Our final two days were mostly centered on some wrap up activities and hearing about everyone’s capstone projects. Part of obtaining a Certified California Naturalist status is that you must complete a capstone project outside of this week’s course. There are a lot of options for the kind of project you can create to fulfill this requirement, and there was a wide variety of projects presented by our group – everything from developing field guides, to creating interpretive signs for a native tree garden, to a rock kit for school groups, to a quote walk, to a video about a under-loved native tree.
There were some particulars to each of the final two days however. On Friday we had a visit from the park’s geologist – Greg Stock. He gave a fascinating and informative talk regarding the geology of Yosemite. This included some really interesting maps using lidar technology. A few of the more noteworthy things I jotted down:
- To describe the geology of Yosemite succinctly, you could say “glaciers on granite”
- Rock falls happen in Yosemite almost every week
- Most rock falls happen during or after a rain
- There are many types of granite in Yosemite & 8 different types of granite on El Capitan alone
- The sediment fill in Yosemite Valley is 2,000 feet deep
We also had a little journal time in some golden afternoon light, and I kept an eye out for an American Dipper, but no such luck.
Saturday we cleaned up our cabins and packed, and finished up the capstone presentations we didn’t get to on Friday. I had to leave a bit early as I’m going on a trip tomorrow and had a long drive home. I hated to miss the last bits though.
As I drove away, I was a bit overwhelmed at all the blessings I’d received this week. The course curriculum itself, was wonderful. I learned so much about Yosemite and about the Sierra that I did not know before. And, I have grown increasingly curious to learn more about all topics discussed – most especially bird identification by sight and sound.
I can’t say enough good things about the leader of the program – Pete Devine. If you ever have a chance to go on any of the Yosemite Conservancy guided hikes or trips led by Pete, don’t hesitate to sign up. Pete is a natural naturalist, not to mention has an amazing subtle sarcasm and collection of corny jokes. He really fostered a great atmosphere for discussion, encouraged us to question, and taught us a great deal in a fashion that mostly made you forget you where there to be an “intensive immersive course.” With Pete you learn A LOT but also have an incredible amount of fun doing it.
More than anything, however, it was such a blessing to be able to spend a full immersion week with a group of Nature Nerds. All of them had more experience than me as volunteers or employees of nature-centric organizations. However, most also had a very diverse path in getting to the nature work they do now. Members of this cohort once had jobs such as: ballet dancer, computer technicians, geologist for NASA, computer programmer, forest manager, teachers, television producer, business marketer, city transportation manager, writer, and much more. All that is to say – Nature Nerds come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes dabble in very different things before and during their dedication to naturalist endeavors.
It was encouraging to hear everyone’s story, especially for me in this moment of my life since I am trying to find way to my niche in nature-related work. And it gives me hope in the fact that my path to getting there has been diverse already, and excited that the diversity of it might continue as an essential part of the journey. Also, I feel that I heard some important piece of advise or life wisdom from everyone this week, and had so many enriching conversations. So, regardless if the certification as a “California Naturalist” helps me get my next job, it was a completely worthwhile experience and I couldn’t recommend it more.
Finally, Saturday I received the coveted lapel pin! After my capstone project and 40 hours of volunteer work (which we are required to complete after the course) I will be, officially, a “Certified California Naturalist” and will wear this pin with pride. But the process of “becoming a naturalist” is never-ending, and that is such an exciting characteristic of the process. Nature is always changing and there is so much to learn about all that is in the Outdoors. I always wanted to be an eternal student, and with a focus on becoming a more informed naturalist, I can be.