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Guide to Foraging

People have lived along the central coast of present-day California for millennia, surviving and thriving off of the resources that continue to surround us. Today, many of our region’s greatest naturalists are fishers, gardeners, and artists who connect with the natural world through their hobbies, work, or craft. Foraging is for many an entryway into a deeper connection with nature.

Negative Impacts of Foraging

Habitat degradation, increased frequency and intensity of fires, development, and climate change are all stressors that impact native species and reduce vital resources.. Foraging has become a popular movement in recent years, often to the extreme detriment of widely sought-after plants like ginseng and white sage.

If you choose to forage, you can ensure that you are doing so in an ethical manner that supports the future health and sustainability  of our environment.

Foraging Ethics 101

1. Protect threatened species

When identifying plants or fungi to forage, confirm that population numbers are healthy  to avoid causing additional challenges for organisms already under stress. While many local native species have ethnobotanical qualities, there are also many non-native and invasive species that do, too. By selecting non-native species for forage, you are protecting local natives.

Resources: California Native Plant Society’s Rare Plant Inventory and Calscape.

2. Identification is Key

Never forage something unless you are certain of its ID. Even if you do not plan on consuming the item, if you get the ID wrong you could risk removing something that is rare or threatened. Use three or more points of identification, rather than one characteristic. Some things to consider include: bloom, stem, bark, color, smell, habitat, soil conditions, life cycle, and, in the case of mushrooms, spore prints.

Resources: Jepson eFlora identification key for California native plants, iNaturalist community science database and identification tool, Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast by Noah Siegel and Christian Schwarz, and Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz.

3. Only Take What You Need, and Never Too Much

When foraging for a particular use, only take what you need. More importantly, never take more than what the environment can afford to give. Generally, only take one-tenth from any patch you see, and never from the only patch you find.

It’s a reciprocal relationship. We have a responsibility to take care of this plant—to be responsible for them. So it’s not about going out and just randomly taking. That’s really disrespectful, and it should never be done that way.

Chairman Valentin Lopez, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
As quoted in How Foragers Reconnect with the Land by Erin Malsbury

4. Know Before You Go

Many parks and open spaces have regulations about or against foraging. It is important to know what the rules are for a given space before foraging.

5. Be Safe

Avoid harvesting near busy roads or hazardous sites and be mindful of any potential pollutants or contaminants that the organisms you’re harvesting might have been exposed to, such as pesticides and heavy metals.

Seabright and the Castle: Then and Now with Dr. Gary Griggs

Santa Cruz’s scenic coastline has long enthralled residents and visitors alike, yet storms, relentless waves, and human impacts have and will continue to change our coastline. Join Dr. Gary Griggs for an examination of these processes through the lens of one of Santa Cruz’s most iconic beaches.

This program is in support of our latest exhibit Remembering Castle Beach.

More About the Talk

Castle (or Seabright) Beach went from being a very narrow seasonal beach to the one of the widest in the county following the construction of the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. Seabright has long been a unique neighborhood with a character that has survived for well over a century. It was considered to be out in the country by Santa Cruz standards when it was first developed as a seaside resort in the 1880s. For years a rather makeshift footbridge over the San Lorenzo River was the main route into town. Each winter it had to be removed to keep the river from washing it away, and Seabright residents had to walk across the railroad bridge, considered dangerous at the time as there was no pedestrian walk as there is today.

Accessibility

  • A recording and follow-up resources will be shared with registrants after the program.
  • This program will be in English.
  • We will be using the webinar format, meaning that participants’ video and mic functions will be disabled.
  • Reasonable accommodation requests can be made by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org.

About the Speaker

Gary Griggs is a Distinguished Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he has taught for 54 years. He received his B.A. in Geological Sciences in 1965 from the University of California Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Oregon State University in 1968. Gary served as the Director of the University’s Institute of Marine Sciences for 26 years, where he led the development of a Coastal Science Campus. His research, teaching, writing and lectures have been focused on the coast of California and include coastal processes, hazards, and the impacts of and responses to sea-level rise. In 1998 he was given the Outstanding Physical and Biological Sciences Faculty Award at U.C. Santa Cruz, and the Alumni Association honored him with a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006. The California Coastal Commission and Sunset Magazine named him one of California’s Coastal Heroes in 2009, and in 2010 he was elected to the California Academy of Sciences. Gary chaired a committee in 2017 recommended by Governor Brown to update California’s sea-level rise projections. In 2016 he was appointed to the California Ocean Science Trust. Gary is also a member of the California Ocean Protection Council’s Science Advisory Team and served as chair of California’s 4th Climate Assessment Committee on Coasts and Ocean.

