10th Anniversary Norris Center Natural History Symposium

Building Community Through Natural History

The Norris Center Art and Research Symposium.

Saturday, Feb 24th, 2024 at the UCSC Hay Barn, From 12:30pm - 5pm. 

Join us Saturday, February 24 from 12:30-5pm at the UCSC Hay barn for the Norris Center's 10th anniversary Natural History Symposium! Following our theme this year of "Building Community Through Natural History", we're excited to bring together the broader community of naturalists in our area for a fun inspiring afternoon of presentations and participatory nature art. Please join us for this free event. Admission is FREE, with a $10 donation strongly encouraged for non-student adults 12 & up ($5 for current Friends of the Norris Center members). 

Keynote speaker
Dr. Justin Cummings is a UCSC Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. alum now serving as Third District Supervisor in Santa Cruz County. He will be joining us during this year’s symposium to speak on his background and the many experiences and connections he's made that have contributed to his path as a community environmental leader. His keynote speech is titled: “Preparing Yourself To Preserve Our Environment".

Justin grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended Eastern Illinois University where he received a B.A. in Spanish and Biology. In 2007, Justin moved to Santa Cruz to pursue a Ph.D. at UCSC where his research focused on invasive species management and tropical forest restoration in Panama. In 2020, Justin was the first Black man appointed to serve as Mayor of Santa Cruz. As a renter, environmental scientist, and young professional in Santa Cruz, Justin has placed diversity, equity, inclusion, and environmental protection at the forefront of the decision-making process.
Justin Cumming-Santa Cruz County website
UCSC Newsletter
Faculty speaker: 
Dr. Lily Balloffet is an Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at UCSC. She teaches and writes about moving beings, ideas, and things in our hemisphere. Her current book project is titled American Venom: Animals, Science, & Hemispheric Relations, and gives a historically grounded account of venomous snakebite - one of the world’s most critical neglected tropical diseases according to the World Health Organization. This research brings to light the humans and animals involved in over a century of antivenom pharmaceutical production in Latin America. At this year’s symposium, Lily will be joining us through a speech titled: “From The Ground Up: Snakes, Science, And History.”
Lily's Website

Gradute Student speaker: 

Maddie McNelis is a PhD Student in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department, Maddie is in the Mehta Lab. Maddie is interested in lactation, and the organs that make the magic of milk happen. Maddie was first introduced to the Norris Center as a Mammalogy TA, and loved working with students and the museum. Maddie will be working as a graduate assistant in the Norris Center next quarter!

 Student speaker: 

Ty Brown has worked with the Norris Center since the summer of 2024. Ty was the one of the Norris Centers CAMINO interns. Ty created the spectacular 2024 pollinator calendar! Ty is now a Norris Center student curator focusing on art-science. Ty’s talk titled: “Timing is Everything”, is about the making of the 2024 pollinator calendar!


Join us for community block print-making under the guidance of UCSC arts faculty and students! Feel free to bring a piece of clothing or fabric to make nature block prints.
Directions and Parking info 
The UCSC Hay Barn is located very near the main entrance of the UCSC campus. Parking is free on the weekends. Please plan to park in lots 116 or 115 and walk a short distance across Coolidge Drive to the event. There is no parking on Ranch View Road. A small number of ADA accessible parking spots are available at the Hay Barn itself. Please contact us before the event at 831 459-4763 or norriscenter@ucsc.edu if you would like to use these spots.


12:30 Doors open at the UCSC Hay barn to see Norris Center exhibits

1:30 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Justin Cummings, a UCSC Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Ph.D. alumni now serving as Third District Supervisor in Santa Cruz County: "Preparing Yourself to Preserve our Environment"

2:45 Faculty and Student Presentations, including Dr. Lily Balloffet from our Latin American and Latino Studies Department: “From the Ground Up: Snakes, Science, and History”

3:30 Participatory Nature Art Block print-making hosted by UCSC Arts faculty and students




Norris Center Art and Research Symposium, 2023.

We had student presentations, displays, a guest talk by Dr. Winifred Frick and an art workshop!

