Field Zoology Course
Feb 19 @ 10:00 am – Apr 16 @ 2:00 pm
Field Zoology Course


Location: Multiple Locations around Sonoma County (including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park)

Sonoma County is full of amazing wildlife discoveries for those that know how to make them. From the Mountain Lions of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the shorebirds of Bodega Bay, tiny plankton, dragonflies, to big old bears, thousands of species of wild animals call Sonoma County home.

In this course, students will learn how to find, document, and observe a wide variety of our native animals through a series of field trips to natural areas. Emphasis will be on learning field methods that students can employ with only low-cost equipment, and on recognizing the major groups of animals and how to photograph them. We’ll learn some ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology along the way, but our focus will be on the field methods. Scholarships are available to reduce costs for those in need of financial assistance, and carpools can be arranged for those needing transportation.

Instructor: Dr. Dan Levitis studied zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught zoology, ecology, evolutionary biology, demography, and conservation biology at the university level. For Sonoma Ecology Center he has previously taught New Ecological Scientist Training, California Naturalist Training, and Climate Stewardship, as well as leading programs to document the biodiversity of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and the Sonoma Developmental Center. He is Community Science Coordinator for Sonoma Ecology Center.

We have reached our capacity for scholarships. Please contact Tony at tony@sonomaecologycenter.org for questions.

Preliminary Topics and Locations List:

Sundays 10:00 am-2:00 pm unless otherwise noted*

Week 1: Bodega Bay: Introductions, Shorebirds and tide pools (7:00-11:00 am)*
Week 2: Trione-Anadell State Park: Conduct in the field and Amphibians
Week 3: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Camera Trapping, and Digital Tools
Week 3: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Creek Life, Camera Trapping Results
Week 4: Jack London State Park: Animal Behavior
Week 5: TBD: Parasites in the wild
Week 6: TBD: Cover objects and soil dwellers
Week 7: TBD: Mammal Scat, Tracks, and Sign
Week 8: Sonoma Developmental Center: Insect netting, pollinators, and a social gathering.

Montini Walk with Local Biologist: Explore Plant Communities @ Montini Open Space Preserve

Explore the different plant communities in Montini Open Space Preserve with us on Friday, March 31, 1:00-3:30 pm. For each community, you will learn about the blooming spring wildflowers found in the community, management concerns, and the factors that control the distribution of the community within the preserve.

The Montini Open Space Preserve was protected by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space in December 2005 for recreation and preservation of its natural and rich historic significance has been a working ranch since the time of General Vallejo. The preserve, which encompasses 152 acres, is in and adjacent to the City of Sonoma. With oak woodland, large rock outcroppings, and open grassland, the property offers beautiful views of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

Due to occasionally steep trails and uneven footing, the hike is rated intermediate; however, frequent pauses will allow hikers to catch their breath. There is no charge for the 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.

Meet at Preserve entry – 4th Street West and Haraszthy Drive, Sonoma, 95476. Heavy rain will reschedule the event!

Cesar Chavez Day of Service at Sonoma Garden Park | Día de servicio en Sonoma Garden Park

[Español abajo]

Cesar Chavez Day is meant to encourage neighbors to participate in an act of community service that pays homage to Chávez’s lifetime of work as an American farm laborer, union organizer, and civil rights activist. Honor his memory by joining us for a day of service at Sonoma Garden Park on Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm. No experience necessary, just a willingness to have fun and get your hands dirty!

El Día de Cesar Chavez anima a la comunidad a participar en un acto de servicio comunitario que rinde homenaje al trabajo y vida de Chavez como jornalero, organizador sindical, y activista de derechos civiles. Honra su memoria al acompañarnos en un día de servicio en Sonoma Garden Park el sábado 1ro de abril de las 9:00 am a las 12:00pm. No es necesario tener experiencia, sólamente disposición de divertirse, ¡y ensuciarse las manos!

Hike at Saddle Mountain Preserve with Open Space District @ Meeting at Rincon Valley Public Library

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 Sonoma County 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 4-5 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.

We will be meeting at Rincon Valley Public Library. For any other questions or concerns, please contact Tony Passantino by emailing tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.

Sign up for our emailing list to stay updated on future events: sonomaecologycenter.org/newsletters-sign-up.

Edible Plant Walk @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Kenwood | California | United States

UPDATE 3/10, 5:00 p.m.: This event has been postponed from 3/10 to 4/1 due to weather.

