Plants, Life, Riverside is an ongoing interpretive project about plants in an urban setting. How are natural areas managed in the 12th largest city in California? Let’s find out.
The City of Riverside has a new nature center!
The Ameal Moore Nature Center in Riverside’s Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park opened June 14, 2014. Named in honor of former councilman Ameal Moore, the nature center is a testament to Councilman Moore’s dedication to connecting Riverside residents with local natural resources.
Excited about the start of a new school year, the nature center’s five part-time educators are ready to welcome students, teachers, parents and the community.
Managed by the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, the Ameal Moore Nature Center will soon announce educational programs supporting its citizen science objectives and the use of the park as an outdoor research center. The park’s 1,500 acres makes Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park the second largest municipal park in the United States, second only to Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Among the educational programs planned at the new nature center are programs about Native American culture. The museum has been working with faculty in Native American Studies at UC Riverside, the Sherman Indian Museum and members of the local Cahuilla indian community. The first program to emerge from this exciting collaboration is Spring Break Camp 2015, an immersive experience in Cahuilla culture. Participants will learn about the Cahuilla language, basket weaving and storytelling, and will also learn about the plants, animals and ecology of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. This camp will be held March 30 – April 3, 2015 and will be open to students ages 6-12. Parents interested in enrolling their children in this fantastic opportunity are encouraged to contact the Riverside Metropolitan Museum at 951-826-5273.
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is home to thirty-three plant families, four families of amphibians and reptiles, thirteen bird families and eight families of mammals.
Last year the Riverside Metropolitan Museum and its partners launched a citizen science project and a new app called Riverside Nature Spotter. The objective of the citizen science project is to document the plants and animals observed in Sycamore Canyon, as well as the plants and animals observed within the city. Riverside residents are invited to participate in this project. It is very easy to participate and regular trips to the museum or the nature center are not necessary.
To contribute to this exciting community project, Riverside residents only need to do the following:
- Download the Riverside Nature Spotter app (available at the Apple App Store or the Google Store).
- Use the Riverside Nature Spotter app to photograph the plants and wildlife they see in their neighborhoods while at home or while enjoying a leisurely walk, an urban hike or a bike ride.
- Upload photos to the Riverside Citizen Science project page at iNaturalist.org.
What is iNaturalist?
The iNaturalist website is an online community where people can communicate with fellow naturalists and scientists. This interactive platform, originally created as a Master’s project at UC Berkeley in 2008, was acquired by the California Academy of Sciences earlier this year. This platform enables groups to form projects on the iNaturalist website and the Riverside Citizen Science project is one of thousands of projects at iNaturalist.
If you would like to participate in this project but are worried about not knowing the names of local plants or animals, set your concerns aside. When you submit photos to the Riverside Citizen Science page, you can ask the museum’s naturalist (Curator of Natural History, James Bryant), to identify the plant or animal for you. If you prefer to identify unknown specimens yourself, resources are available to help you with this task. The Riverside Citizen Science page features links to field guides about local plants, mammals, insects, amphibians, reptiles and fish. These field guides can be viewed online or printed in a grid format, a book format or a journal format.
One of eight protected core reserves for the Federally-listed endangered Stephens’ kangaroo rat, Sycamore Canyon is noticeably void of the anxiety and stress of our 24/7 instant-messaging 21st-century lifestyle. This has no doubt contributed to the park’s popularity with mountain bike riders and fitness enthusiasts. There is much to see and a lot to learn at Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park and the Ameal Moore Nature Center adds a new dimension to the park. Teresa Woodard, Curator of Education at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, says the new nature center affords residents the opportunity to experience nature in the city and to experience nature as a leisure activity. She hopes the programs offered at the new nature center encourages people to look at life in the park more closely and encourages conversation about how to manage our natural resources.
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is open 1/2 hour before sunrise and closes 1/2 hour after sunset. The nature center is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm and starting October 8th, Wednesday through Sunday from 9 am – 5 pm.
Riverside residents are invited to help the Ameal Moore Nature Center plan its public programs. To offer your thoughts, complete the short three-question survey at MySycamoreCanyon.com, the official website of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park. The survey is available in both English and Spanish.