines a science curriculum with guest lectures, field trips and project-based learning to explore the unique ecology and natural history of the Inner Coastal Range of Sonoma and Napa. As their final project for the program, each naturalist-in-training will complete an eight-hour volunteer service project for a local community organization. Participants will graduate with a specialized knowledge of the oak woodlands indigenous to the Mayacamas Mountains.

There is currently room available in our Spring 2023 course! Classes are March 15 to May 6, Wednesday evenings 6:00 pm – 8:30 p.m. with the exception of a special Friday evening course on May 5, with an optional distanced campout included in the program! Evening classes meet on Zoom. There will be four Saturday field trips as well held on at various locations around Sonoma Valley, Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

Registration is $499, with need-based scholarships available. (Students also must purchase their own copy of “The California Naturalist Handbook.”)

For details or to register, click hereFor more information, contact Tony Passantino at