Naturalist Ed Series: Become an Osborn Naturalist!

Learn how to share nature’s secrets with others while exploring the stunning ecosystems of Sonoma Mountain with university faculty and other experts. This outdoor Naturalist Educator Series will give you new insights into environmental education concepts and the skills to share your knowledge with elementary school children. Join a community working to eradicate Nature Deficit Disorder in the North Bay! Become an Osborn Naturalist and acquire the skills to get “Environmentally Ready.”


University staff and regional experts


To become an Osborn Naturalist: 1) Choose at least three Naturalist Ed Series events, 2) Attend the “Hiking with Children” event, and 3) Be available to help lead four or more school tours *optional for credentialed teachers (see Requirements below)

Community members are welcome! School teachers and administrators are encouraged to join as a professional development opportunity, as the activities incorporate Next Generation Science Standards.

For each event, we will gather at Sonoma State University’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve to learn about native species and our connections to the land. Events within the Series vary every semester and include plants, birds, amphibians, geology, human history and more. We will explore the ecological communities of the Osborn Preserve with SSU faculty and local experts to experience firsthand how these topics connect with concepts relating to watersheds, adaptations, scientific inquiry and more. During the “Hiking with Children” event, we will learn games to play with children to teach key concepts about our connections with nature.

You will get the opportunity to practice your new knowledge and skills by leading small group tours for 3rd-5th graders. Our naturalists initially lead tours by teaming up with experienced naturalists, and gradually work their way up to leading tours with other newly-trained naturalists. Credentialed teachers have the option of leading school tours, but are not required to.

As an Osborn Naturalist, you will be welcomed into a community of volunteers who work on university research projects, and attend special naturalist events, hikes and private access to the Osborn Preserve. You will also receive an “Osborn Naturalist Certificate of Completion” at the end of the semester after completing the program. Joining one or more pre-tour class visits to local schools (optional) earns a “seal” on your  “Osborn Naturalist Certificate of Completion”!

Requirements to become an Osborn Naturalist

  1. Choose three or more Naturalist Ed Series events (below)
  2. Attend “Hiking with Children” event: Sunday, August 28 (10 A.M. to 3 P.M.)
  3. Be available to help lead four or more tours (grades 3-5) *optional for credentialed teachers
    • Fridays, September 9 to October 14 (9:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.)

Naturalist Ed Series events:

  • Connecting to Nature Through Story: Thursday, April 28 (3 PM to 6 PM)
  • Osborn Historical Ecology: Sunday August 21 (10 A.M. to 1 P.M.)
  • Scales & Shells (Reptiles): Sunday August 21 (1:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.)
  • Geology of Sonoma Mountain: Sunday August 28 (3:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.)
  • Inquiry Explorations in Nature: Tuesday August 30 (2:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M.)
  • Watersheds & the California Giant Salamander: Tuesday September 13 (1 P.M. to 3 P.M.)

Must be age 18 years or older. No experience required.

If you are an SSU UNDERGRADUATE student, contact Suzanne DeCoursey ( for information about the student Naturalist Training Program.


Events and tours are at SSU’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve, a 15-minute drive from SSU’s main campus. All events occur rain or shine.

The maximum hike will be 3 miles with a 500-foot elevation gain. With advance notice, we can accommodate participants who can hike a minimum of 1 mile with a 300-foot elevation gain.

Directions will be provided in your registration confirmation email. A sink for handwashing, potable water and restroom are available on site. Please arrive to park in advance of your registered event start time. The preserve gate will be unlocked 20 minutes before the start of each event. You will be asked to sign a liability waiver upon your arrival. No pets or smoking are permitted.

COVID-19 Safety

At registration, you will be asked if you can provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. All staff are vaccinated. Do not attend if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you have any symptoms that may be indicative of COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated. You must properly wear a mask when indoors (e.g., education center at Osborn Preserve, carpooling to or from the preserve), even if you are vaccinated. Bandanas, gaiters or vented masks are not suitable. We will spend all of our time outdoors where social distancing is possible.

What to Bring

Please bring a suitable mask, backpack, water bottle, snacks for the trail, writing implement and paper. We recommend layered clothing, covered shoes, a hat, rain gear, sun and insect protection and hand sanitizer. We recommend you bring binoculars (if you have them), especially for any animal-related events (e.g., reptiles). We have a limited number of binoculars.

How to Sign Up

See registration link below. Each participant should register separately. The last day to register to become an Osborn Naturalist is August 27, 2022. 

There is a $40 materials fee per person (fee waived for credentialed teachers). After your first day of training, a payment link will be sent to your email.

About the Center

Sonoma State University’s Center for Environmental Inquiry empowers university students to work with community members on the environmental challenges of the North Bay. Our mission is to create an engaged and environmentally ready society, one where all people have the skills to find solutions to the challenges facing our earth. SSU Preserves are open to everyone engaged in education or research. Reservations are required.

Fairfield Osborn Preserve
Admission Fees
$40 materials fee (waived for credentialed teachers)
Contact Email
Contact Phone
Contact Name
Julie Wittmann
Date & Time Registration Link
Sunday, August, 28, 2022, 10:00am to 3:00pm