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 the natural history of local species and new ideas for sharing your knowledge with 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, faculty and regional experts


Community members are welcome! School teachers and administrators and encouraged to join as a professional development opportunity. We welcome you to become an Osborn Naturalist. Our program is flexible to fit into your busy schedule. (If you are an SSU Undergraduate student, contact Suzanne DeCoursey at for information about the Student Naturalist Training Program.)

You can become an Osborn Naturalist by completing all three of the following:

  1. Attending three or more Naturalist Ed Series events (see list below). All events are located at Sonoma State University’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve in Penngrove. Event topics vary every semester and focus on native species, ecological communities and our connections to the land. SSU faculty and other local experts take you into the field to explore watersheds, adaptations, scientific inquiry and more.
  2. Attending “Trail Activities & Planning Visits​” event Saturday, August 26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m). At the “Trail Activities & Planning Visits” event, we learn games to play with children
    to teach key concepts about our connections with nature.
  3. Leading four or more Friday tours September 8 to October 13 (9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) for 3-5 graders. New naturalists initially team up with experienced naturalists, and then gradually work their way up to co-leading tours with other newly-trained naturalists.

As an Osborn Naturalist, you will be welcomed into a community of volunteers who work on university research projects, attend special naturalist events, hikes and gain additional access to the Osborn Preserve. Naturalists completing the program receive an “Osborn Naturalist Certificate of Completion.”

Fall 2023 Naturalist Ed Series events:

  • Birds of Osborn Preserve: Saturday, August 19 (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) 
  • Pollinators Under Power Lines: Saturday, August 19 (1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
  • Grasslands Galore: Sunday, August 20 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Trail Activities & Planning Visits (mandatory): Saturday, August 26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
  • Oak Woodland Ecology: Saturday, September 9 (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
  • Osborn Historical Ecology: Saturday, September 9 (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.)

Additional Information for School Districts:

  • This training incorporates Next Generation Science Standards and may qualify as a professional development opportunity for elementary school teachers and/or administrators.
  • Leading school tours is optional.
  • Materials fee waived.


Must be 18 years or older. No experience required.

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 *lower* 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. Pets and smoking are not permitted.

COVID-19 Safety

Do not attend if you test positive for COVID-19 or if you have any symptoms that may be indicative of COVID-19. You are encouraged to wear a mask when indoors (e.g., carpooling to or from the preserve). We will spend all of our time outdoors where social distancing is possible. All SSU updated guidelines can be found here.

What to Bring

Please bring a 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., birds). 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 Saturday, August 26, 2023.

There is a $40 materials fee per person to help offset the cost of the Training Binder, SSU t-shirt, etc. Scholarships are available to waive the materials fee. 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
Saturday, August, 26, 2023, 10:00am to 3:00pm