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Grant Allows Naturalist Class Expansion

February 24, 2015

A new $103,000 gift from the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas will allow UC Merced to expand two naturalist training courses at campus and in Yosemite National Park.

Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve Manager Chris Swarth offers an informal, semester-long course for UC Merced undergraduates. Students hike the Central Valley, the 6,500-acre reserve and the foothills, learning about natural history and ecology.

He also offers a 12-week version of the UC Extension’s California Naturalist course, which is open to anyone who wants to join. Sign-ups are being taken for the next class, which starts in March.

Becca Fenwick, manager of the Yosemite Field Station reserve at Wawona, offers an intensive, one-week California Naturalist course — also open to anyone — in conjunction with the Yosemite Conservancy each fall in the park.

The Mitsubishi gift allows the courses to expand by adding two part-time coordinators for the Valley courses and buying equipment like field notebooks, binoculars and other supplies. The program also received $7,500 from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to provide scholarships for people who need help covering tuition.

The Yosemite course is $800, including food, lodging and supplies, while the Valley course is $350 including a textbook and other supplies. To become certified, the California Naturalist students also must complete capstone projects and 40 hours of community service with environmental nonprofits. To sign up or for more information, email Fenwick at bfenwick@ucmerced.edu or Swarth at cswarth@ucmerced.edu.