UC California Naturalist is a statewide program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources that engages the public in the study and stewardship of California’s unique ecology and natural communities.

In 2021, UC California Naturalist graduated its first cohort, totaling 180 trainees, from its recently developed UC Climate Stewards certification program. UC Climate Stewards seek to improve climate change literacy and cultivate communities’ resilience to climate impacts.

Using a train-the-trainer model, the initiative partners with organizations to recruit educators who can be trusted local leaders. The UC Climate Stewards program operates with the understanding that science alone cannot be the pillar of trust; the course utilizes a whole-person approach to climate change education that recognizes how the lives and psyches of local communities are impacted by events such as heat waves and wildfires. 

In addition to climate science concepts, trainees learn to incorporate social and emotional resilience and trauma-informed communication along with principles of climate justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Because climate impacts are amplified in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) neighborhoods and areas with high poverty rates, UC Climate Stewards is working to recruit participants who have not traditionally been well represented in climate change education programs. 

Trainees are engaged through online, in-person and field experiences and graduate as Climate Stewards equipped to respond to community needs, deliver science-based information, and generate relationships and social capital that enable climate action. To date, the program has logged 1,400 public service hours with an estimated value over $40,000 and looks forward to graduating an additional 120 participants by the end of 2021.