June 28, 2022

“I discovered that day, that in finding nature, natures finds you.” And so concluded a winning essay from the Third Annual Last House Writing Contest hosted by Audubon Canyon Ranch, a Northern California conservation organization and steward of iconic American writer M.F.K. Fisher’s “Last House” in the Sonoma Valley.

More than seventy entries were received, with the largest number submitted from young writers aged 13–17, who learned about the contest from teachers and online resources for creative writing.

Essays were received from a dozen US states—and in a first for the contest—approximately one-third of the entries submitted were penned by writers living outside the United States, including from Abu Dhabi, Beijing, India, Singapore, Republic of Korea, United Arab...

June 15, 2022
Prescribed burn on a slope with grass in Sonoma County. Five people lead the prescribed burn on a small area of grassland.

In early June, our Fire Forward staff joined Modini Preserve’s Resident Biologist and Manager, Michelle Cooper, to lead a two-acre prescribed burn. The goal of this burn was to support biodiversity in an area invaded by medusahead.

California Invasive Plant Council considers this annual grass highly invasive, which is one reason that Cooper selected a medusahead-rich area for “good fire treatment.” Volunteers from the Good Fire Alliance and firefighters from Northern Sonoma County Fire District also made this burn possible.

Since the Kincade Fire in 2019, the 3,000 acres of Modini Preserve have not experienced fire—including...

May 31, 2022
Snowy Egret in Eucalyptus tree at Bird Day

Bird Day is back for students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary, leaving students and teachers with something to smile about. The photo above shows one of the many Snowy Egrets nesting in this heronry, visible via spotting scopes. 

Heronry in Santa Rosa becomes an outdoor and community classroom

After a two-year break, ACR hosted a special visit to the W. 9th Street heronry in Santa Rosa for the students of Lincoln Elementary School.

On Friday, May 27, students walked from their school to a local heronry in a suburban neighborhood, where they got to see the herons through spotting scopes. The heronry on W. 9th Street is home to four species of herons and has over 200 nests, making it an important habitat—especially during nesting season.

For some students and...

May 26, 2022

Audubon Canyon Ranch has been awarded a $2 million grant from CAL FIRE. The largest share of the funding will be directed to its Fire Forward program, a prescribed fire training program that focuses on building capacity for prescribed burning across the San Francisco Bay Area. A prescribed burn, also called a controlled burn, is the intentional application of fire to vegetation for the purpose of land and resource stewardship.

Local solutions to overcome California’s prescribed fire workforce deficit

The four-year grant will launch a workforce development program, the Fire Forward Intensive, which will train five new full-time prescribed burn leaders each year. Participants will complete a range of formal wildland fire training courses and informal...

May 15, 2022
Beatrice Pezzolo during her interview for "Choose Nature"

This blog is part of our Choose Nature series, where we offer behind-the-scenes content that explores a central question in conservation: why did “choosing nature” feel like the fulfilling and right thing to do?

Beatrice Pezzolo is a high school sophomore, a passionate birder, and an emerging conservation scientist. From the team at Audubon Canyon Ranch, we thank Beatrice for her dedication to birds and community! The interview is available below to watch as well.

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May 08, 2022
Person holding a chainsaw next to a burned tree.

Fire practitioners Max Psaledakis and Eric Radcliffe express how this year-long internship gave them a sense of the community and deeper understanding of prescribed burning. In the above photo, Eric Radcliffe pauses using a chainsaw to smile.

Students receive ample field experience with “good fire”

This past academic year, Santa Rosa Junior College partnered with us to create a Fire Forward internship for students seeking experience with controlled burning. Two of the interns, Max Psaledakis and Eric Radcliffe, had a chance to reflect on what made their experience unique—and worthwhile.
“The community here has been a huge part of why this was a positive experience,” says Radcliffe. He applied for this internship in 2021 after deciding to explore career...
May 03, 2022
A GPS tagged Great Egret roosting between foraging trips. The antenna for the GPS tag is visible on the bird’s back, and the uniquely-numbered leg band is also visible.

New collaborative research shows how Great Egrets adjust daily flight patterns to feed their growing families.

By David Lumpkin and Scott Jennings, Avian Ecologists

Conservation science works best when practiced as a team sport. When we share ideas, data, methods, and information, we can learn so much more about the natural systems we’re trying to protect, compared to if we work in isolation. A new paper published in the scientific journal Waterbirds is the most recent example of how scientists at ACR’s Cypress Grove Research Center collaborate with researchers from across the country—and for the benefit of stronger, more impactful research.

The complete article is “Seasonal...

April 19, 2022

P37 Update: Day and Night Footage from Audubon Canyon Ranch on Vimeo.

In early March, mountain lion P37 joined the rank of tracked animals that scientists are studying as part of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Living with Lions program. P37, is a young dispersal male mountain lion. Tracking these young cats provides valuable data on whether there is connectivity in the landscape for wildlife.

Dispersal movement occur when mountain lions...

April 12, 2022
Marsh near Toms Point with spartina

Since 2001, Audubon Canyon Ranch has collaborated with the Invasive Spartina Project to monitor and remove the non-native, invasive cordgrass, Spartina densiflora, from Tomales Bay.

A lesser-known invasive Spartina that impacts San Francisco Bay and the nearby coast, S. densiflora, grows in expanding clumps that threaten wetlands by eliminating open areas used for foraging, particularly by birds. These dense clusters of cordgrass can alter marsh elevation, especially along the edges of channels and sloughs, by slowing water flow and trapping sediments.

Toms Point, an early Spartina hotspot

ACR’s Toms Point preserve, at the north end of Tomales Bay, was one of the first Spartina hotspots identified along the outer coast. Tomales Bay is an important wintering...

March 23, 2022
Eric and Bob changing batteries on a wildlife camera

This blog is part of our Choose Nature series, where we offer behind-the-scenes content that explores a central question in conservation: why did “choosing nature” feel like the fulfilling and right thing to do? All footage and interviews were conducted by Kate Remsen.

At Audubon Canyon Ranch, we are grateful to Bob and Eric for their dedication to the land and community.

Meet Bob Hasenick: Retired engineer turned super volunteer

“Let me make sure I’m not sliding down the hill,” Bob Hasenick says as Kate Remsen adjusts the camera. After some shuffling, he...

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