Entries in Natural (13)


BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival

The three national park units that make up the Golden Gate National Parks encompass more than 80,000 acres and 91 miles of shoreline along the northern California coast. These parks are home to an amazing array of biodiversity, including over half of the bird species of North America and nearly one-third of California’s plant species!

To better understand, appreciate, and protect this natural treasure, the National Park ServiceNational GeographicGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust are teaming up to host a 24-hour BioBlitz species count and two-day Biodiversity Festival, Friday-Saturday, March 28-29, 2014.


BioBlitz 2014 will take place in several national parks, including Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and locations in Golden Gate National Recreation Area including the Giacomini wetlands, Muir BeachMarin Headlands, Crissy Field, Presidio, Mori Point, and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

The event will take place Friday-Saturday, March 28-29, 2014 and will bring together more than 300 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, thousands of local community members of all ages, and more than 2,000 students from across the Bay Area.

Throughout March, BioBlitz collaborating organizations such as the Institute at the Golden Gate, California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay, the American Cetacean Society, Marine Mammal Center, and Slide Ranch are hosting several BioBlitz-related events

Biodiversity Festival

The FREE Biodiversity Festival will take place at Crissy Field’s East Beach in the San Francisco Presidio, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 28, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. The festival features science demonstrations and exhibits, live animals, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, National Geographic-led photography workshops, food, entertainment, and art. Explorers of all ages can enjoy the festival and “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in a variety of activities.

All festival events are free and open to the public, and no registration is required.

Download the event schedule to learn more.

Update! I graduated with a Doctorate of Biodiversity from Biodiversity University! 


Citizen Science at the Academy

The California Academy of Sciences is partnering with iNaturalist to enlist an army of citizen scientists working toward conservation efforts. This Science Today video features several of the Academy's citizen science programs, a few of which I've been able to join. 

Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing crowdfunding. Formally, citizen science has been defined as "the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis."[1] Citizen science is sometimes called "public participation in scientific research."[2]

I'm particularly delighted to see my Rocky Shore Naturalist, iNaturalist, and Naturalist Center colleagues profiled prominently in the video.

Keep up the good work!


I'm a Rocky Shore Naturalist!

From March 2nd to May 11th, I've been training as a Rocky Shore Naturalist, a partnership program of the California Academy of Sciences and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary that trains volunteers to help protect intertidal areas through education, monitoring, and research. As part of the training, we had weekly classes, assigned readings, and three trips to the tidepools on field days.

In our training as naturalists, our group:

  1. Studied the natural history of tidepool animals and algae with Rebecca Johnson, Academy scientist;
  2. Joined the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and California Academy of Sciences volunteer corps;
  3. Leared monitoring techniques and participate in scientific research;
  4. Became a part of a larger citizen science community;
  5. Learned how to be the best stewards of tidepool habitats and how to convey stewardship messages to visitors; and
  6. Interacted with California Academy of Sciences visitors and visitors to the tidepools at Duxbury Reef in Marin County and Pillar Point in San Mateo County.

Now that our training is complete, my cohort will commit to volunteering at least once a month for a year. I'm going to volunteer as a docent at the Discovery Touch Tidepool at the Steinhart Aquarium and I hope to get involved in an exciting citizen science project soon!

Volunteer options include:
  1. Working as a roving naturalist at Duxbury Reef in Bolinas or Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay;
  2. Helping out with student intertidal monitoring at one of the beaches listed above;
  3. Working and talking to visitors to the Discovery Touch Tidepool at the Academy of Sciences;
  4. Participating in citizen science monitoring of invertebrates and algae;
  5. Counting visitors to the reef; and
  6. Other opportunities as they arise.

This experience was absolutely amazing! As I posted below, it also included an opportunity to participate in the BioCube project with David Liittschwager, an author and photographer working with National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution.

Enjoy the iPhone photos that I took during the field days in the album above. Special thanks to Rebecca Johnson for her excellent teaching and for inspiring the next cohort of Rocky Shore Naturalists to communicate ecological concepts, continue learning, share a love of tidpools with others, and volunteer to conserve them for future generations.

