January E-News
Soaking Rains Mark the Start of a New Year
The new year certainly started off with a roar with a so-called “bomb cyclone” followed by a continuous series of “atmospheric river” storms drenching our parched landscape after three years of drought. We find ourselves in an awkward moment of celebrating the long-wished-for rain while anxiously watching rising water levels, falling trees, and mudslides. Even as of this writing, we’re anticipating serious flooding along the lower Russian River that will impact homes and businesses, followed by even more storms. This “weather whiplash” is the reality of climate change.

You may have noticed in recent days that many photos accompanying local and national headlines about Northern California’s deluge show the Laguna de Santa Rosa with high water along Occidental Road. The photos are a bit misleading. We should, in fact, celebrate that this is exactly what we want to see along the Laguna de Santa Rosa as it serves as a natural flood basin that holds and stores runoff during severe storms. The Laguna collects runoff from hundreds of miles of creeks originating in the Sonoma and Mayacamas Mountains – from as far east as Oakmont Creek in Oakmont and the headwaters of Santa Rosa Creek on Hood Mountain – before entering the Russian River near Forestville. Even at times of high flow on the Russian River coinciding with high tide at its ocean mouth, the Laguna flows in reverse to capture more water. Studies indicate that without the Laguna’s holding capacity, destructive flooding on the Russian River would peak 10-13 feet higher than currently. The Laguna is essential for flood control and right now, it is doing its job.

It’s been reported that every dollar invested in buying undeveloped land and protecting natural flood basins can save $2 to more than $5 in avoided flood damages compared to developed areas. Fortunately, much of the landscape along the Laguna’s floodplain remains undeveloped. The lands consist of publicly-owned parks, wildlife preserves and privately-owned agricultural lands. Even with the many issues affecting the water quality and flows in the Laguna today, it still provides essential benefits as a natural wetland ecosystem. And restoring and conserving these remaining wetlands is of vital importance. In fact, it is absolutely critical in the face of our climate change induced weather whiplash.

That restoration work along the Laguna and its tributaries happens daily at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. We currently have a team of nine restoration and conservation specialists joined by a dedicated volunteer force working in collaboration with a variety of partner organizations. Our team is responsible for reintroducing native plants, removing invasive competitors, and expanding natural buffer areas along creeks around the watershed that mitigate runoff, store more carbon, and make the land more resilient. We are hard at work restoring our riparian forests and wetlands and conserving unique vernal pool habitats, ensuring that the Laguna landscape can absorb as much floodwater as possible as it continues to sustain its rich diversity of wildlife and plants. 

It is community members like you who make this work possible. As we anticipate perhaps the wettest January on record—more atmospheric river systems are expected even after this week’s storm parade—we are so grateful to have you as a member of our strong community of supporters helping to ensure we move into the best possible future. Read on for more project updates and upcoming events!
Community Collaboration Ensures a Hopeful Future for Gravenstein Creek
In early December our restoration team partnered with Point Blue Conservation Sciences’ Students and Teachers Restoring Watershed (STRAW) program and Sonoma Resource Conservation District's Farming Agriculture Resource Management for Sustainability (FARMS) program to get school kids out in the field restoring Gravenstein Creek on the City of Santa Rosa’s Brown Farm. We hosted four classes of 3rd graders and the high school FARMS students. All told, 130 plants were installed, including 25 milkweed plants! The students and teachers all had a great time and loved getting their hands in the soil to help restore an important tributary of the Laguna.

This is our third project on Gravenstein Creek where we are restoring 100 feet on either side of the creek to filter and shade the water that flows into the Laguna de Santa Rosa. This project is a collaboration with the Sonoma Resource Conservation District and is funded by CalTrans in order to mitigate the impacts from the construction of the Laguna bridge on Highway 12. The plantings are easy to see from the Joe Rodota trail, and we encouraged the kids to come back and show their friends and families their project and watch the plants grow into a forest over the years. We hope you'll come take a look, too!
Volunteer as a Learning Laguna Docent and Share Your Passion for Nature!
Learn more by attending an orientation on Friday, January 20, or Monday, February 6 from 10:00am - 11:30am
Location: Laguna Environmental Center
 
The Learning Laguna docent training course starts February 13th, and we are looking for caring people who love nature and want to share the wonders of the Laguna with children. What would your involvement entail? First, attend an orientation event. Then, sign up for the training course and participate in the six Monday classes. Following that, choose two dates to shadow Learning Laguna in action. After training, docents volunteer on weekday mornings each spring and fall to lead activities in 3rd grade classrooms and guide those students on field trips to Laguna Preserves. Each season, you choose the days of the week you volunteer. Every added docent means more school children will have quality learning experiences in nature. These experiences help shape young minds, and in some circumstances, even change lives!

Laguna Wetlands Prevent Flooding
Winter storms are always a mixed blessing for Sonoma County. While the communities along the lower Russian River are watching river levels and preparing for flooding, our wetlands and reservoirs are finally filling back up after the long drought. Consistent steady rains are exactly what the Laguna watershed needs. The vernal pools are full and the floodplain is holding water that would otherwise be flooding Guerneville and Forestville.

The restoration team got out for a quick paddle just as the water came up. We saw otters and bald eagles as we pushed our way through the native tule and cattails, and of course, ludwigia. Once the storms subside, keep an eye out for public kayaking trip offerings now that the water is high. We have compiled some information about the local impacts of Laguna flooding and kayaking here.
 
