Mother Nature stays busy this spring at Bernard Field Station

The signs of spring sweep across the grounds of The Colleges’ Bernard Field Station and adjacent north campus property, speckles of yellow and purple in a sea of wildflowers. Charred tree trunks scattered among the mix are the only things that betray a less tranquil scene at the same property just six months earlier.

Following what could have been a devastating fire, burning 17 acres in the Foothill Boulevard sanctuary in September, the local outdoor laboratory is blossoming with new life and fresh opportunities for students and locals alike.

In the wake of Earth Day—Tuesday, April 22—the field station family will host a fitting tribute. Families and friends of the BFS are invited to take place in a series of Earth Day tours taking place on Saturday, April 26, providing the community with the chance to see first-hand what the field station is all about.

“Environment is everything,” said volunteer coordinator Nancy Hamlett. “Today so many people grow up in urban settings that they have no idea about our native habitat. We want to help the public to understand the local environment and the kind of scientific research that gets done here.”

With day and night tours, filled with out-of-the-box activities, Ms. Hamlett and the field station crew hope to add a little spice to their scientific showing. The Harvey Mudd Robotics squad will be on hand to give kids a chance to control a machine built to do underwater bio-monitoring, participants will take part in surveying bats, and a telescope with provide for a celestial viewing session.

Ms. Hamlett, a talent with the camera who uses her creative eye to capture the beauty of the biodiversity alive at the field station, will be on hand next Saturday to lead locals on a wildflower tour. A variety of new flowers have sprouted after the fire, including a cropping of Distant Phacelia with their purple petals. With the fire having burned away some of the more invasive species, Ms. Hamlett speculates it may have allowed for new flowers, like the Phacelia, to sprout.

Christopher McDonald, a plant specialist for San Bernardino County, will delve deeper into the effects of the fire and the restoration and conservation of California’s native plants. Other tours include a bird watching excursion, a family science course and nighttime exploration. The whole family is encouraged to attend.

This is the first community outreach program of its kind at the field station, a special event spearheaded by field station director Wallace Meyer. A relative newcomer to the Claremont, Mr. Meyer has made it an important part of his mission to make the 33 acres of chained-off property less mysterious to Claremont’s masses.

“I think a lot of people view this land as a ‘lost place,’ something that could have been used as a park,” Mr. Meyer said. “Hopefully we will be able to articulate just how important this land and native environment is.”

Mr. Meyer admits he grew up in the dark about much of California’s environmental treasures. A native of Redlands, California, recognized as a biodiversity hotspot in southern California, Mr. Meyer didn’t fully appreciate his surroundings until studying them in college. He has now made it a point to participate in public outreach—like National Geographic’s BioBlitz and the University of Arizona’s Insect Festival—to get others excited about the environment around them. As a father, he also hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists.

“It’s important to understand the environment we live and the creatures and plants that inhabit it,” Mr. Meyer said. “It gives people a greater sense of place.”

Mr. Meyer hopes to make the Earth Day tours a yearly community event. Tours take place on Saturday, April 26, starting at 7 a.m. To reserve a spot, contact Mr. Meyer at (909) 398-1751.

All participants are encouraged to sign up ahead of time and arrive for their tour at least 5 to 10 minutes early prepared for conditions. Close-toed shoes, long pants, a hat, sunscreen and water are recommended. Everyone will need to sign a waiver of liability and a parent/legal guardian must accompany someone under 18. For more specifics on each tour, visit

—Beth Hartnett


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