Want to join the fun?

My first gig as a Rocky Shore Naturalist will be on Sunday, May 19, 2013 at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in San Mateo County. I will be leading a group as a member of the steering committe at Bay Localize, an organization inspires and supports Bay Area residents in building equitable, resilient communities. Contact me for more information or to join us!



This weekend as part of the Rocky Shore Naturalist training program, I joined my colleagues from the California Academy of Sciences and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to welcome David Liittschwager, an author and photographer working with National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution.

David’s project is known as BioCube and its goals are document the biodiversity of one cubic foot of earth. With the help of his assistant, program participants, and several professional biologists to watch, count, and photograph the number of different living organisms that pass through a single cubic foot in a given habitat.

This weekend, we journeyed to Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, California, a rocky tidal area with amazing animal and plant life. We explored massive mussel beds and tidal pools that contained colorful starfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, abalone, crabs, snails, clams, nudibranchs, and a wide a variety of algae and sea grasses.

Throughout the day, we learned how to explain biodiversity concepts to fellow nature enthusiasts by encouraging them to think about the special ecosystem relationships and to cultivate a sense of place. One personal highlight was seeing an octupus for the first time in the wild!

David is also working with my colleagues at NatureBridge in the coming weeks to examine one cubic foot of Rodeo Pond and one cubic foot of terrestrial habitat along the South Lagoon Trail at our campus in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

I look forward to taking these lessons with me as I continue to develop my skills as a naturalist! 

BioCubes at the Pillar Point tide pools. © Adam C. Bad Wound.

David Liittschwager (right) assembles the BioCube. © Adam C. Bad Wound.











The Grove Field Guide

It's official!  I'm a certified naturalist!

This new certification course from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with expert instruction from the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), utilized a set science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service to engage a cohort of environmental stewards in interactive learning for stronger scientific literacy and critical thinking skills.

It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn how to communicate essential scientific concepts, understand ecological and social relationships, and explore the linked cultural and natural heritage of people and place.

The course requirements included:

  • 20 hours of volunteering
  • 10 weekly lectures (each split with a set science curriculum and a featured guest speaker)
  • 3 postings to (I almost became addicted to the impressive platform and completed 119 postings!)
  • 3 Saturday hikes to collect observations in a field notebook
  • A capstone (final) project

For my project, I held a bio-blitz at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park (full disclosure: I'm on The Grove's Board of Directors). I then uploaded the photos that I took on my iPhone to iNaturalist and created an online "project" to work with a virtual community of volunteers to identify the plants in each photo. With the descriptions given to me from volunteers that I interviewed and via iNaturalist, I then crafted a publication, The Grove Field Guide, and published it here on my website, available for immediate access and downloadable in multiple formats.

Generally, the feedback I've gotten on the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course, I'm not trained as a botanist and, at times, the project was much more difficult than I expected. That said, I completed the project with a new perspective and stronger confidence in - at the very least - taking the time to observe my surroundings and to learn more about the unique blend of natural and cultural heritage here in the diverse and bio-diverse State of California.

I presented the project on September 12, 2012 and graduated from the program. I hope to participate in the advanced trainings offered in the future and perhaps in a citizen science project. I also hope to keep volunteering with SPAWN and to share my guide with visitors to The Grove, perhaps at one of our monthly community volunteer workdays. Join me for a nature walk?

Many thanks to the expert instructors at SPAWN, my remarkable classmates, and to the University of California for providing this new program 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.

Photo credit: Dr. Christopher Pincetich


What it Means to be Native

One of my classmates in the California Naturalist program, Francis Mendoza, wrote an article for his capstone project, “What it Means to be Native” in Tidal Tales, the newsletter of the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center. In my own capstone project, I’ve been thinking about what it means (mostly for plants) to be indigenous/native, introduced/non-native, naturalized, invasive, and/or ornamental - to name a few of the terms used to describe the ecological characteristics of the species living in a given habitat. Defining these concepts reminds me of parallels to the various human definitions of place of origin, adaptation, inhabitation, colonization, and immigration.

