A message from Dr. Dan Levitis, Community Science Coordinator

Sonoma Ecology Center is committed to helping diverse scientists overcome the barriers our persistently unlevel world puts in their paths. This is what motivates our New Ecological Scientist Training (NEST).

NEST is an ecological research course that is not designed to teach ecology, but to equip sharp aspiring ecologists with connections, confidence, and a scientific publication that will land them that scholarship, grad school mentor, job, and influence. We hand students the chance to demonstrate their merit in ways academia finds hard to ignore.

The heart of the course is walking small teams of students through the process of designing, carrying out, writing up, and publishing their own original research in the peer-reviewed literature. We recruit students from groups traditionally excluded from science and parks, and train them to be the next generation of ecological scientists and land managers. NEST is taught at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, which we manage (with other nonprofits) for the State.

We are currently training our first group of eight NEST students. All would be unable to afford an experience like NEST if it was paid for by the students, and all feel strongly that publishing their own original science will help them build careers where they can take leadership in their field, and diversify it. Taught by SEC’s Dr. Dan Levitis, they are surpassing our high expectations. SEC will be featuring some of them, and their perspectives, in this space in the coming weeks.

Both groups have designed their own research into aspects of fire ecology at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, which burned in both 2017 and 2020. They will submit their manuscripts for publication by the end of May.

NEST this spring has generously been supported by Parks California, California State Parks Foundation, Rotary of Kenwood and Glen Ellen, and numerous private donors. We are currently raising funds to offer NEST again in summer of 2021, and twice per year thereafter, to continue launching a diverse flock of new ecological scientists.


Dr. Dan Levitis
Community Science Coordinator