Join Certified California Naturalist Mary Good on a hike exploring the medicinal and edible plants of the park. Weaving in natural history, ethnobotany, herbalism and folktales, this walk will open your senses, as well as your curiosity to the abundance of plantlore in Sonoma County. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7.5 for students, youth (12-17 year olds), Sugarloaf members and Sugarloaf volunteers, and free for children under 12. Bring at least a quart of water and a snack and be prepared for a 2 to 3 mile walk with a 300 foot climb. Meet at the White Barn parking lot.

Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for two miles of leisurely walking and chatting over moderate and possibly muddy terrain. Heavy rains cancel; parking fees apply.

Edible plant information is for educational purposes only. Foraging is illegal in CA State Parks. 

For more events at Sugarloaf, visit our calendar.

Senderos semiacuáticos @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Kenwood | California | United States

NOTICIA (jueves, 9 de marzo): este evento ha sido pospuesto al sábado 1ro de abril, 10:00 a.m. a 12:00 p.m. debido al clima.
Sábado 28 de febrero, 2:00 -3:30pm
¡Salamandras, ranas y renacuajos, para esta caminata estaremos observando bocabajo! Ven a aprender acerca de los anfibios en Sugarloaf con nuestra Gerente de proyectos de investigación, Wendy Hayes. Tendremos la oportunidad de aprender como utilizar la aplicación móvil iNaturalist para ayudarnos a identificar especímenes que encontremos, así que cerciórate de que la batería de tu dispositivo esté cargada.

La ruta final será determinada ese día basado en el clima y las condiciones de los senderos. Nos reuniremos afuera del centro de visitantes. Los boletos cuestan $5 para adultos y son gratis para menores de 18 años. Regístrate por adelantado ya que el espacio es limitado y se llenará pronto. El estacionamiento, usualmente $10, es gratis para este evento.

Vístete en capas, y con calzado adecuado para senderos lodosos/resbaladizos, trae al menos un litro de agua, protección solar, y si deseas, un bocadillo. Sugerimos traer algo en que arrodillarse, y una guía de identificación de anfibios, si la tienes. También te invitamos a traer una taza para que tus pequeños disfruten de chocolate caliente después de la caminata.

Para más información, manda un correo electrónico a Alma o Arsel por senderos@sonomaecologycenter.org. Las lluvias fuertes posponen el evento al próximo fin de semana (4 de marzo).

Facilidad de acceso: no es posible saber la facilidad de acceso de este programa, ya que la ruta se decidirá el día del evento basada en las condiciones de los senderos y habilidad de los participantes.

Encuentra más oportunidades recreacionales a través del programa Senderos Naturales en ésta página
Para más eventos en Sugarloaf, visita nuestro calendario.

ENGLISH Semiaquatic Senderos (en español)
UPDATE: This event has been postponed to Sat, 4/1, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. due to weather.
Saturday, February 28, 2:00-3:30 pm
Salamanders, frogs, and tadpoles, for this hike we’ll be looking down low. Come learn about the amphibians of Sugarloaf with Wendy Hayes, Sonoma Ecology Center’s Research Project Manager. We’ll have opportunity to learn how to use iNaturalist to help us identify species we encounter, so make sure your mobile device battery is full.

The final route will be determined based on weather and trail conditions. Meet outside the Visitor Center. Tickets are $5 for adults and free for children under 18. Please register in advance, as space is limited. This event is planned around a primarily Latino audience. Families from underrepresented groups are encouraged to attend.

Wear layers, appropriate footwear for muddy/slippery trails, bring at least a quart of water, sun protection, and if desired, a snack. We suggest bringing something to kneel on and an amphibian identifying guide if you have one. We also encourage you to bring a reusable cup for your little ones to enjoy hot cocoa post hike.

For more information, e-mail Alma or Arsel at senderos@sonomaecologycenter.org. Heavy rains postpone the event to the following weekend (3/4).

Ease of access: we’re unable to determine ease of access as the route will be decided the day-of by the hike leader and other logistics (mud, small water crossings, slippery trails, etc).

Find more recreational opportunities through the Senderos Naturales program in this page.
For more events at Sugarloaf, visit our calendar.

