Naturalists are Everywhere in Santa Cruz County!

The naturalist community in Santa Cruz County is much bigger and more diverse than we imagined. While we intended to interview about 20 people for this project, we ended up engaging with nearly 100 community members and we only wish we could have interviewed more! We endeavored to incorporate their voices, their accomplishments, and their wisdom here on this website and in our in-person exhibit, which will hopefully open soon at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum in Felton. Our hope is that this project will help build stronger relationships among us all, including the vital work of mentoring the next generation of young naturalists.

Three big themes emerged from our interviews.  Some naturalists “Look” carefully at the nature around them. Some naturalists “Act” in response to their interactions with nature.  Some naturalists “Inspire” others to engage with nature.  Some combine all three. And some don’t fit in any of these three categories. Every person we interviewed for this exhibit had their own unique concept of a naturalist. What is yours?

This website and our exhibit are divided into three major parts:

The Naturalist Community in Santa Cruz County. This includes brief biographies of all the naturalists we interviewed as well as several more in-depth biographies of a smaller subset. We explore how the naturalist community is connected in Santa Cruz and some of the stages of what we call "The Naturalist Life Cycle". We divided this section into three parts: Look, Act, and Inspire!

Diversifying Naturalists.  This section includes a distillation of ideas we got from those we interviewed about how to sustain and expand the next generation of naturalists in our county and beyond.

Fred McPherson. Finally, we have developed several sections within Look, Act and Inspire devoted to Fred McPherson, an especially influential naturalist in the San Lorenzo Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Calendar of Events:

Stay tuned for updates about reserving a spot in our in-person exhibit at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum in Felton. As soon as county-level COVID restrictions allow, we will announce sign ups here, on the Norris Center's website, and through our email list. Email to be added to our email list if you aren't already.


May 6: Ethnobotany with Rick Flores

Please join us for a socially distanced event on May 6th at 10 AM at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum to learn more about the traditional ethnobotanic uses of native California flora. The event will be led by Rick Flores, Director of Horticulture and the Steward of the Amah Mutsun Relearning Program. Rick will take us on a walk around the California Conservation Gardens to show participants some of the ethnobotanical California flora and how they are traditionally used by the local Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. After the walk, attendees are welcome to walk around the Arboretum. You may want to bring water, a hat, walking shoes and sunscreen. All attendees 2+ years old must wear a face mask. Attendance is limited to 18 people. Register here.

May 19: Coast Redwoods and Fire with Zane Moore

The CZU Lightning Complex fires burned roughly 80% of the old growth redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains, notably including Big Basin, the largest contiguous stand of old growth redwoods south of Humboldt County. While it’s still unclear what the outcome of this fire complex will be, we can look to prior fires to see how the redwood trees might respond. Join us as we discuss what is known about redwoods and fire, from historic fire intervals, to fire adaptations, to tree-level physiological and anatomical responses. We’ll also explore how severely trees were burned using ground and satellite measurements and what we may expect forest recovery to look like. You can register here