Ecology Blog | Sonoma Ecology Center

Ecology Blog

  • Bald Eagle over Montini
    This Bald Eagle was seen in Sonoma this afternoon, circling with some vultures over the Vallejo Home and the Montini Preserve. Bald Eagles have made an impressive comeback, along with a few other animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. Eagles and many other birds were susceptible to pesticides, particularly DDT; a ban helped bring these birds back from near extinction. They’re starting to be seen in the Bay Area again. Go Eagles! P.S. On Facebook, naturalist Dave Barry of Wild by Nature with Dave Barry added that the eagles’ comeback is “in part due to the conservation and restoration of waterfowl across North America. Waterfowl is a leading food source for Bald Eagles in winter. Bald Eagles are breeding in almost every Bay Area County. Sonoma County has 4-5 breeding pairs, and […]
  • What Can You Do to Help Fight Climate Change?
    Step One: Listen to the Experts We want to thank everyone who came out Monday night for a special screening of “Ice on Fire,” the climate change documentary featuring a segment on biochar by our own Raymond Baltar. The show sold out completely, and the Sebastiani Theatre overflowed with people eager to learn more about the climate change crisis and what we can do to stop it. The film presented a number of “drawdown” solutions – methods of extracting carbon from the atmosphere that include forest management, kelp production, carbon-capturing machines and biochar – and was followed by a lively Q&A with Baltar, “Ice on Fire” director Leila Conners, and Redwood Forest Foundation Chief Forester Linwood Gill. (Shown left-to-right in photo at top. Photos by Melania Mahoney.) As Baltar […]
  • Mapmaker Alex Young Helps Tackle Erosion
    Our GIS Manager Alex Young has been working with the county’s Watershed Task Force in order to help identify post-fire erosion risk – which can remain high for several years after a wildfire – in Sonoma Valley and the county. Alex has been performing “GIS landscape suitability analyses” to identify those sites that are most vulnerable to post-fire erosion. He also created a story map to showcase some of the post-fire erosion control work done around the Valley under the Watershed Task Force funding. The maps will be put to use during a countywide meeting next month.   […]
  • Cameras Capture Eldridge Lions and Sugarloaf Bears
    On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late July, a black bear strolled through Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, pausing in the shade to mark a tree before continuing on its way. Two days later, just past midnight in an undeveloped part of Eldridge, something moved in the darkness. Briefly and silently, a mountain lion flashed by. Both of these clips, and many more besides, were captured by motion-activated cameras operated by our researchers, who use the footage to learn more about the animals and their habitat – and to share these remote, otherwise unseen moments with the world. The mountain lion footage “was taken with one of the new wildlife cameras we have deployed around the creek portion of the SDC property,” said Sonoma Ecology Center Research Program Manager Steven Lee. The cameras, he said, […]
  • Climate Change Documentary ‘Ice on Fire’ Comes to Sebastiani
    An HBO documentary on climate change produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio has sparked interest and conversation since its debut at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Now the film – and the conversation – is coming to Sonoma as Sonoma Ecology Center proudly presents “Ice on Fire” at the Sebastiani Theatre on Aug. 26. The Monday evening screening will be followed by a panel discussion led by Raymond Baltar, program manager of Sonoma Biochar Initiative, a Sonoma Ecology Center program. Baltar appears in “Ice on Fire” to discuss the benefits of biochar, one of several practical solutions to the climate crisis presented in the film. He was interviewed for the film while working under contract with Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) at a biochar project near the town of Percy in […]
  • Sugarloaf Honored at Forest Bathing Conference
    As the practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” gains worldwide popularity, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park remains at the forefront, offering its powerfully therapeutic meadows, streams and oak woodlands for regular walks and hikes as part of the local ParkRx program. This commitment earned Sugarloaf and its manager, John Roney, an honorary award during the first annual Forest Bathing International Conference, held at Sonoma State University in mid-July. Boasting more than 200 attendees from 40 countries, the conference was a big deal – and we were honored to be acknowledged before such a gathering. “We got an award for supporting the program when it started in the U.S. in 2012 at Sugarloaf, and hosting most of the training sessions in the first few years,” John explained. “The […]
  • Montini Sheep Munch Flammable Grasses
    Locals out for a hike saw them on the slopes of Montini Open Space Preserve earlier this month: several sheep (and a few goats) brought in to “reduce fuel loads” to a more manageable level. Because Sonoma Ecology Center manages Montini for the City of Sonoma, we hired a grazing business to bring their animals to designated parts of the preserve (see this map). As Restoration Program Manager David Morgan explained, the shepherds “brought in a mix of mostly sheep and some goats. This tactic was used because sheep only feed on herbaceous material while the goats will also eat woody material.” David also noted that “Grazing, especially in larger landscapes, is more beneficial than just mowing and can be more cost effective.” According to the city, the grazers were expected to eat about 80 […]
  • Creek Camps Offer Watershed Fun
    Our Summer Science Camps have been a blast – but summer’s not over yet! And we still have a few open spots in our two upcoming Creek Camps for kids ages 8-12. Scholarships are available too. Creek Camp – from July 15-19 and again from July 29 to Aug. 2 – is a five-day exploration of the Sonoma Creek watershed at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Creek Camp transforms campers into junior scientists, starting with morning hikes on the park trails, exploring waterways for insects and amphibians, and enjoying plenty of games, arts & crafts, and storytelling. Each camp is $260 for Sonoma Ecology Center members or $300 for non-members – and scholarships are available for those needing financial assistance. (See below for information on obtaining scholarships.) […]
  • Biochar Goes to Hollywood (and Forestville, and Sonoma Garden Park)
    These are exciting times for our biochar program and its director, Raymond Baltar, who is currently having a minor brush with fame due to his appearance in “Ice on Fire,” an HBO documentary on climate change solutions produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. Raymond doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he is always ready to discuss the merits of biochar, and HBO “is surely the biggest platform I will ever have since they are releasing the film internationally,” he said. He was interviewed for the film while working under contract with the Redwood Forest Foundation in 2017 at a biochar project near the town of Percy in Mendocino County. Last month “Ice on Fire” was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, and it premiered this month on HBO, which made it available for free online streaming […]
  • Workshop Gives You a Say in Eldridge’s Future
    The upcoming Eldridge Vision Workshop will be an important step towards guiding the future of Eldridge and the recently closed Sonoma Developmental Center. This free community workshop, hosted by SDC Coalition, is Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Hanna Boys Center auditorium. Children are welcome and light refreshments will be provided. Speakers at the event will include Supervisor Susan Gorin, SEC Executive Director Richard Dale, Permit Sonoma Deputy Director Milan Nevajda, Tracy Salcedo of Glen Ellen Forum, and Mickey Cooke of Sonoma Mountain Preservation. SDC Coalition is looking for more community feedback on the future of Eldridge – and crafting a vision statement to help guide that future. According to the group, “The vision statement and guiding principles, provided in […]