8/02 First Friday After Hours | Fire

Get to know Santa Cruz’s WILD SIDE at the Museum of Natural History. Nerd out on your night out during monthly after hours events, featuring rotating themes, vendors, and activities. Free admission to the Museum all day 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with special outdoor festivities 5-8 p.m.

August’s First Friday explores the hot topic of fire in Santa Cruz County. Reflect on the four years since the CZU Lightning Complex Fires with local community groups that steward our open spaces and who can share their hot take on fire. Enjoy special exhibits at the Museum including Cotoni-Coast Dairies: Monumental Steps and our August exhibit pop-up featuring work by artist Donna Thomas created for the Big Basin Art About Project.

Friday, August 2, 2024
5-8 p.m.
Location: Outside the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Community Groups & Vendors:

  • Areperia 831
  • Handmade wooden goods by Ferd Bergholz
  • Henry Cowell Redwood State Park
  • Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
  • Santa Cruz Fire Department
  • National Weather Service
  • Central Coast Prescribed Burn Association
  • and more!


  • Drop-by anytime 5-8 p.m. to join the festivities!
  • Admission to the Museum is free all day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Follow the latest guidelines for health and safety.
  • Restrooms and water fountains are available inside the Museum.
  • Booths and activities will be on somewhat lumpy grass outdoors.

(Sold Out) 07/27 Paleontology Expedition: The Fossils of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind opportunity to participate in a hands-on paleontological scientific research expedition!

Guided by paleontologist Wayne Thompson, travel back in time to experience the Santa Cruz Sandhills and learn about the prehistoric life forms of the ancient Monterey Bay area. Participants will search, excavate, and discover the fossilized remains of ancient creatures unearthed in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Explore areas of the Santa Margarita Formation that are otherwise off limits to the general public and experience parts of the rarely seen ocean sediment rock layer formed over 10 million years ago! 

Open to ages 14+

Instructors: Wayne Thompson, Qualified Principal Paleontologist & Audrelina Mendiola-Arriola, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County

Tour Size: 25 Participants

Date: 7/27/24

Time: 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Location: Due to the sensitive research currently taking place at the location of this tour, the address will remain private, only to be disclosed to registered participants.

Tour Fee: Youth(14-18): $64 / Adult: $69 – Museum Members receive a discounted price at checkout.

What to Expect:  

  • Exact meet-up location will be shared upon registration. 
  • Terrain is sandy and mostly flat. 
  • Please bring a chair, stool, or knee pad. Otherwise be prepared for prolonged standing or sitting on the sandy soil. 
  • Binoculars, a hand-held magnifying lens, and a camera are optional, but recommended. 
  • There are no restrooms or facilities at this location. 
  • Wear layers, comfortable shoes, and bring any snacks you might need. Carrying water is highly recommended. There is no shade coverage in the area — bring adequate sun protection. 
  • Pets must remain at home. 
  • If you need to cancel, refunds will be offered up to 4 days before the start of the event.

7/20 Saturdays in the Soil

We are coming together as a community to steward Tyrrell Park through the City’s Adopt-A-Park program. At the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, you gain new wisdom about local ecology, native plants, and sustainable gardening while connecting with nature outdoors. It’s time to get your hands dirty! Join us and volunteer in the Museum’s Garden Learning Center and Pilkington Creek.

Saturday, July 20, 2024 | 10 a.m. to noon
Every third Saturday at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

Email volunteer@santacruzmuseum.org to RSVP. Space is limited.

What to Expect

  • This project requires volunteer support with general landscaping, occasional watering, weeding, and replanting.
  • Please let us know if you need special accommodations when you email to RSVP.
  • This program happens rain or shine, but we will cancel in the case of muddy conditions or inclement weather.
  • All ages are welcome; children under 14 require adult supervision. Volunteers under 18 require a parent/guardian to sign waivers.
  • Please follow latest guidelines for covid safety at the time of the program.

7/20 Summer Fun Festival

Celebrate summer in Santa Cruz! This annual festival promises to be a day of nature-filled family fun — both out in the sunshine and within our Museum galleries.

🦉 Live animals
🎶 Live music
🥙 Food trucks
🎨 Nature Crafts
🔬 Science activities
…and more!

Saturday, July 20, 2024
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Free admission to the Museum and outdoor festivities!

Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
1305 E. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz, CA

Entertainment in the Amphitheater

11:00-12:00 Live animal presentation with Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center
12:30-01:15 Live music with Moshe V
01:45-02:45 Live animal presentation with Full Circle Falconry

Community Groups and Vendors

Areperia 831
El Buen Taco Food Truck
Santa Cruz Fungi
Santa Cruz Public Libraries
Friends of Juristac
Natural Bridges State Park
Coastal Watershed Council
Save Our Shores
Sea Otter Savvy
Watsonville Wetlands Watch
Ecology Action
The Bird School Project
City of Santa Cruz Recycling Center
…and more!

