Engage & Mentor

We Speak for Plants Because They Can’t

Understanding, protecting, and restoring native plants is only the first part of facilitating a better tomorrow for California. At the Garden, we are dedicated to advocating for our native plants and spreading the word about the beauty, benefits, and sustainability of supporting native habitats in the wild and in your homes.

Annual Conservation Symposium

Scenes from the 2020 Conservation SymposiumWith our annual Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Conservation Symposium, we aim to bring people together to educate, inspire, and facilitate action on topics that are critical to environmental conservation in our region and beyond. Participants include county residents, policy-makers, academics, and environmentalists. The day features a keynote lecture by the recipient of our John C. Prizlaff Conservation Award, talks by other experts and leaders, and a panel discussion with all participants. Covering topics from pollinator decline to large-scale habitat restoration, conservation in a changing climate to rare plant protection, this symposium targets different hot topics of environmental concern.

Click here to learn about past Conservation Symposia.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Scientists

Photo Esther Duh and Brandon Benitez in the labEducational opportunities focusing on natural history have been dwindling across institutes of higher learning, including botany and ecology courses. Although these courses have been mainstays of biology departments and are vital to undergraduate and graduate student training, the cost of low student-teacher ratios, expensive field trips, and the need for teaching assistants to lead lab sections have often made these classes seem overly costly. The Garden seeks to reverse this trend locally through educational offerings at local universities and on the Garden grounds. Garden botanists Matt Guilliams and Kristen Hasenstab-Lehman have revived the California Flora and Vegetation course at UC Santa Barbara, with the next offering in 2021. Other Conservation & Research staff have taught Plant Biology and Biodiversity and the Natural History of the California Channel Islands. These UCSB courses gives the Garden an opportunity to engage the next generation in the value and context of biodiversity, native plant botany, and natural history through the lens of fascinating and dramatically beautiful landscapes in our own backyard.

In addition to formal instruction, Conservation & Research staff also mentor students via volunteering and experiential research opportunities. Over the last five years, we’ve mentored dozens of students from local colleges and universities including UCSB, CalPoly SLO, CSUCI, Westmont, Santa Barbara City College, and Antioch University. Research opportunities range from small contributions to ongoing research to focused, independent projects that can be presented at a scientific conference. These opportunities are also available to recent graduates and career changers looking to build a new skill set or gain experience in botanical and ecological research. Covering topics ranging from field botany, to conservation to ecological networks, our diverse research program offers a wide array of potential experiences. Please review our current opportunities here. Reach out via email to the appropriate Garden Scientists to discuss how to get involved in our conservation and research efforts.

Volunteering with Conservation and Research

photo of intern Jeff imaging clarkia seedThe Conservation and Research department is a unique place to begin volunteering at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Whether you’re young and eager to get involved in science, or retired and looking to spend time with like-minded folks, the Conservation and Research Department has many options. You can join the Botany team in the herbarium to mount dried plant specimens for our herbarium (a plant library!) that researchers have collected from the field. Or, you can join the Rare Plant Conservation team in cleaning seeds from some of California's rarest plants so they can be added to our long term conservation seed bank. If bugs are more your thing, you can work the Bee Beautification Station and help the Ecology team mount, image and curate invertebrate collections from the Central Coast and the Channel Islands. There is something for everyone and plenty of work to go around! If becoming a community scientist and joining the Conservation and Research team interests you, head over to our Volunteer page and join us in conserving California's native plants and habitats.