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Field Zoology Course
Feb 19 @ 10:00 am – Apr 16 @ 2:00 pm


Location: Multiple Locations around Sonoma County (including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park)

Sonoma County is full of amazing wildlife discoveries for those that know how to make them. From the Mountain Lions of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the shorebirds of Bodega Bay, tiny plankton, dragonflies, to big old bears, thousands of species of wild animals call Sonoma County home.

In this course, students will learn how to find, document, and observe a wide variety of our native animals through a series of field trips to natural areas. Emphasis will be on learning field methods that students can employ with only low-cost equipment, and on recognizing the major groups of animals and how to photograph them. We’ll learn some ecology, evolutionary biology, and conservation biology along the way, but our focus will be on the field methods. Scholarships are available to reduce costs for those in need of financial assistance, and carpools can be arranged for those needing transportation.

Instructor: Dr. Dan Levitis studied zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught zoology, ecology, evolutionary biology, demography, and conservation biology at the university level. For Sonoma Ecology Center he has previously taught New Ecological Scientist Training, California Naturalist Training, and Climate Stewardship, as well as leading programs to document the biodiversity of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and the Sonoma Developmental Center. He is Community Science Coordinator for Sonoma Ecology Center.

We have reached our capacity for scholarships. Please contact Tony at tony@sonomaecologycenter.org for questions.

Preliminary Topics and Locations List:

Sundays 10:00 am-2:00 pm unless otherwise noted*

Week 1: Bodega Bay: Introductions, Shorebirds and tide pools (7:00-11:00 am)*
Week 2: Trione-Anadell State Park: Conduct in the field and Amphibians
Week 3: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Camera Trapping, and Digital Tools
Week 3: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Creek Life, Camera Trapping Results
Week 4: Jack London State Park: Animal Behavior
Week 5: TBD: Parasites in the wild
Week 6: TBD: Cover objects and soil dwellers
Week 7: TBD: Mammal Scat, Tracks, and Sign
Week 8: Sonoma Developmental Center: Insect netting, pollinators, and a social gathering.


Explore the different plant communities in Montini Open Space Preserve with us on Friday, March 31, 1:00-3:30 pm. For each community, you will learn about the blooming spring wildflowers found in the community, management concerns, and the factors that control the distribution of the community within the preserve.

The Montini Open Space Preserve was protected by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space in December 2005 for recreation and preservation of its natural and rich historic significance has been a working ranch since the time of General Vallejo. The preserve, which encompasses 152 acres, is in and adjacent to the City of Sonoma. With oak woodland, large rock outcroppings, and open grassland, the property offers beautiful views of San Francisco and San Pablo Bays.

Due to occasionally steep trails and uneven footing, the hike is rated intermediate; however, frequent pauses will allow hikers to catch their breath. There is no charge for the outing, which is made possible by the voters of Sonoma County who fund the work of  Ag + Open Space with a quarter-cent sales tax.

Meet at Preserve entry – 4th Street West and Haraszthy Drive, Sonoma, 95476. Heavy rain will reschedule the event!


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Cesar Chavez Day is meant to encourage neighbors to participate in an act of community service that pays homage to Chávez’s lifetime of work as an American farm laborer, union organizer, and civil rights activist. Honor his memory by joining us for a day of service at Sonoma Garden Park on Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm. No experience necessary, just a willingness to have fun and get your hands dirty!

El Día de Cesar Chavez anima a la comunidad a participar en un acto de servicio comunitario que rinde homenaje al trabajo y vida de Chavez como jornalero, organizador sindical, y activista de derechos civiles. Honra su memoria al acompañarnos en un día de servicio en Sonoma Garden Park el sábado 1ro de abril de las 9:00 am a las 12:00pm. No es necesario tener experiencia, sólamente disposición de divertirse, ¡y ensuciarse las manos!

Join us for a guided hike at the beautiful 960-acre Saddle Mountain preserve above Rincon Valley, on the eastern boundary of Santa Rosa in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. The hike will be led by Sonoma County Ag + Open Space stewardship specialist Monica Delmartini, and SEC education program manager, Tony Passantino. This hike is organized by Sonoma Ecology Center on Ag + Open Space owned land that was recently touched by the Glass Fire. Delmartini is the resident fire ecologist and will discuss land management in a post-fire setting including, wildfire ecology, forest resiliency and the benefits of fire on California landscapes.

This is a moderately strenuous hike of approximately 4-5 miles with substantial elevation gain on established trails/fire roads. Please bring water and lunch, and be prepared for that day’s weather. There is a shallow water crossing. The hike will go on in light rain, but heavy rain will cancel the outing.

There is no charge for this outing, which is made possible by the voters of Sonoma County who fund the work of Ag + Open Space with a quarter-cent sales tax.

We will be meeting at Rincon Valley Public Library. For any other questions or concerns, please contact Tony Passantino by emailing tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.

Sign up for our emailing list to stay updated on future events: sonomaecologycenter.org/newsletters-sign-up.


Join Sonoma Ecology Center naturalists at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve for one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in all of Sonoma County. Experience a pristine spring grassland with numerous species in full bloom. The 162-acre property in the foothills of Sonoma Mountain is protected by a conservation easement made possible by your Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space) and the California Wildlife Conservation Board. The property is managed under a partnership with the landowner and Sonoma Ecology Center to protect the Preserve’s unique plants, thriving streams, and wildlife habitat. 

This outing is a beginning-level walk over a gently sloped land. Most of the walk is through grassland, generally not on trails, so the footing can be uneven. The walk crosses a few small creek channels, which sometimes have shallow water with stepping stones. There is no charge for this outing, which is made possible by the voters of Sonoma County who fund the work of  Ag + Open Space with a quarter-cent sales tax.

The dates for the Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve Walks 2023 are:

  • Friday, April 7, 5:00-7:30 pm
  • Sunday, April 16, 8:30-11:00 am
  • Friday, April 21, 1:00-3:30 pm
  • Sunday, April 30, 8:30-11:00 am
  • Saturday, May 6, 8:30-11:00 am


Please note that these popular walks fill to capacity on a first-come, first-served basis every year, so early registration is encouraged! Walks will go on in light rain, but heavy rains will cancel the walk. 

Registration is required. Directions and day-of-contact information will be emailed upon registration. For additional information or questions about the outing, please contact Tony Passantino at (707) 996-0712 ext. 124, or tony@sonomaecologycenter.org.

There is no charge for this outing, which is made possible by the voters of Sonoma County who fund the work of Ag + Open Space with a quarter-cent sales tax.


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We will be selling native California plants that have been cultivated at our Native Plant Nursery at Sonoma Garden Park on April 8 from 9:00 am-1:00 pm. This is a wonderful opportunity to source California landscape and restoration plants for your garden! Sonoma Ecology Center’s Native Plant Nursery is located at Sonoma Garden Park, 19996 7th Street East in Sonoma. You can find the TENTATIVE PLANT SALE LIST HERE, the Final Plant Sale List will be published 1 week prior to the event date.

This event will have bilingual Spanish-English support. Let us know you’re coming by RSVPing!

Venderemos plantas nativas californianas que han sido cultivadas en nuestro vivero de plantas nativas en Sonoma Garden Park el 8 de abril de 9:00 am a 1:00 pm. Esta es una maravillosa oportunidad para obtener plantas californianas paisajistas o restauradoras para tu jardín. El vivero se encuentra dentro de Sonoma Garden Park en 19996 7th Street East, en Sonoma. ¡Compartiremos una lista de plantas disponibles (incluyendo plantas nativas Californianas, resistentes a la sequía,  árboles, y arbustos que atraen a polinizadores) conforme se acerque la fecha! Puedes encontrar la lista tentativa de plantas tendremos en venta aquí; la lista final será publicada una semana antes de la venta.

Este evento tendrá soporte bilingüe en inglés y español. ¡Avísanos que asistirás!



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Join the Sonoma Ecology Center Earthlings for our spring break in the oak woodland and garden settings on March 13-17 or April 10-14 (Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-3:00 pm). Together, ages 7-11 will grow as junior naturalists and agriculturists.

Let’s play games, plant crops, draw and journal nature observations, conduct experiments, and craft artwork and culinary concoctions. This week will provide much-needed time to immerse in the local habitat while enjoying friends.

On the first day, we will tour the 6-acre farm and straw bale barn, play in the dirt, and on the new children’s nature play area (!) while studying soil and building compost. Day 2 is focussed on pollinators, from a hedgerow game to the bee and butterfly garden hunts. On Day 3, we will branch out into the oak woodlands to observe birds and wildlife and create crafts. Day 4 is centered around resources, caring for the planet, enjoying culinary delights, harvesting, preparing, and creating new recipes. Day 5 will be open for free play, recaps of the week, and debriefs on the experience.

Please note that this event will not have Spanish-English bilingual support. Please share this event!

This Spring Break Camp is created based on our Growing Discovery, Wildlife Defenders, and Water Wonders programs, which include activities on sustainability and climate.

For questions, please contact Tony Passantino at Tony@sonomaecologycenter.org, Ivana at ivana@sonomaecologycenter.org, Julia Megna at julia@sonomaecologycenter.org, or Jonny Ehlers at jonny@sonomaecologycenter.org.

Únete a los Earthlings del Centro de Ecología de Sonoma para vacaciones de primavera de bajo costo en el bosque de robles y los jardines de Sonoma Garden Park del 13 al 17 de marzo o del 10 al 14 de abril (lunes a viernes de 9:00 am a 3:00 pm). Juntos, de 7 a 11 años, crecerán como jóvenes naturalistas y agricultores. Jugaremos, plantaremos cultivos, dibujaremos y registraremos observaciones de la naturaleza, realizaremos experimentos y elaboraremos obras de arte y brebajes culinarios. Esta semana les brindará el tiempo tan necesario para sumergirse en el hábitat local mientras disfrutan de sus amigos.

El primer día recorremos la granja de 6 acres y el granero de fardos de paja, jugaremos en la tierra y en la nueva área de juego natural para niños mientras estudiamos suelos y abono; el día 2 se centra en los polinizadores, desde un juego de setos hasta la caza de abejas y mariposas en el jardín; el día 3 nos adentramos en los bosques de robles para observar aves y vida silvestre y crear artesanías; el día 4 se centra en los recursos y el cuidado del planeta, disfrutando de delicias culinarias, cosechando, preparando y creando nuevas recetas. El 5to día será libre para jugar, resumir la semana, y repasar información de la experiencia. Por favor note que este evento no tendrá apoyo bilingüe.

¡Por favor comparte este evento! Este campamento de vacaciones de primavera es basado en nuestros programas Creciendo descubrimientos, Defendedores de vida silvestre, y Maravillas acuáticas, los cuales incluyen actividades en sostenibilidad y clima.

Si tiene preguntas, póngase en contacto con Tony Passantino en tony@sonomaecologycenter.org, Julia Megna at julia@sonomaecologycenter.org, or Jonny Ehlers at jonny@sonomaecologycenter.org. Para apoyo en español, póngase en contacto con Ivana at ivana@sonomaecologycenter.org.


In celebration of Sonoma Garden Park’s 30th Anniversary, we are delighted to invite you to the Grand Opening of the Children’s Play Area at Sonoma Garden Park on Sunday, April 16, 10:00 am-12:00 pm! Designed to be a dynamic learning environment for kids, this new play area is an exciting addition to the park.

Join us for a free, family-oriented ribbon-cutting event, with refreshments by Valley Bar + Bottle and a variety of kid-friendly activities.

Families are encouraged to carpool to the Sonoma Garden Park Children’s Play Area Grand Opening, as parking is limited. No RSVP is required.

A little bit about the history of Sonoma Garden Park:

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Sonoma Ecology Center’s management of Sonoma Garden Park, which was originally the property of Pauline Bond, a Sonoma schoolteacher who gave the land to the City of Sonoma in 1977. In 1993, Sonoma Ecology Center entered into an agreement with the City of Sonoma to take over regular operation of the 6.1 acre park, and began to grow it from a bare lot to its current lush grounds of demonstration gardens, community garden plots, and public gathering places.

Sonoma Garden Park’s tagline, “It Takes a Community” is exemplified in this newest feature—in addition to the financial support of the anonymous donors, the Children’s Play Area was made possible by volunteer Mark Gonzalves, who designs nature-based play spaces through the lens of children, and donated hundreds of hours of his time and effort to the project.