1/12-1/14 50th Anniversary Santa Cruz Fungus Fair

The wait is over! After a three-year hiatus, we are thrilled to announce that the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair is returning to London Nelson this January. The Museum is proud to be co-presenting this 50th Anniversary celebration with the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz who helped us launch the inaugural event at the Museum in 1974. Together we’re bringing back this unique Santa Cruz institution for what we hope is its best year yet!

Mark your calendars for January 12-14, 2024 and visit ffsc.us for more information.

Thank you to our sponsors Peninsula Open Space Trust and Hilltromper.

About the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair

Come to Santa Cruz and explore the facinating world of Fungi. Learn interesting and fun facts about the hundreds of beautiful and fascinating species of mushrooms found in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay Area. Fungi will be beautifully displayed in a re-created woodland habitat. This unique Santa Cruz tradition features three days of fantastic fun, informative speakers and demonstrations, with fungal activities for the whole family.

The Fungus Fair is held each year in January in Santa Cruz at the London Nelson Community Center. This three day event features hundreds of species of local fungi presented in a unique fashion, and draws thousands of visitors each year. The Fair showcases speakers, a special Kids’ Room, and a taxonomy panel for identification of fungi you find. Many books and mushroom-related items are available for sale, as are wild mushroom delicacies.

Did you know that without fungus, we’d have no bread, cheese, beer, or wine? Or that anti-cholesterol medicine was developed from mushrooms? Come to the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair to learn all there is to know about the fascinating world of mushrooms.

This unique Santa Cruz tradition features fantastic fungus fun for the whole family. Bring the kids and stroll through a re-created woodland forest displaying hundreds of wild mushrooms; the Fungus Fair also features a special room full of hands-on activities for the kids, including fungus exploration tables, clay mushroom building, face painting, and more!

Fungi Fundamentals: Mushrooms of the Bay Area with Christian Schwarz and POST (watch recording)

The unique ecosystem of the Bay Area’s coastal redwoods provides an ideal setting for mushrooms to flourish. Join us for a cap-tivating online event as we explore and uncover more about the fungal landscape. 🍄

In collaboration with Peninsula Open Space Trust, we invite you to a special online event featuring guest speaker Christian Schwarz, co-author of “Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast.” Whether you’re a fungi first-timer or fanatic, Christian will guide us through the fundamentals of mushroom science and share his insights on these remarkable organisms. This event will be tailored for audiences in high school and beyond.

Join POST, SCMNH, and mushroom scientist Christian Schwarz for an informational tour through the fungal landscape in the Bay Area. This 90-minute webinar will be interactive and provide the audience with many opportunities to spore their curiosity by asking our speaker your fungi-est questions. We can’t wait for you to come along with us on this journey to uncover all the mysteries about mushrooms. Register to receive instructions on how to join us for this fantastic fungal virtual event.

Eager to start learning about mushrooms? Check out POST’s blog about 9 Wild Mushrooms Worth Remembering to get you started – there might be a pop quiz during the event!

Cover photo by Christian Schwarz

About the Speaker

Christian Schwarz studied Ecology and Evolution at UC Santa Cruz, where his interest in the world of fungi became irrevocable – their seemingly endless forms (from the grotesque to the bizarre to the sublime) feed his curiosity. He is co-author of Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast, and now spends his time seeking, photographing, collecting, teaching about, and publishing research on the macrofungi of California and Arizona. He is Collections Lead for the California Fungal Diversity Survey, and is a research associate of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. He has also served on the IUCN Red List Working Group for North American Fungi, advocating for habitat conservation focused on fungi. He is passionate about biodiversity in general, and especially in the philosophy and practice of community science (especially through the use of iNaturalist).

Meet the Co-Hosts

The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people with nature and science to inspire stewardship of the natural world. Founded on the collection of naturalist Laura Hecox, it is the oldest public museum in Santa Cruz, founded in 1905. The Museum features hands-on educational exhibits and events indoors, outdoors, and online for people of all ages to discover and learn about the natural history of this region. Learn more about the Museum and plan your visit at santacruzmuseum.org. We invite you to follow the Museum on social media for updates about events and the natural wonders of our region.

Peninsula Open Space Trust protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in the Peninsula and South Bay. Since 1977, POST has protected over 86,000 acres in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties.

1/10 Nature Journal Studio

Nature journaling can help us view the natural world with new perspectives, learn about our surroundings, and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

During Nature Journal Studio sessions at the Museum, Melinda Nakagawa will guide you through a topic as we practice skills in a group setting and share our learning with others. We will develop observation skills and awareness of nature, improve sketching skills, and practice strategies to bring the 3-dimensional world onto the page. Rather than an art class, nature journaling is about observation, curiosity, wonder, and honing these abilities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024
6:30-8 p.m.

Location: Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Free with Admission*

*Free for Members and Youth under 18 | $4 General | $2 Students and Seniors

Email events@santacruzmuseum.org with any questions, accommodation requests, or if you have trouble registering.