Gary has written 13 books including: Living with the Changing California Coast, Introduction to California’s Beaches and Coast, The California Coast from the Air, Coasts in Crisis – A Global Challenge, The Edge – The Pressured Past and Precarious Future of California’s Coast, Between Paradise and Peril – The Natural Disaster History of the Monterey Bay Region, and most recently The Ominous Ocean: Rogue Waves, Rip Currents and other Dangers along the Shoreline and at Sea.

Remembering Castle Beach: Stories from the Exhibit (recording)

Stroll back in time as you explore the history of Seabright Beach, once called Castle Beach, during this online exhibit preview for Museum Members in honor of the new exhibit, Remembering Castle Beach, opening June 11, 2022.

Executive Director Felicia Van Stolk and Collections Manager Kathleen Aston will take Members behind the scenes of the exhibit, sharing additional stories and a deeper look into the historic photographs, souvenirs, and artifacts that bring to life the heyday of the Scholl Marr Castle and look at how the nearby coastline has changed over time.

Resources

Reptiles and Amphibians of the West with Charles Hood

California is home to almost eighty species of “herps” — reptiles and amphibians. Get to know some of our common and uncommon neighbors, while digging into groundbreaking research about how lizards communicate (and explore the world) in wavelengths of color invisible to the human eye. From gila monsters to the common fence lizard of your backyard, the world of reptiles and amphibians will come alive during this presentation with Charles Hood, author of the new book Sea Turtles to Sidewinders and A Californian’s Guide to the Birds Among Us, and PhD candidates Jose Gabriel Martinez Fonseca (Northern Arizona University) and Erin Westeen (UC Berkeley).

Resources

Charles Hood is a Fulbright scholar, a former National Science Foundation Artist-in-Residence in Antarctica, and an author of Wild LA.

José Gabriel Martínez-Fonseca is a Nicaraguan biologist and wildlife photographer who has worked with amphibians and reptiles for over 12 years. He is currently a PhD student at Northern Arizona University.

Erin Westeen has done extensive fieldwork across western North America and the Neotropics and is currently a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley, where she studies spiny lizards.

Collections Close-Up: Old Time Oology

All of our collections are special, but some of them are egg-squisite. The study of eggs and nests, historically referred to as oology, is a rich vein in the story of natural history museums. Museum egg collections have played a large role in critical conservation conversations, and continue to be relevant for contemporary research. True to this larger history — from mighty ostrich to minuscule hummingbird eggs, from 19th century birders to current digitization projects — eggs are an important part of your local natural history museum.

During this Collection Close-Up webinar, join Collections Manager Kathleen Aston on an exploration of our egg collection from the 1880s to the 1980s and beyond. We’ll also look at how birds feature in our current priorities, from community science to youth education.

Resources

About the series

Zoom into the stories, secrets, and science of our collections during monthly webinars with Collections Manager Kathleen Aston. This live event is an extension of our monthly Collections Close-Up blog, with added insights and intrigue. Members are invited to participate in this program before it is made available to the general public as well as ask questions directly of Kathleen.

Not yet a Member? Join today!

Your support helps us steward our collections and offer educational programs that connect people with nature and science. Memberships start at just $15/year.

How Everyone Can Contribute to Pollinator Conservation with the Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats through scientific research. They focus on pollinator conservation, endangered species conservation, and reducing pesticide use and impacts.

For this talk, Maddy Kangas, Monarch Butterfly Conservation Planner with the Xerces Society, will share:

The status of pollinators, including monarch butterflies, and need for conservation action
Monarch biology and habitat requirements
Land management practices to protect pollinators
Examples of pollinator habitat projects
How you can get involved (community science programs and more)
Additional resources and Q&A 

Resources

About the Speaker

Maddy Kangas serves as a Monarch Butterfly Conservation Planner and NRCS Partner Biologist for the Central Coast of California as part of the Xerces Society, providing technical assistance on monarch conservation and habitat creation for producers, landowners, and land managers. Her previous work has included integrated pest and pollinator management, habitat restoration, and community outreach and education. Maddy completed her master’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she researched both native bee community composition and pest insect presence within agriculturally based pollinator habitat restorations.

This program is in support of our new exhibit, Pollinators: Keeping Company With Flowers, on view January 15-March 6. Sponsored by 90.3 KAZU, Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, and UCSC’s Center for Agroecology.

Pollinators and Urban Community Gardens with Stacy Philpott

Pollinators are essential to our environment, but habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases are causing issues for these creatures all over the world. During this talk, Stacy Philpott will share her research from the past decade exploring how urban garden and landscape management influence pollinators. We’ll tour urban gardens near Santa Cruz and learn about some of the factors that lead to successful pollination and pollinator diversity, as well as issues with parasites and pathogens.

