UC Santa Cruz Arboretum inspires young author's nature guide

Nature walk and book signing on May 17 celebrates the publication of 'The Budding Naturalist's Guide to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum' by 15-year-old Kelly McCandless

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Kelly McCandless (Photo by Elise McCandless)
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The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum will host a family-friendly nature walk and book signing on Sunday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to noon, featuring Kelly McCandless, the 15-year-old author of The Budding Naturalist's Guide to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum.

According to McCandless, whose parents enrolled her in a nature awareness program at the Arboretum when she was 12, the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is a unique sanctuary for both wildlife and people. "It has an amazing amount and variety of birds and supports so much other wildlife, too," she said. "It's close to town and very people-friendly, and the paths are well-tended and easy to use."

Joining McCandless at the May 17 event will be Todd Newberry, professor emeritus of biology at UC Santa Cruz and a renowned Santa Cruz birder, who met the young naturalist on one of the regular bird walks he leads at the Arboretum. Newberry said he was impressed by her skills as a naturalist and her plans for the book. The book is not only a useful guide for identifying the birds and other animals found in the Arboretum, it is also full of tips for learning to notice more about how wild things lead their lives, he said.

"She has learned to notice, and that's what this book is about. It enriches the experience of seeing an animal," said Newberry, who contributed a preface and some notes to the book.

McCandless said Newberry shared his knowledge and stories with her and provided guidance and support as she worked on the book. "It was amazing being able to work with him," she said. "I hope the book will give budding naturalists of any age a desire to learn more about the natural world and feel inspired to explore nature throughout their lives."

Elise McCandless, Kelly's mother (and a UCSC alumna [Cowell '87] and staff member), said that for almost four years Kelly has spent one day a week at the Arboretum studying and exploring. "This connection with nature was life changing for her," she said. "She met Todd Newberry on a bird walk at the Arboretum, and I think right away he recognized the deep appreciation that she shares with him for the Arboretum and their similar beliefs about not just learning about nature, but letting nature teach us."

Jessica Fiske Bailey, executive director of the Arboretum, said she is delighted with the book and hopes it will bring new visitors to the Arboretum. "I think this book will help people engage with the collections and the environment here in new ways," she said. "Kelly shows what an inspiring place this is and how people of all ages can interact with nature in a variety of ways at the Arboretum. It's such a great environment for kids, birders, photographers, families, and artists, and it is different each time you visit."

Those planning to attend the event on May 17 are encouraged to RSVP online. The nature walk begins promptly at 9 a.m. Please bring a pair of binoculars if you have them. The book signing starts at 11 a.m., and books will be available for sale on site. For more information about this event, contact the Arboretum at (831) 502-2998 or visit the Arboretum web site at arboretum.ucsc.edu.

The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum is a research and teaching facility committed to plant conservation and serves both the campus and the public. Its rich and diverse collection, containing representatives of more than 300 plant families, provides a broad survey of the plant kingdom. The Arboretum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Norrie's Gifts is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.