Presentations in the meadow and chaparral of Pepperwood Preserve; sketch by KAnandakuttan, May 19, 2012

On a sunny day at Pepperwood Preserve in Sonoma County, students– new naturalists– spoke of seed banks and fire cycles in the chapparal, birds’ feet, native bees and flowers that change color, grasses which do and don’t belong here, leaf phenology and birds’ nests. Thanks to the instructor, biologist Shawn Brumbaugh, for inviting me. This was the final day of the California naturalist program offered by Santa Rosa Junior College (it fulfills requirements for the UC Master Naturalist Certificate).

Students have met at Pepperwood over the last couple months to gather data in journals, and learn from experts about botany, invertebrate and vertebrate zoology, ecology– and before that in the fall, geology and hydrology. They have become familiar with the natural history of this part of California, and gained skills they can use to explore anywhere. More and more people, scientists included, are interested in the interdisciplinary study of nature by “citizen scientists.”

I had the opportunity to meet with this group and teach a little of what I know too, introducing biological illustration and  field sketching techniques that might be useful to someone keeping a field journal full of notes and data.

The Dwight Center, Pepperwood

Some great resources were mentioned in the course of the presentations:

Re: bees and pollinators:,, Gordon Frankie (UC Berkeley), and

and fire: John McPhee’s 1989 book “The Control of Nature”

Pepperwood Preserve’s own website is

UC California Master Naturalist Program website: