California Naturalist

California Naturalist Program

University of California Cooperative Extension developed California Naturalist 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. Sagehen was an early beta-tester, and we continue to work closely with UCANR to develop new formats for this public certification program. Several of our freshly-minted California Naturalists developed and manage a public volunteer program at Sagehen, including our annual BioBlitz events.

Aspiring Naturalists enroll in a 40-hour course that combines classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. Class and field sessions are taught by local experts in the fields of: ecology, geology, plants, animals, climate, global environmental issues, energy, water, forests, and interpretation. Participants gain knowledge about the unique natural history of California with a focus on the Northern Sierras and Lake Tahoe Basin.

Collaborators include: UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC); Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS); Sugar Pine Foundation; UC Cooperative Extension Central Sierra; League to  Save Lake Tahoe; Sierra Watershed Education Partnership (SWEP), and others.

Program Goals

  • To promote environmental literacy and stewardship of California’s natural resources
  • To increase participation in resource conservation and citizen science projects throughout the state
  • To develop a core constituency of committed and educated citizens willing and able to participate in resource conservation, preservation, and restoration efforts
  • To provide participants with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to educate others and participate in many aspects of resource management, such as public education, resource planning and public decision-making
  • To provide the communication experience and critical thinking skills necessary to grow a citizen base that supports environmental protection and sustainable growth in California
  • To support partner organizations as they implement the program

Benefits to the Participant

  • A new appreciation for and knowledge of California‚Äôs unique ecology and natural history
  • Opportunities for personal and professional growth
  • New skills for volunteer and professional enrichment
  • Special knowledge of and access to local resources, ecology and natural areas
  • Access to new venues for creative and hobby activities such as bird watching, sketching, photography, etc.
  • Fellowship from other California Naturalist participants throughout the state
  • The excitement of being part of the venerable tradition of naturalists throughout history and an innovative new program for natural resource stewardship.

Course Format

This summer, Sagehen will offer our California Naturalist training as a One-Week Adult Immersion Course: a residential week at the Field Station.

Other Housing Options

There are no private rooms at the field station, but course participants may bring a tent and camp on site if preferred. There is no discount for camping, since you will still be using all other station facilities. Course participants may not cook for themselves, nor opt out of catering. Please note dietary preferences on the registration form. Hotels in nearby Truckee, CA are an option for participants who require more amenities, but travel time of at least 1/2-hour each way will take away from valuable informal networking and field experience, not to mention sleep. The course consists of very full days and summer road work delays are always a factor, so we discourage this option.

Pack list

In addition to course materials described below, see our list of what you need to bring for your stay at Sagehen.

Course Textbook and Other Required Materials

Students need to purchase a field journal and the course text: The California Naturalist Handbook (30% discount code here). Please complete pre-course reading assignments: there will not be enough free time during the course to catch up from behind! Students should bring their textbook and field journal to every class and field trip session. Please bring your smartphone with the iNaturalist app installed and activated with your account. Participants may also find a small 10x hand lens and binoculars useful, but they are not required.

More information:

Questions? Contact the Course Coordinator:

Lynn Hori (email: