Sustaining our state’s natural rersources requires an understanding of science, adaptive management, and cooperation among diverse interests groups. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden can not protect and restore California’s unique ecology without an environmentally literate and engaged public, active in service learning and participatory research. Our challenge has been to identify a cost-effective system for training citizen science volunteers who will be our ambassadors for translating environmental stewardship information to the broader public.
The University of California Cooperative Extension’s (UCCE) California Naturalist training curriculum addresses this need. Modeled after successful programs in 26 states, California Naturalist uses a science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service opportunities to engage adults in enviornmental education. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden would be the first Central Coast organization to sponsor this innovative, 10-week volunteer training program.
Program Goals and Outcomes
The Garden’s goal in adopting the California Naturalist Training Program is to increase volunteering in citizen science, interpretation, restoration, educational program support (including schools, community outreach, treail blazer hikes and field trips), and stewardship of our local ecosystems. This new program will be complimentary to our existing Master Gardener Program and will offer efficient, in-depth training to adults interested in playing active roles in California natural resource conservation, education and restoration.
The Garden is currently implementing a pilot California Naturalist traing program for 32 participants in 2012. With funding assistance, we will officially launch the program in 2013. Anticipated outcomes from 2013 California Naturalist Program are:
1. 90% of the program graduates (29 out of each class of 32) will complete the required 40 hours of annual community volunteer service in one of the following areas:
• Scientific research—plant identification or data collection
• Environmental monitoring—bird counts, stream sampling, invasive species monitoring
• Restoration or conservation plans—seed collection, native plant propagation and planting
• Education—becoming Docents, developing instructional materials, leading nature hikes, and other community outreach activities.
2. Our graduates will be encouraged to volunteer at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or at one of our nine local partner organizations. Partner organizations must have conservation and education missions and offer supervised volunteer opportunities in one or more of four program focus areas. Partnering organizations are listed later in this request.
Total program cost: $32,000