Guest speaker: Dr. Winifred Frick Title: Discovering a lost bat species in Africa: How natural history and collaborative science are saving Hill’s horseshoe bat in Rwanda Description: The story of the re-discovery of Hill’s horseshoe bat in Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda showcases the importance of collaborative conservation and the formative role of natural history to inform effective conservation efforts. 


Norris Center Student Open House, Guest Speakers from NSF NEON, and Norris Center Open House.



Art show opening- Visualizing the the Origins of Life on the Early Earth. Art and Science merge to help visualize the birth of eukaryotic cells and the origin of life on the early Earth. A collaborative project between artist Shoshanah Dubiner and scientist Dave Deamer.  

Pocket-Sized Landscapes in Watercolor. 

2022, 50 Years of Wonder weekend celebration gathering
The fourth and final event celebrating 50 years of natural history education and research at UCSC. UCSC natural history community joined in for a fun, inspirational weekend of seeing old friends, networking with new ones, learning and sharing skills as naturalists, and celebrating as a community.

Norris Center Natural History Symposium, 2022

Keynote presentation and follow-up discussion was given by and led by new Environmental Studies faculty member Dr. Natalia Ocampo-Penuela. 

The title of Dr. Natalia Ocampo-Penuela talk is "The invisible naturalist: Mrs. Elizabeth Kerr". 

Event Flyer



Career panel discussion- Thursday April 21 during UCSC Alumni Week

 Featured Alums at the Career panel discussion were:

Jodi McGraw is the Principal of Jodi McGraw Consulting—a small, woman-owned firm that assists private and public clients with projects primarily designed to protect rare and endangered species and conserve biodiversity. Although her firm’s projects occur throughout Central Coastal California, Jodi specializes in projects to protect the Santa Cruz Sandhills—a unique community found only in Santa Cruz County. Jodi received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Rachel Carson College in 1995, and her Doctorate in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley in 2004.Contact: jodi@jodimcgrawconsulting.com


Eric Medina-Can is a first-generation college graduate from UC Santa Cruz with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a BA in Latin American Latino Studies. After graduating in 2019 Eric completed a post-baccalaureate program at Yale University studying bacteriophage and has worked for several non-profits helping coordinate food distributions and bridging spanish speaking families to legal and financial resources. Most recently he has returned to Santa Cruz to work as the Restoration and Education Steward of Younger Lagoon Reserve where he works in the field alongside students and community members.
Contact: eimedina@ucsc.edu



Emily Cobar is the Community Program Manager at Los Angeles Audubon Society, a nonprofit organization that focuses on wildlife conservation through research, education, recreation, and habitat restoration. Emily leads many environmental education programs for varying audiences from inner-city elementary school students to high school students to community college students. She enjoys teaching about the natural history of Los Angeles, including topics such as water conservation, plant communities, urban wildlife, geology, and more.
Contact: emilycobar@gmail.com



Susan Monheit has recently retired from a 30 year career in the environmental field which included experience in both public and private sector work. Areas of experience/expertise include: Water quality, contaminated soils, Ecological and Human Health Risk Assessments, environmental toxicology, regulatory compliance, hydropower relicensing, salmonid habitat restoration, endangered species conservation, and environmental contamination cleanup. She has worked for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, ChemRisk, Levine-Fricke, California Department of Food and Agriculture, State Water Resources Control Board, and the US Geological Survey. Susan is now involved in creating a sustainable, off-grid, permaculture, Ayurvedic, Eco-retreat center on an island in Bocas, Panama. She is interested in mentoring young and upcoming environmental students to take the reins and guide stewardship of our planet.
Contact: smonheit74@gmail.com


aldo-lopez.pngAldo Lopez is the Land Programs Coordinator with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Born and raised in Oxnard, CA, Aldo’s love for the outdoors began with time spent at Lake Cachuma and Gaviota Beach. With a Master’s degree from the University of San Francisco in Environmental Management and a concentration in ecology, Aldo worked throughout California gaining restoration and forestry experience, most recently for Watsonville Wetlands Watch. Aldo engages a more diverse community in Santa Barbara County’s amazing and biodiverse ecosystems. When Aldo isn’t working on restoration projects or program development, he is taking long road trips to National and State parks, hiking with his dogs, and enjoying concerts and football games. Contact: alopez9272@gmail.com