About the Speaker

Stacy Philpott is a Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the Center for Agroecology at UC Santa Cruz. She is an agroecologist interested in community ecology, ecosystem services, urban agroecology, and interactions between agriculture, conservation, and farmer well-being. Stacy has worked for more than 20 years to understand how farm management and the landscapes surrounding farms influence diversity of insects, plants, and birds on farms, and the ecological interactions among species. She has worked in tropical agroforestry systems in Mexico and Indonesia, annual cropping systems in Nicaragua, and in urban agricultural systems in Michigan, Ohio, and California. She has written more than 140 research articles and book chapters. 

This program is in support of our new exhibit, Pollinators: Keeping Company With Flowers, on view January 15-March 6. Sponsored by 90.3 KAZU, Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, and UCSC’s Center for Agroecology.

Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California with Adina Merenlender

Across California, communities are addressing wildfires, climate justice, urban heat islands, ocean temperature rise, and other climate issues in an effort to make natural, working, and urban landscapes more resilient. During this talk, author Adina Merenlender will share stories from her recently published book, Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect Californiawhich highlights the real work being done by everyday citizens throughout the state to address climate change.

RESOURCES

SANTA CRUZ STEWARDSHIP GROUPS

About the Speaker

Adina Merenlender is a Cooperative Extension Specialist at University of California, Berkeley, and is an internationally recognized conservation biologist known for land-use planning, watershed science, landscape connectivity, and naturalist and stewardship training. She has authored more than 100 published works in the field of conservation science.

Merenlender started the California Naturalist Program and served as its founding director, which to date has graduated over 4,000 certified California Naturalists. Building on the success of this program, Merenlender helped start the first public education and service program on climate stewardship, including writing Climate Stewardship: Taking Collective Action to Protect California with Brendan Buhler. The two programs provide collective impact on ecological health through community and citizen science.

Ancient Scorched Seeds and Indigenous Land Stewardship with Rob Cuthrell

Archaeologists can analyze charred seeds and other plant remains to learn about relationships between people and the natural world deep into the past. This talk will describe how a collaborative research project between Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, State Parks, and academic researchers utilized this type of information to explore how Indigenous peoples on the coast of San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties used prescribed burning to steward local landscapes. Guided by these findings, Amah Mutsun Land Trust is working to revitalize Indigenous-based stewardship of open spaces today.

Resources

Learn about the Amah Mutsun

Learn about Amah Mutsun relationships with fire

Resources mentioned in the talk

About the Speaker

Rob Cuthrell is a researcher in archaeology and historical ecology who has studied relationships between Indigenous people and landscapes west of the Santa Cruz Mountains for over a decade. Currently, Rob works as a consultant for Amah Mutsun Land Trust managing a native plant propagation and restoration project on Año Nuevo Point.

This program is in support of the exhibit Seeds: Nature’s Artful Engineering, on view at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History through November 28.

Fossil Walruses and Other Ancient Life in the Monterey Bay with Dr. Robert Boessenecker

Though our coast today is inhabited by sea lions, harbor seals, and elephant seals, none of these species existed in California 3-5 million years ago. Instead, fossils from the Purisima Formation tell a very different story of strange walruses and early fur seals that inhabited our coast. These include the ancestor of the modern northern fur seal (today a rare visitor to Monterey Bay), the bizarre “double tusked” walrus Gomphotaria, and the toothless walrus Valenictus. Several discoveries made by local collectors and paleontologists represent new species — and you’re going to hear new data and findings never reported before during this presentation.

Join us on National Fossil Day for this member-exclusive presentation with longtime friend of the Museum, Dr. Robert Boessenecker.

Dr. Robert Boessenecker

“I grew up in Foster City on the peninsula, disappointed as a dinosaur nerd kid that there weren’t much in the way of dino fossils from California – which I mistook for “no interesting fossils at all”. Once in high school I visited some shark tooth sites in Scott’s Valley and became obsessed with marine mammal fossils none of the fossil collectors could identify. As an undergraduate student at Montana State University, I started collecting and researching a marine mammal fauna I discovered in Half Moon Bay; I continued with my master’s thesis at MSU on the preservation and stratigraphic context of Purisima Formation fossils, and then went to University of Otago in New Zealand to do my Ph.D. on early baleen whales from much older rocks down under. I have been at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, studying early baleen whales and dolphins, and once again researching Purisima Formation sharks, fish, birds, turtles, and marine mammals.”

-Dr. Robert Boessenecker

About the series

Zoom into the stories, secrets, and science of our collections during monthly webinars with Collections Manager Kathleen Aston. This live event is an extension of our monthly Collections Close-Up blog, with added insights and intrigue. Members are invited to participate in this program before it is made available to the general public as well as ask questions directly of Kathleen.

Not yet a Member? Join today!

Your support helps us steward our collections and offer educational programs that connect people with nature and science. Memberships start at just $15/year.