The California Naturalist training is an innovative new program developed by the University of California Cooperative Extension to foster a committed corps of volunteer naturalists and citizen scientists trained and ready to take an active role in natural resource conservation, education, and restoration. This program provides an overview of California’s diverse ecology through a well-written and accessible workbook, as well as a more in-depth study of the ecology of the Central Coast through lectures and field trips. We anticipate that this 10 week course – with supplementary training that is specific to our Garden – will form the foundation of docent training here at the Garden.
There are Master Naturalist programs in 26 other states, but this is the first such program for California. Currently being piloted at four other sites around the state, SBBG offers this 10 week program in the Library and in our “outdoor classroom.” Trainees who would like to become certified SBBG Docents may complete their required 40 hours of volunteer service at the Garden, and will attend the class for a discounted fee. The course will be conducted in collaboration with a number of local partners including Sedgwick Reserve, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Arroyo Hondo Preserve, Lake Cachuma, the Channels Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and The Outdoor School. Together, we are creating a program in natural history and ecology that can serve as a shared experience for docents and volunteers for all of our organizations.
This program, however, will go well beyond training docents. It is a program geared to developing an appreciation and understanding of the natural world. In addition to being a great background for future docents, the course is an excellent introduction to becoming a “citizen scientist,” an amateur naturalist, or just an informed hiker. Additional components like iNaturalist will support Santa Barbara California Naturalists as they become connected with other trainees from around the state.