Accessibility and COVID protocol

  • All experience levels are welcome. Youth under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • It is likely that the programs will take place inside the Museum, but sometimes sessions are held outside (details in confirmation email).
  • Follow the latest guidelines for covid safety.
  • Basic materials are provided, but feel free to bring your favorite nature journal tools.
  • Please leave your pets at home. Trained service animals are permitted.
  • Review more details on our Accessibility page.

About Melinda Nakagawa

Melinda Nakagawa is a biologist, naturalist, and educator with a passion and skill for connecting people to nature. She founded Spark in Nature to guide participants to cultivate a deeper relationship with the natural world, slowing down to nature’s pace and seeing rather than just looking at the world.

With an approach that bridges nature, art, and heart, she welcomes all people regardless of their skill level or background. Through her gentle guidance, hundreds of participants have awakened their spark of curiosity, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural world.

Melinda has partnered with local institutions such as the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium and Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History to lead educator trainings on nature journaling. She leads the Monterey Bay Nature Journal Club’s free online Sunday sessions.

She has an M.S. degree in Marine Science, and has also worked as a naturalist guide, floral designer, and wildlife rehabilitator. For the past two decades Melinda has kept nature journals and continues to learn more from nature with each journal she fills.

Nature journal examples by Melinda Nakagawa.

Naturalist Night | Animals Underground: The Burrowing and Cave Dwelling Creatures of the Santa Cruz Mountains with Matt Sharp Chaney and Alex Jones (watch recording)

Beneath our feet is a world of creatures seldom seen. Join local experts for this set of short presentations at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History exploring the mysteries of the underground. Alex Jones, UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve Manager, will share the secrets of UC Santa Cruz’s karst caves and burrowing insects, while Matt Sharp Chaney, Midpen Wildlife Biologist, will share stories of salamanders and squirrels, badgers and broad-footed moles, kangaroo rats and kingfishers, and more.

This program is in support of the new exhibit, Underground: Unearthing Unseen Worlds, and is presented in partnership with Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Matt Sharp Chaney is a Wildlife Biologist and the Lead Mammologist for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) where he has worked for the past 8 years. Prior to working at Midpen Matt worked as an Educational Assistant at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and he is excited to return for this Naturalist Night. Matt received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from California State University Monterey Bay in 2015, and a master’s certificate in wildlife management from Oregon State University in 2018. Midpen manages over 65,000 acres of public preserves located within the Santa Cruz Mountains along the San Francisco Peninsula. Matt’s work focuses on the conservation of native mammal species from bats, to kangaroo rats, to mountain lions. 

Alex Jones has been an environmental educator for 25 years, practicing natural history while leading students ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens, though he traces his naturalist roots to his own childhood experiences of playing with mud, scaring ducks, and hiding in the shrubbery. Alex currently works as the UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve Manager and supports education, research, and stewardship activities on campus natural lands. He brings his passion for natural history, ecology, and stewardship to UCSC students through undergraduate course field trips, internships, and volunteer opportunities. As part of his duties, Alex is responsible for monitoring and managing for the federally endangered Ohlone tiger beetle populations that occur on the UCSC campus. Prior work has given him the opportunity to participate in inventories and studies involving plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds in the eastern and western US.


  • The event will occur inside the Museum and is wheelchair accessible.
  • Restrooms, water fountains, and light snacks will be available.
  • Parking is first-come-first-served in the neighborhood. Bike parking is available near the museum entrance.
  • This program will be in English.
  • If we are able to record the program, it will be added to this webpage after the event.
  • Masks are not currently required indoors, but we will alert registrants if an increase in covid transmission rates triggers that requirement.
  • Reasonable accommodation requests can be made by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org.

Photo credit Matt Sharp Chaney, Alex Jones, Santa Clara County Parks, and Christine Fielding.

Caves and Climate Change with Jessica Oster | Online Talk

The Santa Cruz Mountains are full of limestone caves that hold many secrets, including records of our climate past. Join Dr. Jessica Oster for an exploration into White Moon Cave where she researches stalagmites (mineral formations growing up from cave floors) that record the climate and environment above the cave as they grow. One stalagmite from White Moon Cave has revealed linkages between the plant community and fire activity above the cave and “climate whiplash” or oscillations between extreme wet and dry periods that occurred over 8,000 years ago. We will discuss how climate records from stalagmites are created as well as the unique things we have learned about California climate from Santa Cruz Mountains caves.

This program is in support of the new exhibit Underground: Unearthing Unseen Worlds.

About the Speaker

Jessica Oster is an Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She completed her PhD at the University of California, Davis. Oster studies chemical variations in cave mineral formations such as stalagmites to reconstruct climate change in the past, including changes in rainfall, vegetation, and fire activity above the cave. She has developed stalagmite-based records of climate change from caves in northern and central California, Wyoming, Tennessee, India, and the island of Curaçao.

CZU and You 2023

Explore the role of fire on our landscape through a series of programs that invite our community to reflect on the CZU Lightning Complex fires of August 2020, while learning about proactive steps being taken throughout the County to manage the landscape both for and with fire. Explore fire resources from past events here.


In Partnership With