Walking around Cambria, you’ve learned the difference between a Monterey pine and a eucalyptus. Now, you can get certified as a California naturalist. Camp Ocean Pines, working with the University of California, has a program that covers local natural history with a marine science emphasis.
“It’s like an introduction to biology and ecology in one week,” said Duffy Burns, who was among the first group to take the course in February.
Burns, a former high school biology teacher, found the program, under the UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, dovetailed with his interests.
“I learned about the great technical resources in our local community,” he said “We have impressive local experts in a wide variety of fields here.”
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Chris Cameron, executive director of Camp Ocean Pines, earned his certificate on that initial class along with the other students. The course lasts seven days, Aug. 24-30. Class members take one or two field trips every day, from kayaking in the Morro Bay estuary to studying plankton in the water, sandy beach ecology in the intertidal zone and condors in the sky. Students keep naturalist journals, noting basic data and sharpening their observation skills.
We learned a lot about the special ecosystems we have here. By observing nature carefully, we can be more directly involved.
Duffy Burns, who took the course in February
“We learned a lot about the special ecosystems we have here,” Burns said. “By observing nature carefully, we can be more directly involved.”
Observations can be posted to iNaturalist, a citizen science website, http://bit.ly/2abZFn2. Camp Ocean Pines has its own page, but anyone can post observations of plants and animals anywhere. Students also post to LiMPETS, the Long Term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students.
The course requires a capstone project. Each student can pursue individual interests and contribute to the community’s resources. One member of the spring class, a Morro Bay bird photographer, created a folder of photos of birds of Camp Ocean Pines.
Through the course, Burns learned about local docent opportunities. He was already a docent for the Friends of the Elephant Seal. Now, he’s also a sea life steward.
Participants can stay at the camp with full room and board for $995. Those staying off-site pay $885, which includes breakfast the first day and all lunches and dinners. Four lower-division UC credits are available for an additional $80.
The text is the California Naturalist Handbook, which participants are asked to read before starting the course.
“We’re all together on this big planet with all its uniqueness, beauty and fragility,” Cameron said. “I’m so glad we will be working shoulder to shoulder, keeping it healthy for everyone!”
For more information and to sign up for the course, go to www.oceanpinesretreats.org/calnat/.