Art is an expression of creativity, a conveyance of beauty, and for naturalists, it is a way to process, remember and interpret nature.
Many branches of nature art are popular, such as photography, painting and sketching. The UC California Naturalist Regional Rendezvous in October introduced an old but uncommon method for documenting natural objects – cyanotype.
At the CalNat Rendezvous at the Pepperwood Preserve, Santa Rosa artist Jessica Layton taught the cyanotype process to volunteers certified by the UC California Naturalist program, giving them a new tool to use in educating and engaging children and adults in conservation organizations they work with around the state.
The cyanotype process begins by mixing two chemicals - ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide – to create the blue photo reactive solution. The chemicals may be purchased at art stores and online by searching for cyanotype solutions.
Once blended, the chemicals are painted on paper or cotton cloth and allowed to dry. Leaves, grasses, seeds, pine cones, flowers, stones – any number of natural objects collected outside may be artfully arranged on the blue background and, if needed, held in place with a pane of glass.
The project is then set out in bright sunlight for 5 to 7 minutes, brought back inside to be washed in clean water and allowed to dry. The areas of the paper or cloth exposed to the sun are a radiant lapis blue; the areas that were shaded by the natural objects appear in silhouette.
“I have come to appreciate art as a way to improve observation skills and deepen an appreciation for nature,” Merenlender said. “We offered this session to our volunteers for them to improve their capacity and become better naturalists.”
Latino youth participation in 4-H is on the rise, according to a report on the first year of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' three-year 4-H Latino Initiative.
Increasing Latino participation in 4-H has been a priority for some time. Over the last five years, participation in 4-H increased 41 percent; Latino participation increased 173 percent. While growing, the fraction of 4-H members who are Latino still falls below their proportion of the state's population.
“We're just getting started in implementing a new statewide comprehensive plan to reach Latino youth,” said Lupita Fabregas, assistant director for 4-H diversity and expansion. “We know 4-H helps prepare kids for success in college and life. We're thrilled to be involving more Latinos.”
When 4-H was formed 100 years ago, it was an educational club for farm kids. Often seen in spotless white and kelly green garments, participants raised animals, gardened, cooked and sewed while learning leadership and public speaking skills. In the latter half of the 20th century, when California became more urbanized, 4-H began adding education in broader program areas, such as rocketry, robotics, computer science and environmental stewardship.
California demographics were also changing. The state became more ethnically diverse. In 2014, Latinos surpassed whites as the largest ethnic group. But they weren't reaping the benefits of 4-H membership at the same rate.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) the 4-H parent organization in California, researched the reasons for low Latino 4-H membership, and realized there were opportunities to develop new program models and methods to reach minority populations without changing the 4-H core values.
“As an organization, we identified the values and core elements of 4-H that make us unique,” said Shannon Horrillo, UC ANR statewide 4-H director. “We decided that no matter how we adapted the program, we would not stray from those foundational elements.”
Core elements include youth leadership, youth-adult partnerships, life skills learning, community service and service learning, the 4-H Pledge, and well-known 4-H name and green four-leaf clover emblem. It became apparent that some of the requirements that were part of the community club tradition – such as the required meeting attendances, parliamentary procedures and officer structure – were barriers to extending the program to a more diverse population.
“We can be more flexible in how the program looks and in requirements while maintaining what has made 4-H an impactful program for more than 100 years,” Horrillo said.
New club models were launched, including special interest clubs (called SPIN clubs), in-school clubs and after-school clubs.
4-H membership began looking a lot more like the highly diverse citizenry in the state's densely populated cities. In 2016, UC ANR allocated funds to employ bilingual 4-H community education specialists in seven California counties for three years to further boost Latino participation. The specialists are making a concerted effort to reach out to Latino youth, parents, community leaders, schools, churches and other organizations to extend 4-H programming to wider and more diverse audiences in Kern, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties.
“Our staff are making strides in adapting 4-H to be culturally relevant for Latino youth,” Fabregas said. “This work will help all youth feel welcome, appreciated and valued in 4-H programs.”
The new effort will include a fundraising program to maintain and expand the emphasis on Latino outreach after the current three-year funding period concludes. The UC ANR Development office is working with the 4-H Latino Initiative to develop a plan to combine local fundraising, grant awards, contracts with schools and agencies, and foundation and private gifts to keep the program going beyond the current three-year term.
“Though the progress to date has been significant, we know that we'll need to hire more community educators to strengthen our resources if we're going to bring 4-H to a great number of Latinos,” said Andrea Ambrose, UC ANR director of development.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has local fire recovery and mitigation resources available to the public in wildfire-prone counties.
Links to all the sites have been aggregated on a UC ANR story map - https://arcg.is/0SWyW8. This story map may be freely shared on websites and social media. (Find the share URL and the embed code by clicking the share icon on the upper right hand corner of the story map.)
Local UC Cooperative Extension fire resources websites listed on the story map are:
The following general information on wildfire recovery is available for those who were directly impacted by the wildfire.
Don't get burned twice (pdf)
The site also provides information for those whose homes were spared in 2017, but now wish to take precautions to reduce the risk of wildfire damage in the future.
UC ANR wildfire experts are stationed around the state and can answer questions on a diversity of issues related to the prevention, impacts, aftermath, and generally, the science of wildfire in California.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is a division of the University with scientists based on three UC campuses and in UC Cooperative Extension offices serving all California counties. UC ANR conducts research and shares research-based information with the public about wildfire, agricultural production, environmental stewardship, water policy, youth development and nutrition.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension weed specialist at UC Riverside
Management of invasive plants that introduce or alter fire regimes
UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley
Land change science including fire and land use planning
Mike De Lasaux
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor for Plumas and Sierra counties
Wildfire fuel reduction on small forest parcels, forestry and watershed management
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor for Los Angeles and Ventura counties
Plant arrangement, building design and maintenance to reduce fire risk, invasive weeds and pests contributing to fire risk
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resource monitoring specialist
Geographic information science, mapping forests
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor in the Central Sierra
Fire adapted communities, fire hazard mitigation in forests, post fire restoration
“Living with Fire in the Tahoe Basin” website, http://www.livingwithfire.info/tahoe/
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor
Desert species, invasive plants and fire
Professor of earth sciences, UC ANR Agricultural Experiment Station, UC Riverside
Fire ecology of Southern California, Baja California, and temperate Mexico; exotic plant invasions, climate change.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension wildfire specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. He is located in Santa Barbara County.
Wildland fire, fire modeling, fire effects, shrubland ecosystems and spatial patterns of fire disturbance, climate change adaptation
Associate professor of Forest Ecology, UC ANR ecologist
UC Cooperative Extension Area fire advisor - Northern California
Fire ecology and management
Plant pathology professor, UC ANR pathologist
Fire and infectious disease
UC ANR Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor
Public participation in resource management
UC Cooperative Extension area forestry and natural resources advisor in Shasta, Trinity and Siskiyou counties
Forest management and wood use
Environmental science professor at UC Davis and UC ANR ecologist
Forest plot mapping
UC ANR Cooperative Extension area natural resources wildlife specialist for Southern California
Conservation of wildlife, wildlife management at the urban-wildland interface, and response of plants and animal species to fire
Professor of fire science and co-director Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley, UC ANR fire scientist
Fire ecology, fire behavior, wildfire, fuels treatments, forest mortality, fire policy
UC ANR Cooperative Extension forestry specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and co-director Center for Fire Research and Outreach
Economics of fire prevention and fire suppression programs
UC ANR Cooperative Extension forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and member of the Northern California Fire Science Consortium hub
Home and landscape design considerations for wildfire, prescribed fire, forest health and prescribed fire, wildfire and fuels in redwood, Douglas-fir and tanoak forests, fire education
UC Cooperative Extension forestry/fire science and natural resources advisor
Sutter, Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties
Fire ecology and management, fuels treatments and fire policy
Knowing the names of trees is a point of pride for many California Naturalists. So a walk among the diversity of oaks at the Pepperwood Preserve left many feeling humbled.
The three-hour excursion was part of the UC California Naturalist Regional Rendezvous in October at the 3,200-acre nature preserve nestled in the foothills between Napa Valley and Santa Rosa.
Excursion leader Steve Barnhart, academic director emeritus at Pepperwood, said there are 500 oak species in the world; 21 in California. But cohabitating on the rolling hills and valleys of the Golden State, many oaks have produced hybrids that combine characteristics, making identification challenging.
Doctoral candidate Phrahlada Papper, who is studying oak tree genetics, said, “I'm of the mind that you shouldn't ever name an oak.”
Even the tan oak, long thought to be misnamed, is coming under new scrutiny.
“It's not an oak,” Barnhart said. “It has acorns, male and female flowers on the same stalk, but tan oaks are insect pollinated. True oaks are wind pollinated. Tan oaks are closer to chestnuts.”
But Papper raised his hand. “Genetically, it might be an oak,” he said.
Barnhart laughed. “So tan oak is up in the air. That's why it's so much fun to be in science,” he said. “I learned something today.”
In popular culture, oaks are thought to be majestic, towering trees, with wide spreading branches. However, Barnhart said, most California oaks are shrubs, including the leather oak.
Leather oaks grow in serpentine soils and have the ability to produce two types of flowers, one in the spring and another quite different in the fall. Leather oaks are monoecious, they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. On a particular leather oak at Pepperwood, Papper was surprised to find male and female flower parts in one bract and surmised that weather patterns may be responsible.
“California has weird weather and with climate change, it's getting even more weird,” Papper said.
Papper believes tracking phenology, the cyclic and seasonal changes in plants, is an ideal citizen science project for California Naturalists. One such project underway at Pepperwood is led by Wendy Herniman. A University of Edinburgh, Scotland, master's student, Heniman is documenting the phenology of 10 Pepperwood oak trees: 2 blue oaks, 3 coast live oaks, 2 black oaks and 3 Oregon oaks.
“Pepperwood is looking at climate change. It's a designated sentinel site. We're monitoring fog, we have soil probes, and we're collecting all weather and climate information. We can tie that to phenology,” she said. “We're trying to find out if phenophases are changing.”
Understanding the changing phenophases is important, Barnhart said.
“Everything is connected,” he said. “If acorns are produced early, animals species that depend on the food source will be disrupted. You have imbalances in the timing of the natural world. With climate change, what are the effects we'll be seeing?”