Exploring Sierra Nevada Natural History

General Description:

Join one of the Sierra Nevada's premier naturalists in this playful week searching for critters, plants, butterflies and more. Come prepared to be curious and ready for adventure as we wade into marshes with nets, peer into the inner workings of flowers, chase after lizards, examine animal tracks and sign, and track down singing birds. Each day will be as unique as the next as we look for the unexpected with the open eyes of old-fashioned naturalists. The field campus provides remarkable opportunities for exploring Sierra Nevada natural history. Habitats range from mountain forests and woodlands, to riparian corridors, rocky cliffs, and lakes. East of Yuba Pass we will explore desert habitats of the Great Basin and the Sierra Valley marsh system - one of northeastern California's largest and most productive wetlands. We will spend time in all these habitats observing an impressive variety of plants and animals.

Class Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus on Sunday. We will get acquainted that evening, but the class will begin at 7:30 AM on Monday. The week's activities will be flexible to take advantage of some of the best viewing opportunities but in general each day will be spent in the field, with time to relax at lunch, and returning to the field campus by dinner. Lectures and discussions will be held informally in the field or in the evening. Evening activities may include searching for owls. Walks will be generally short but could range up to 5 miles over moderately rough terrain. The class will end around noon on Friday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Field gear

Camping gear


Days are warm, even hot, while evenings are quite cold (close to freezing). Clothing that can be layered for variable weather conditions is best. T-shirts and shorts are often perfect during the day, with a wind jacket or raincoat as backup. Long pants, warmer shirts and sweaters with a coat are necessary in the evening. Comfortable shoes, sun hat, wool hat and gloves are important. Old sneakers or rubber boots and a swimsuit may come in handy while visiting marshes.