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Hiking With A Purpose: Post-fire community science with Josie Lesage (online)

After fire, ecosystems can experience many changes. There can be increased risk of erosion and novel species can invade new areas, but fire can also reveal plants that have been waiting years for this natural disturbance to stimulate their seed banks — and there is still much to learn.

As the Santa Cruz community recovers from the impacts of the CZU Lightning Complex fires, we can look to other communities for guidance on where to go from here and how community scientists can help.

Join us for an online presentation from Josie Lesage of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and learn about their response to the Thomas Fire that burned through Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties in 2017-2018.

About the Mapping Recovery Project

The Mapping Recovery project leveraged the enthusiasm of over 100 volunteers who surveyed plants and erosion in the Thomas and Whittier fire scars. The project gathered over 5000 data points on the locations of plants in these fire scars, significantly expanding the known locations of many common invasive species, while also identifying populations of some rare or new invasive species. This data is being used to develop a map of priority intervention areas where restoration of native habitat is most needed and will be most beneficial to the ecosystem in the future.

About the Speaker

Josie Lesage works to understand, protect, and restore California habitats using ecological theory as a guide. She has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she studied long-term management and community change in California’s coastal prairies. As the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s Applied Ecologist, she is interested in understanding how local ecosystems respond to disturbance and restoration intervention, and in building a community of volunteer scientists to steward our local habitats. She is currently involved in several projects related to invasive plant management and ecosystem recovery following fire. Her favorite plants are in the genus Castilleja


Interested in becoming a community scientist? Join us for an iNaturalist training in the Museum’s Garden Learning Center on September 11.

Rockin’ Pop-Up: What even IS North America?

Santa Cruz County is obviously a part of North America. Right?

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. There’s the continent of North America, but there’s also the North American tectonic plate — where Santa Cruz County does not reside! While our neighbors in Los Gatos on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains are located on the North American Plate, Santa Cruz is located on the Pacific Plate.

There are lots of little (and really big!) geologic surprises across the continent. Join the Geology Gents for this North American road trip!

About the Series: Join the Geology Gents, Gavin and Graham, for monthly conversations about rocks live on Facebook. Each month we’ll explore a different geologic topic, from Santa Cruz formations to tips for being a more effective rockhound. Graham Edwards and Gavin Piccione are PhD candidates in geochronology with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

Submit your questions ahead of time by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org and feel free to include pictures of rocks you’d like identified! Note: you do not need to have a Facebook account to be able to watch the program live.

Watch Past Pop-Ups
Read our blog Rock Record

Fire and the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve with Dr. Jodi McGraw

Many of our native plants in the Santa Cruz Mountains are fire adapted, from the familiar coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) to the extremely rare Santa Cruz cypress (Hesperocyparis abramsiana) and Santa Cruz wallflower (Erysimum teretifolium). However, decades of fire suppression have greatly reduced the frequency of fires in our region. The Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve is a rare example of a location that has burned multiple times in just over a decade: in 2008 during the Martin Fire and again in 2020 during the CZU Lightning Complex fires.

Join Dr. Jodi McGraw for an exploration of this unique Santa Cruz sandhills habitat, which is home to the Santa Cruz cypress and Santa Cruz wallflower, and what we’ve learned since the 2008 Martin Fire.

Resources

About the Speaker

Dr. Jodi McGraw is an ecologist who works on conservation projects throughout central coastal California. For the past 28 years, she has been studying the Santa Cruz Sandhills—a unique ecosystem found only in central Santa Cruz County, which supports numerous endangered plants and animals. Her research and conservation management work has addressed how fire can be both a tool and a threat to persistence of the endangered plants, including Santa Cruz cypress and Santa Cruz wallflower, and the native biodiversity in the sandhills.


This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

A Striking August: Lightning and Wildfires with Chris Giesige

Lightning flashes through purple clouds over the horizon glowing orange.

In August 2020, Northern California was ignited by a series of 650 wildfires spurred by dry lightning from rare, massive summer thunderstorms. Today, all of California is experiencing drought conditions and fire season is well underway.

On the one year anniversary of the lightning storms wildfire researcher and lightning scientist Chris Giesige presented on the weather and climate conditions that made the August 2020 lightning events possible and shared a peek at what the future may hold for wildfires in California. Explore how we classify the weather and atmospheric conditions that create fire weather and behavior, why those conditions aided the events of last August, and explore wildfire in California more generally.

Resources

About the Speaker

Chris Giesige has studied fire science and conducted lightning research for over a decade. His research is focused on wildfires and seasonal and short term lightning development during the summer through fall months. Through the WestCats Group, he and his team are currently working on developing a new sensor network for better lightning forecasting for wildfire events.


This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

Collections Close-Up: Preserving Cultural History After Fire with California State Parks

Many had to evacuate the Santa Cruz Mountains during the CZU Lightning Complex fires of August, 2020, including museums, visitor centers, and cultural heritage sites managed by California State Parks. Jenny Daly, museum curator for the Santa Cruz District of California State Parks, was part of a team that worked quickly to save artifacts from threatened State Parks, including Big Basin, Año Nuevo, and Wilder Ranch.

During this online event, learn about the immediate steps taken by State Parks to save our cultural history and the ongoing process of caring for objects impacted by the fires. Kathleen Aston, Collections Manager at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, will also share how the Museum approaches natural disasters and collections, from Loma Prieta to ongoing efforts with the CZU Lightning Complex.

Photo of Mark Hylkema by Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group.