En celebración del 30 aniversario de Sonoma Garden Park, ¡estamos contentos de invitarte a la gran inauguración del Área de juego para niños en Sonoma Garden Park el domingo 16 de abril de 10:00 am a 12:00 pm!

Acompáñanos para un evento gratuito para toda la familia con refrigerios por Valley Bar + Bottle y una variedad de actividades infantiles.

Animamos a familias a viajar juntas a este evento, ya que el estacionamiento es muy limitado. No requiere registración.

Un poco de historia acerca de Sonoma Garden Park:
Este año marca el 30mo aniversario de la administración de Sonoma Garden Park por Sonoma Ecology Center. Originalmente propiedad de Pauline Bond, una maestra de Sonoma quien transfirió los derechos de la tierra a la Ciudad de Sonoma en 1977. En 1993, Sonoma Ecology Center entró en un contrato con la Ciudad de Sonoma para regularmente administrar las operaciones de los 6.1 acres de parque, cultivándolo desde un terreno vacío a lo que hoy en día son jardines de demostración fecundos, parcelas comunitarias, y lugares públicos dónde congregarse.

El slogan de Sonoma Garden Park, “Toma una comunidad”, es ejemplificado en su nuevo proyecto– en adición al soporte financiero de donantes anónimos, el Área de juego para niños fue hecha posible por el voluntario Mark Gonzalves, quien diseña áreas de juego basadas en la naturaleza y materiales naturales y adicionalmente contribuyó cientas de horas de su tiempo y esfuerzo para completar el proyecto.


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Every 3rd Friday of the month from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm we welcome existing and new volunteers for a fun morning of work and community building at Sonoma Garden Park. Depending on the season activities include prepping fields, planting, harvesting, weeding, pruning trees and prepping produce for the seasonal Saturday Harvest market. 

Join us for a fun opportunity to enjoy the bounty of each season, and to share and learn from other gardeners. Existing and new volunteers are encouraged to attend—no experience is necessary! Please be sure to bring your gardening gloves, hat, SPF and water. At noon you enjoy a light garden fresh lunch at our shady picnic area provided by Sonoma Ecology Center as a thank you to our wonderful volunteers!

Los voluntarios juegan un papel vital en el Garden Park. ¡Te invitamos a ensuciarte las manos cada tercer viernes de mes! Únete a nosotros de 9:00 am. a 12:00 pm y conoce a los voluntarios existentes y nuevos. Las actividades incluyen deshierbe, siembra, poda y cosecha. Después del trabajo, disfruta de un almuerzo ligero proporcionado por el Centro Ecológico de Sonoma.

Sonoma Garden Park está ubicado en 19996 7th St E, Sonoma, CA 95476 y es un proyecto del Sonoma Ecology Center.


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Volunteer with us at Sonoma Garden Park on Earth Day, April 22, 2023, 9:00 am-12:30 pm to celebrate mother nature and all she does for us. Let’s get our hands dirty with community members for a fun and fulfilling day in the garden. No experience is necessary. Please wear closed-toe shoes and pants. Heavy rain will cancel the event. Please let us know you’re coming by RSVPing!

Sonoma Garden Park a 6.1 acre park public garden and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Our volunteers are vital in making Sonoma Garden Park the accessible and fruitful community gathering place that it is. Find out more about continuous volunteering opportunities at the park here

Sign up for our emailing list to stay updated on future events: sonomaecologycenter.org/newsletters-sign-up.

Ven a Sonoma Garden Park el Día de la Tierra, el 22 de abril, de 9:00 am a las 12:30 pm para un día de trabajo voluntario celebrando a la Madre Tierra y todo lo que hace por nosotros. Nos ensuciaremos las manos con miembros de la comunidad para un día divertido y satisfactorio en el jardín. No se necesita experiencia. ¡Por favor avísanos que asistirás a través del enlace abajo.

Sonoma Garden Park es un jardín y parque público de 6.1 acres abierto del amanecer al anochecer. Nuestros voluntarios son vitales en hacer Sonoma Garden Park el accesible y fecundo lugar que es para reuniones comunitarias. Lee más acerca de oportunidades para voluntarios continuas en el parque aquí.

Suscríbete a nuestra lista de email para estar al día en futuros eventos: sonomaecologycenter.org/newsletters-sign-up.