Now that the pools are full, vernal pool wildflowers have germinated and are patiently waiting out the wet season, staying at the bottom of vernal pools until it’s time to bolt and flower. The Sonoma sunshine that we seeded into the pools at Sonoma Valley Regional Park has germinated so we are hoping for a good show this spring. The flowers will bring pollinators essential to ecosystem health! Perennial rushes and sedges are pushing their way up through the water, their stems bringing oxygen down to the roots and providing habitat for amphibians to lay their eggs. This is still the dormancy period for so many of California’s native plants, but it is wake up time for vernal pools. Pools that have been empty and invisible for months are now suddenly all around us.
Events
Laguna Stewards @ Meadowlark Field
Saturday, January 14, 2023. 9:00am - 12:00pm
FREE Registration
Help care for and restore critical wildlife habitat - and learn about the Laguna de Santa Rosa!
 
Anticipating Winter Waterfowl
Tour with Dave Barry
Saturday, January 14, 2023. 7:30am – 11:30am
FREE (suggested donation $5 – $15).
This event is sold out. We welcome you to join the waitlist.
In this tour, take what your learned in our recent webinar and learn to identify ducks by their behavior and vocalization, both in flight and while feeding. We will learn basic identification techniques and key characteristics of waterfowl found in Sonoma County and along the Laguna de Santa Rosa at different times of year.

If you missed the webinar featuring Dave Barry on January 10th, we will have it posted to our YouTube channel by the end of next week.
 
A Laguna Field Guide: An Artist's Take On Taxonomy
Presentation with Heron Hall Gallery Artist, Christopher Reiger
Saturday, January 28, 2023. 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Calling all bird nerds! In conjunction with his exhibition of colorful Field Guide posters in the Heron Hall Art Gallery, artist, illustrator, and writer Christopher Reiger will visually guide us through the backstory of our current exhibit featuring his work. Christopher will explain the origins of the Field Guide project as well as the project's celebration and critique of taxonomy. He will also provide a brief overview of some of his other art and illustration projects.
New Art Exhibit in Heron Hall
“A Laguna Field Guide” by Christopher Reiger
On display January 5 – April 28, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 21, 2023. 3:00pm-5:00pm
Location: Laguna Environmental Center, 900 Sanford Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Light refreshments provided.
Exhibit Overview
Artist, illustrator, and writer Christopher Reiger is exhibiting a selection of his popular Field Guide series in the Heron Hall Gallery and Gift Shop! Each poster on view features the color column of a common or frequently observed bird species in the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

Artist Statement
As a natural history nerd, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we classify and catalog life. The social implications of our evolved human impulse to categorize are generally grim, but the same proclivity allows us to better appreciate evolution and the relationship between species, subspecies, and ecological races (or ecotypes).

For the Field Guide project, I consider birds from one angle – literally, birds viewed in profile. I then breakdown each bird by color (plumage, legs, beaks/bills, and eyes) and create the column shown in the center of each poster. The colors in each column are stacked according to the percentage of a given color observed, with the largest share at the column’s top and the smallest share at the column’s base. The bird’s English common name and its scientific binomial are noted on the poster’s base, along with information on the bird’s sex, and, if relevant, plumage variation. The resulting posters are visually compelling tributes to each featured species.

I hope that the Field Guide posters will be appreciated by bird nerds, designers, and lovers of Josef Albers, but the project is also a playful way for me to both celebrate and critique the necessarily imperfect science of taxonomy. 
About the Artist
Originally from the rural Delmarva Peninsula on the mid-Atlantic coast, Christopher Reiger attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, before moving to New York City, where he lived and worked for a decade. He graduated from the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts (NYC) in 2002. His visual art has been widely exhibited in the United States, and his art criticism and essays and short-form pieces about art and natural history are included in books, art and culture magazines, and online journals. In 2011, Reiger cofounded BAASICS (Bay Area Art & Science Interdisciplinary Collaborative Sessions), a nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring contemporary topics through the juxtaposition of art and science, which concluded a wonderful seven-year run in 2018. Christopher lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and two young sons.
PLEASE NOTE
“A Laguna Field Guide: An Artist's Take On Taxonomy” a presentation by Christopher Reiger is Saturday, January 28, 4:00pm-5:30pm at Heron Hall. Free. Pre-registration is required.
Camp Tule 2023 Dates are Set
Registration opens soon!
We are gearing up for another summer full of adventures along the Laguna, eager to welcome young explorers to Camp Tule 2023. Our one-of-a-kind, beautiful location, exciting games, special crafts, and lively activities will teach children about the natural world of the Laguna and help them make friends with each other, plants and animals alike. We will use our senses to explore the trails to Irwin Creek and the Laguna and delight in all the surprises we find along the way from animal tracks on the ground to hawks soaring overhead. Awe and wonder awaits us all!

This summer we are planning four, five-day sessions. Each camp day runs from 9:00 AM-3:00 PM. Tuition is $325.00. Scholarships will be available.
  • Session 1: June 26 – 30 for 6-9 year old children.
  • Session 2: July 10-14 for ages 6-9.
  • Session 3: July 17-21 also for 6-9.
  • Session 4: July 24-28 for children ages 10-12

Registration will open on Wednesday, March 1. Details and registration links are located on the Camp Tule webpage.
Visit Us
The Laguna Environmental Center remains open by appointment to see the gallery and grounds during the weekdays, by contacting Maggie Hart.
 
Our office will be closed on Monday, January 16th to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.