UC California Naturalist Certification

Next course offering planned for Spring Semester 2024 (8 weeks from April 2 -May 21)! Enrollment is open now!

The Department of Earth, Space, and Environmental Sciences at Palomar College is pleased to offer a regional field course, in conjunction with the UC California Naturalist program, focused on the natural history of San Diego County. Through this partnership, we’ll combine place-based education focusing on how local natural systems function with the opportunity to obtain a valuable statewide certification as a certified California Naturalist.

Students in Anza Borrego

What is the California Naturalist Certification?

The UC California Naturalist program, a statewide program of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, collaborates with California Community Colleges and other local partner organizations to deliver California Naturalist certification courses. These courses are designed for adults including college students, teachers, docents, land stewards and nature enthusiasts wanting to develop a sense of place and participate in service learning and stewardship of natural resources. After completing this 40+ hour course you can become a certified California Naturalist joining over 4000 Naturalists around the state who have, in turn, volunteered over 200,000 hours in service to nature in the areas of education and interpretation, stewardship, citizen science, and environmental program support (Details from UCANR).

Course Details

This 1.5-unit course, GEOG 195, fulfills partial requirements of the Associate’s Degree in Geography as well as all requirements of the California Naturalist certification. There are no prerequisites!  If you are new to studying nature we welcome you! It will include 5 online meetings along with 4 Saturday field trips ranging in length from 4 to 8 hours. The schedule is as follows:

  • Evening lecture sessions (x5). These sessions will be held live online and will include a mix of lecture, guest speakers, and activities.
  • Saturday field trips (x3-4). These trips will include an introduction to techniques and concepts of natural history study in the field. General topics include an introduction to the course and habitats of San Diego County, the mountains of San Diego County, deserts and water management, and coastal geology and habitats. For Spring 2024, the field trip dates are:
    • April 6th OR 7th (this is a self-directed trip with some flexibility in terms of timing)
    • April 20th (North County coastline from Carlsbad to Del Mar)
    • May 4th (Meeting in Ramona and ending in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park)
    • May 5th (Meeting near Borrego Springs in the morning and ending near the Salton Sea)

      • Note that the May 4th and May 5th trips run back-to-back and camping/booking lodging is a good option. Consider Green Valley, Paso Picacho, William Heise County Park, or Borrego Palm Canyon campgrounds; or Culp Valley as a primitive camping option.


There are two stages in the enrollment process:

  • There is a mandatory fee in support of the California Naturalist Program of $110 for other community members and part-time students. Scholarships may be available to full time Palomar students, which will be delivered in the form of a $55 refund of course fees.
  • Then, Palomar College will charge approximately $90 tuition for the 1.5 unit course upon enrollment (NOTE: this is in-state tuition. Out-of-state residents will pay more.)
  • Private transportation is also required for the field trips.

Enrollment Instructions

To enroll in the class, please follow the steps outlined below:

  1. If you’re not already a Palomar student, you will have to apply to to the college. Please refer to the application instructions at this link. More details about the process can be found on Palomar’s Steps to Enroll page.
  2. Log in to MyPalomar to complete enrollment. At this point you’ll be required to pay Palomar’s tuition for 1.5 units and you will have to pay the mandatory course fee.
  3. About a week or so prior to the course, visit the Course Canvas Page for details, syllabus, and announcements (around mid March). Course announcements will go to your Palomar email account by default!

If any of the following San Diego County scenes leave you scratching your head and wondering how these things work… this course is for you!

Font's Point padlands

Snow in Mount Laguna Recreation Area

Tafoni weathering on a rock

Thundercloud julian

Anza rock closeup

Student observing a Yucca