From my understanding, the naturalist and scientific communities usually mean something very specific when they refer to native and invasive species. Usually, invasives are the worst because they adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically.

Checkout the article – it’s a good reminder that our cultural heritage and natural heritage are fundamentally linked.

What it Means to be Native
By Francis Mendoza
California Naturalist Certificate Candidate

We’ve all heard the term “native” used to describe plants, animals, and even people. But what does it really mean to be native? You’ve also probably heard of native plant societies, native animal habitats, and native plant restorations, but why place so much importance on where things are from? Aren’t non-native animals and plants just as important as native animals and plants?

Many people are forced to answer this question when they try to alert park rangers of an injured animal they see on the trail. Some park agencies have the policy of only rescuing and treating native animals.

So if you’re a gray fox or snowy egret and you get stuck in the mud or injure your leg, chances are you’ll find yourself rescued or even in the cozy confines of an animal hospital, such as Sulphur Creek Nature Center. However, if you’re a red fox or European starling, you’ll probably have to fend for yourself.

It may seem cruel to do so, but this distinction has helped to focus limited park resources on native animals and plants, such as gray foxes and California sea lavender. Despite such park policies, many animal volunteer from Sulphur Creek are still willing and able to rescue non-native animals. Still, the question begs to be answered, who determines whether or not the life of native gray fox is more important than that of nonnative red fox?

To help answer this question, we have to look at the natural and cultural history of both species and where they originate from. Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) range from as far north as southern Canada and as far south as the northern part of South American, with origins are in the Western Hemisphere. Despite this extensive range, their numbers are dwindling because they are being outcompeted by the larger, more aggressive red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

Red foxes originated in Europe and Asia and found their way to the Western Hemisphere through one of two ways: through the Bering Strait land bridge connecting modern-day Russia and Alaska tens of thousands of years ago, or purposely introduced into the “New World” for the lucrative fur trade and game hunting. Red foxes are now found virtually all over the world, and have been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

Not only do red foxes out compete gray foxes for food, resources, and shelter, they are also a major reason why the native California clapper rail is on the endangered species list. As a top predator in the salt marsh, the red fox preys heavily upon the clapper rail, the species of bird we proudly display on our building logo. Coupled with habitat destruction and the seemingly ubiquitous presence of a non-native plant called Atlantic cordgrass, the California clapper rail is an unfortunate example of a native animals being threatened by both non-native animals AND plants.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that Atlantic cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) was introduced to the west coast of the United States from the east coast for restoration purposes. In the 1970’s, well-meaning restoration biologists used the plant to restore wetlands all along the Pacific Coast, but it has served to do the opposite: growing thick patches of dense vegetation that outcompete native plants and inhibit native plant habitat - habitat ideal for the California clapper rail.

Despite their good intentions, the introduction of Atlantic cordgrass by restoration “experts” forty years ago has been quite detrimental to the ecology of the marsh. Unfortunately, it’s been a long part of our human history to introduce plants for our benefit, regardless of the damage it might do to the local ecology. The Spanish missionaries planted European black mustard to satiate their appetite and to mark trails between missions. Gold Rush prospectors purposely planted sharp, invasive thistle to prevent other prospectors from encroaching onto their territory. As a result, the shoreline is littered with mustard and thistle plants. The damage is seemingly done, but is there anything we can do?

Join us for our monthly Weekend Weed Warrior program to help rid the shoreline of invasive plants such as mustard, thistle, and ice plant. Over the past few months, the non-native Algerian Sea Lavender (Limoneum ramosissimum) has been detected along the shoreline, and volunteers at the Bay Area Early Detection Network and East Bay Regional Park District rangers have been hard at work trying to get rid of the Algerian sea lavender out-competing the native California sea lavender for space, water, and sunlight.

