The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden recently celebrated its first graduating class of “Citizen Scientists,” 32 folks who completed classes offered through the garden’s partnership with the California Naturalist Program. The courses, which educate participants on Santa Barbara ecology during the 10-week session, combine science curriculum and hands-on learning to turn area residents into near experts on caring for the land.
The California Naturalist Program is part of the nationwide Master Naturalist Program, which exists in 27 states. Other than the S.B. Botanic Garden, there are only four other locations for it throughout California, and the citizen scientist program — in partnership with the UC Cooperative Extension — is the only one on the Central Coast.
Citizen scientists spend their time inside and outside the classroom learning about geology, climate, native plants and wildlife, and natural history specific to the Santa Barbara area. Instructors from Sedgwick Reserve, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Arroyo Hondo, Lake Cachuma, and UCSB’s Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration all lend their expertise.
“We were a natural fit because we already had instructors and a program here that really focuses on connecting people with plants,” said Judy Sanregret, the Botanic Garden’s director of education. “We were really honored to be chosen to be the organization that would be able to teach the California Naturalist program.”
While the program is used in part to train those interested in becoming Botanic Garden docents, anyone is welcome to participate. The program costs $150 for docents-in-training, and $300 for everyone else.