Last chance to catch exhibit on Santa Cruz County naturalists

The Look-Act-Inspire exhibition hosted at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum wraps up in June, which makes this the final month to check out a special collection featuring notable local naturalists, including UC Santa Cruz students, faculty, and staff. The exhibit, curated by UCSC’s Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, explores what nature connection means to a wide variety of naturalists and draws on this perspective to envision a more diverse and inclusive future.  

The exhibit team interviewed nearly 100 community members as part of their development process, and photos, quotes, artwork, and diagrams throughout the exhibit reflect themes from those interviews. A few featured naturalists include Valentin Lopez, current chair of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band; the late Fred McPherson, a key figure in the natural history of the Santa Cruz Mountain Bioregion; and Julie Sidel, a longtime parks interpreter in Santa Cruz County. 

The exhibit also spotlights the next generation of naturalists, including those being trained by the Norris Center and UC Santa Cruz. Justin Luong, a Ph.D. student and member of the exhibit’s development team, said that one of the central themes the exhibit conveys is the need to rethink what the word “naturalist” means, including who can become a naturalist and how. 

“There is a younger, more diverse group of up-and-coming naturalists who generally tend to be more people of color and more LGBTQ folks,” Luong said. “Another thing we want people to take away is that you don’t need to be an expert to be a naturalist, and you don’t need any type of expensive, specialized equipment. All you need to do is enjoy nature, be curious, and want to learn more.”

The Look-Act-Inspire exhibition is open for in-person visits Thursday through Sunday until June 27th at the San Lorenzo Valley Museum's Belardi Gallery, located in Felton. Museum hours are Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1–4 p.m. and Friday from 4–7 p.m. Reservations are not required. To schedule a private tour, call the museum at 831-338-8382. You can also view an expanded online version of the exhibit.