Native plants are not only beneficial to salt marsh ecology, but can also help save plants, and attract a host of native animals such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects. So join a native plant society, accompany us on one of our native plant restorations, or learn how to identify a native plant from a non-native one. It’s time we all went native; our wetlands can’t afford us not to.


Naturalist Certification

Summer 2012 University of California Naturalist Certification cohort. Photo credit: Dr. Christopher Pincetich.Many of my current professional and personal projects involve translating scientific research and STEM education programs into key deliverables, such as grant proposals, reports, and fundraising case statements. I communicate to diverse audiences, from established scientific research and government agencies, to philanthropic foundations and the general public.

To become better at communicating science, I’ve enrolled to become a Certified Naturalist from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program "utilizes a science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service to engage adults in interactive learning and provides them with scientific literacy and critical thinking skills."

I'm also excited about becoming certified because I'll be able to participate in a wide variety of citizen science programs, including those at the Academy's Naturalist Center. This certification and these programs are part of a growing field of public participation in scientific research (PPSR), in which members of the public engage in the process of scientific investigations:  asking questions, collecting data, and/or interpreting results.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program and be sure to follow the "Green Blog" - it's highly informative and effectively uses stunning visual images.


Prepare To Be Moved!

Don’t miss Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet, a major new exhibit and planetarium show at the California Academy of Sciences. Take a kinetic journey toward understanding these super seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing Earth.

Visitors enter through an oversized crack into a 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth to find touchable geology specimens and interactive stations explaining the basics of plate tectonics. The exhibit highlights how the same earth processes that cause destructive earthquakes in the human timescale can also provide constructive conditions for life in the geological timescale. Live ostriches, ancient fossils, plants, and mounted marsupials (mammals with pouches) illustrate the shared legacy of India, Antarctica, Australia, South America, and Africa, which were once joined together.

The exhibit features an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home in San Francisco transports you back to 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989 – the date and time of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake. A sudden sustained tremor, followed by a brief aftershock, will give visitors a sense of what this ground-jolting event felt like.

Finally, hands-on activities address what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.

You might be asking, "What do baby ostriches have to do with earthquakes?" Well, as flightless birds found on multiple continents that were formerly connected, they demonstrate how techtonic shifts have separated them across vast oceans. Plus, they engage the public in learning more about science because they're so darn cute!

The exhibit is now open!  Brace Yourself!


Traditional Ecological Knowledge

I recently watched this video (below) from Bioneers about traditional ecological knowledge. The mission of Bioneers is to inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

The Bioneers Indigeneity Program works to promote indigenous leaders and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a critical path to support all people in learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes and reconnect to place-based ways.  Native peoples are keepers of the earth's "old growth" cultures, living in harmony with their Native environments for thousands of years.  This indigenous science offers a different way of knowing that provides a crucial complement to the tools of western science.

Over the last decade, Bioneers commitment to indigenous peoples' social and ecological issues has brought together some of the greatest indigenous leaders of our time in one place. 

I originally wanted to post a presentation by Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), a cultural ecologist, scholar-activist, writer and media-maker, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and the President of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native American nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands. She is the editor of the Bioneers anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future and producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Salt Song Trail. She is the co-founder/co-producer of the Indigenous Forum at Bioneers and co-founder of the new Bioneers Indigeneity Program as well as serving on Bioneers’ board.

However, they password protected the video (why do they not want to share this?!?!), so I removed the link.  Hopefully, Bioneers will be more share-friendly in the future.


My New Favorite Gift Shop

As a nonprofit professional at a major tourist attraction, I always like to see what kinds of products are available in the gift shops of other public destinations. This past weekend, I went to Muir Woods National Monument with some visitors from France and found the art instillation in the gift shop to be one of the most fascinating wood carvings that I've ever seen! 

Carved into a single redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), is a timeline of humanity that flows, from left to right, in order:

Inhabitation -> Colonization -> Exploitation -> Conservation -> Recreation

I took these shots on my iPhone, so please forgive the poor quality.

Cool, huh?