Lecture: Data is Not the Destination with Christian Schwarz

This live program was held on May 4, 2020 and features a presentation from Christian Schwarz in conversation with Marisa Gomez, Public Programs Manager.

The world is changing rapidly — and not just in the way we’re all currently experiencing! Citizen science or community science is an immensely popular model of engaging the natural world, and can be done even while physically distancing.

Using mushrooms and the community of people who admire them as lenses to focus our discussion, we’ll talk about where we’ve come from with traditional science and where community science is taking us.

Lecture: Exploring Science Through Art

Art is essential to increasing scientific knowledge and inspiring conservation. This lecture from Andrea Dingeldein, a local artist and educator featured in the Museum’s 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature, explores science illustration, both historical and contemporary, and its importance as a tool to observe and connect with nature.

Andrea Dingeldein is a marine biologist, naturalist, and general lover of nature. Andrea’s focus is in marine illustration, but she enjoys drawing insects, reptiles, and any other creepy-crawlies she can get her hands on. She specializes in illustrations for peer-reviewed science articles and has published illustrations in Ecological Modeling and Bulletin of Marine Science. Other clients include NC Department of Marine Fisheries, Friday Harbor Laboratories, and Western Society of Naturalists. Explore her work.

Andrea has two pieces in our 2020 exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature. Explore the virtual exhibit.

Sourgrass Natural Dye Video Tutorial

There’s more to sourgrass than its lip-puckering powers. Dig a little deeper with this natural dye video tutorial.

Sourgrass (Oxalis sp.) is a plant of extremes: children love its strong flavor, pollinators gorge on its abundant nectar, many adore its ability to overwhelm a field when in bloom, and many still detest the invasive qualities of some of its species. Oxalis pes-caprae, native to South Africa, has made itself comfortably at home in California, forming dense mats that outcompete native plant species for light and space.

Whether you love it or can’t stand it, sourgrass has an interesting hidden quality that is both useful and exciting: it dyes fabric a vibrant, neon, highlighter-yellow color. Watch our video tutorial to learn how to play with its pigment and explore more resources below:

Post by Marisa

Science Illustration Prompt: Engage Your Senses

Explore science illustration with artists featured in our annual exhibit, The Art of Nature, and get tips for how to make your own science illustrations at home. This post is from Yvonne Byers.

As they say, “curiosity killed the cat”. Luckily I’m a human with one life to learn as much as I can about the amazing world we live in.
—Yvonne Byers

Prompt: Engage Your Senses

There are so many great ways to use a nature journaling project to connect to your local habitat(s). One of my favorites is sequential observations — making notes and sketches about an organism you observe over time. Spring is a great time to do this because there are so many visible changes happening in our environments.

Your yard may look like a bunch of weeds but somewhere hidden amongst the chaos is an oasis you can indulge in for a little while.

Find a sit spot in your yard where there is something that has caught your eye. Take a comfortable seat and before even putting pen to paper just sit and take everything in. Use all your senses to hear, see, smell, feel, and maybe even taste the elements, plants, and critters that surround you.

Do a quick free write to get your brain juices flowing and then sketch away and enjoy the comfort and beauty of your own home! 

Explore more of Yvonne’s art here.

Community Connections

During these isolating times, it’s more important than ever to connect with nature and to connect with our community. Even from home, you can help nature and inspire stewardship of the natural world! Below are a few of our favorite stewardship and community science opportunities. In addition to environmental stewardship projects, we also encourage you to be a steward of your social community.
For all volunteer and stewardship programs, be sure to maintain safe practices as highlighted here.


Volunteer Grocery Shopper
Help homebound seniors and others in need by shopping for their groceries. The individual will provide you with a list, and you leave the groceries at their door. Give essential assistance to members of your community who require extra help.

Resources: Sign up at the Volunteer Grocery Shopper form here. Background checks and some other paperwork required (takes about one week to process).

Connections Without Walls
Give social support to isolated elderly adults across the country with simple phone calls. This flexible program is offered for free during the COVID-19 outbreak as so many people (including you and me) need friendly socializing. It’s a good way to connect to our national community in times of need.

Resources: Sign up with the Family Eldercare program here.

Neighborhood Cleanups
One way you can be a steward of both your community and your planet is by doing a neighborhood or beach cleanup. Get started with this tutorial:

Notice: Access to beaches and parks may be limited due to ordinances regarding COVID-19. Please check your local guidelines for up-to-date guidelines.

City of Santa Cruz recycling guidelines
County of Santa Cruz recycling guidelines
What are microplastics?
Save Our Shores Marine Debris app or Save Our Shores Data Card

Community Science

One of the best ways to advance science is by utilizing the community to build a previously unheard of body of knowledge and researchers both locally and globally are using data found on iNaturalist. Simply photograph and record the location of what you find to build a database of your observations and contribute to studies of how ecosystems are changing with time.

With iNaturalist you can explore nature, take photographs, and help scientists. What’s not to love? Get started!

Sudden Oak Death Bioblitz
California’s iconic oak trees suffer from a devastating disease known as Sudden Oak Death (SOD). UC Berkeley’s community science program invites volunteers to track the spread of SOD by walking through forests, identifying trees that have SOD, and creating a real-time map of the trees and forests affected. 

This does require some training (watching a video and answering a questionnaire), as well as the use of both a website and app. The bioblitz can be done by all ages.

About the SOD Bioblitz
Registration for the bioblitz
What is Sudden Oak Death?

The Sea Otter Monitoring Program
Hosted by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, you can watch and observe wild sea otters from a webcam. The arguably cutest marine mammal faces a lot of threats, so monitoring their daily activities provides valuable data on steps needed to protect them. And who doesn’t need a sea otter web cam in their life?

Sea Otter Community Science Page
About sea otters

Zooniverse is a virtual program that collects research projects around the globe that need community science or virtual volunteers. You can scroll through and see what research projects interest you most. There’s gravity waves, rainfall studies, wildlife watching, and many other projects.