About the Speaker

Jenny Daly, Museum Curator I for the California State Parks in the Santa Cruz District, grew up in Santa Cruz and is fortunate to live and work in her hometown. After transferring to UC Berkeley from Cabrillo College, Jenny received a double BA in Near Eastern Studies and Theater, Performance, and Dance Studies. The most valuable part of her time at Berkeley was the internship she had working with the Registrar at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology where she became hooked on the idea of a career working in museums. Jenny then received a Master’s in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University and has worked in collections management at various institutions since then, including at the California Academy of Sciences, the Cantor Arts Center, and the Getty Center. Jenny was very excited to start working for the State Parks as a curator because it meant she could combine her love of Parks with her expertise in museum collections management.

This program is part of the Museum’s Member exclusive Collections Close-Up series and our August series in partnership with Santa Cruz Public Libraries, CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding.

Rockin’ Pop-Up: Great Geologic Goodbyes

Graham Edwards and Gavin Piccione with fossil

For over three years, the Geology Gents have been regular fixtures at the Museum — both online and in-person. For this month’s pop-up though, we say goodbye to Graham as he heads out to New Hampshire for his post-doctoral work at Dartmouth College. The good news is that he’ll remain a Geology Gent from afar and Rockin’ Pop-Ups will continue!

In honor of this milestone, Graham and Gavin will be exploring some “great geologic goodbyes” for this month’s pop-up — from extinction events to the dismantling of Pangea.

About the Series: Join the Geology Gents, Gavin and Graham, for monthly conversations about rocks live on Facebook. Each month we’ll explore a different geologic topic, from Santa Cruz formations to tips for being a more effective rockhound. Graham Edwards and Gavin Piccione are PhD candidates in geochronology with the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

Submit your questions ahead of time by emailing events@santacruzmuseum.org and feel free to include pictures of rocks you’d like identified! Note: you do not need to have a Facebook account to be able to watch the program live.

Watch Past Pop-Ups
Read our blog Rock Record

Amah Mutsun Fire Relationships

Fire is many things to the Amah Mutsun and other California Indian Tribes — it is sacred, it is a tool gifted by Creator, and it is a way to restore balance to Mother Earth. This presentation will share more about how the Amah Mutsun are using fire to restore landscapes and relationships in the Santa Cruz mountains and beyond.

About the Speakers

Lawrence Atencio is the Native Stewardship Corps Field Manager for the Amah Mutsun Land Trust.

Marcella Luna is an Amah Mutsun Tribal Member, Native Stewardship Corps member, and sits on the Amah Mutsun Tribal Council.

The Amah Mutsun Land Trust is an initiative of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, which is the vehicle by which the Amah Mutsun access, protect, and steward lands that are integral to their identity and culture. The AMLT returns the tribe to their ancestral lands and restores their role as environmental stewards.

RESOURCES

Learn about the Amah Mutsun
Amah Mutsun Land Trust website
Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Website
Virtual Exhibit: First Peoples of California (curated with tribal input)

Upcoming events and volunteering
CZU AND YOU event series
CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project
Volunteering with the Amah Mutsun Land Trust

Learn about Amah Mutsun relationships with fire
Amah Mutsun Land Trust article: Revitalizing Indigenous Stewardship with Cultural Burning
Bay Nature article: Finding Signs of Recovery in Santa Cruz’z Redwood Forest
Bay Nature article: Rekindling the Old Ways

The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History is located in the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of Indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.


This program is part of the series CZU AND YOU: Resources for Recovery, Preparedness, and Ecological Understanding from the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Santa Cruz Public Libraries | August 2021

Human Nature: In Relationship with California Rare Plants

California has more native plants than any other state, most of which are endemic to California (only found here). What’s more, over 1/3 of our native plants are also considered rare due to human development, climate change, habitat fragmentation, rare habitats, and other factors.

During this collaborative program where science meets art, we’ll learn about human relationships with nature from two rare plant lovers who engage with California’s unique flora in their own unique ways.

Barnali Ghosh, an immigrant storyteller and California landscape architect, has taken the native plant world by storm with a series of fashion self-portraits bridging home and homeland — re-creations of California native flowers, using fabrics and dance forms from India.

Amy Patten works with community scientists to document rare plant populations throughout California through her role as Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Manager with the California Native Plant Society. She also captures the flora and fauna around her through the art of photography.

Barnali Ghosh has featured several of Amy Patten’s photographs of native plants in her self-portraits.

Resources

This program is in support of our current exhibition of science illustration, The Art of Nature, and the CZU Lightning Complex and Community Science Project.

Art for Conservation with Megan Gnekow

Conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species requires more than bringing individual organisms back from the brink. It also requires the restoration and recovery of ecological relationships that allow all organisms in an ecosystem to survive and thrive.

During this lecture with artist Megan Gnekow, we will explore how understanding and communicating food webs and other ecological relationships can help put some favorite (and famous!) creatures into context. We’ll also learn how creative use of science illustration can help tell these stories.

This program is in support of our science illustration exhibit, The Art of Nature, on view online and in-person.

Megan Gnekow

With formal training in a wide variety of media, Megan’s current work focuses primarily on honoring the fine details of the world and depicting the relationships between organisms in a wide variety of ecosystems. Her great passion is bringing people back to connection with the natural world through artistic experiences. She also volunteers for Resource Management at Pinnacles National Park, where she continues her training as an amateur naturalist. Megan spends most of her free time exploring the vast collection of ecosystems we call California. 

Collections Close-Up: Benitoite with Hilde Schwartz

There are few things more Californian than benitoite, a mineral formed within the low temperature, high pressure environment of subduction zones and sparsely sprinkled throughout serpentinite landscapes. While the mineral exists in isolated locations globally, gemstone quality material has only been found in California — one of the reason’s it was named our State Gemstone in 1985.

Learn about the geologic and cultural history of this mineral with Museum Collections Manager Kathleen Aston and Dr. Hilde Schwartz, lecturer in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department at UC Santa Cruz, during this installment of our member-exclusive Collections Close-Up series.

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.