Slow Journeys @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Kenwood | California | United States

Have you ever tasted a Douglas Fir needle or a California Laurel leaf? You will have opportunities to observe, smell, touch, taste, draw, and photograph some of the park’s offerings as we encounter, share, and discuss our interactions with nature. This interactive outing will all take place on flat paths and trails that are suitable for participants who bring strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, canes, or anyone with limited mobility. We will have a few stops of 5-10 minutes for nature journaling, sketching for kids, or photography, so bring your nature journal, camera, or binoculars, if you have them.

This outing will take place inside Sugarloaf Ridge SP’s campground. Limited parking for people with CA Disabled Placards, Plates, or stickers will be available in sites 6 and 7; please let us know at the time of sign up if you need this accommodation. If you don’t need accessible parking, please park at the main parking lot and meet us over at site 6. Tickets are $10 for general audiences, $5 for youth, students, Sugarloaf members, Sugarloaf volunteers, and free for children under 12. Wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing. Bring at least a quart of water and if desired, a snack.

Ease of access: The campground loop is a paved road with a slope of no more than 5°. Accessible parking is available within the campground at sites 6 and 7 for those who request it. Accessible bathrooms are available next to site #9, a few feet away from sites 6 and 7.

For more events at Sugarloaf, visit our calendar.


What would life be like thousands of years ago in Wilikos (today known as Sugarloaf Ridge SP)? How are the stories of the Wappo people in Wilikos continuing to evolve today? Join Desi Harp, Sugarloaf staff and member of the Mishewal-Wappo, and Breck Parkman, retired Superior Bay Area Archaeologist for California State Parks and former Sugarloaf resident, in this walk of storytelling and reflection through time.

Tickets are $15 for general audiences, $7.5 for youth (12-17 year olds) and students, Sugarloaf members, Sugarloaf volunteers, and free for children under 12. Meet at the White Barn. Wear appropriate clothing and comfortable footwear for two miles of leisurely walking and chatting. Heavy rains cancel; parking fees apply.

Ease of access: The White Barn parking area has one van-accessible designated parking spot and one accessible porta-potty. Although the rest of the parking area is not designated as accessible, it is an open dirt lot that can accommodate up to 40 vehicles. There is a flat, paved 1/4 road from the parking area to the Meadow Trail head. Meadow Trail is a fairly flat, composite gravel trail passable by strollers or wheelchair up to the bridge, about a mile in, but is not officially an ADA trail.

For more events at Sugarloaf, visit our calendar.

Full Moon Hike @ Sugarloaf Ridge State Park | Kenwood | California | United States

Bring a flashlight and your sense of wonder as you explore the park after dark. This hike begins at the White Barn and heads up to the viewpoint on Vista Trail, where we will see the moon rise over the Mayacamas and the sun set over Sonoma Valley.

This moderate-to-strenuous, 4-mile hike with 700ft of elevation is not recommended for children under 8.

Tickets are $10 general, and $5 for youth (12-17 year olds; must be accompanied by an adult), students, Sugarloaf members, Sugarloaf volunteers, and free for children 8-12. Be at the meeting location at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the hike for a prompt departure. Bring at least a quart of water, snacks, your flashlight, and extra layers for the evening. Parking fees apply.

For more events at Sugarloaf, visit our calendar.

Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve Walks 2023 @ Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve

Join Sonoma Ecology Center naturalists at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve for one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in all of Sonoma County. Experience a pristine spring grassland with numerous species in full bloom. The 162-acre property in the foothills of Sonoma Mountain is protected by a conservation easement made possible by your Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) and the California Wildlife Conservation Board. The property is managed under a partnership with the landowner and Sonoma Ecology Center to protect the Preserve’s unique plants, thriving streams, and wildlife habitat. 

This outing is a beginning-level walk over a gently sloped land. Most of the walk is through grassland, generally not on trails, so the footing can be uneven. The walk crosses a few small creek channels, which sometimes have shallow water with stepping stones. 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.

The dates for the Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve Walks 2023 are:

  • Friday, April 7, 5:00-7:30 pm
  • Sunday, April 16, 8:30-11:00 am
  • Friday, April 21, 1:00-3:30 pm
  • Sunday, April 30, 8:30-11:00 am
  • Saturday, May 6, 8:30-11:00 am


Please note that these popular walks fill to capacity on a first-come, first-served basis every year, so early registration is encouraged! Walks will go on in light rain, but heavy rains will cancel the walk. 

Registration is required. Directions and day-of-contact information will be emailed upon registration. For additional information or questions about the outing, please contact Tony Passantino at (707) 996-0712 ext. 124, or tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.

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.