Effie Yeaw Nature Center provides opportunities for college students to relax

Finding a moment to breathe is easier in nature


The American River, which winds through Effie Yeaw Nature Center, is home to many types of waterfowl. (Photo by Megan Wutzke)

College students balance work, school, and other responsibilities, but they often neglect to find time to relax. Many healthcare professionals recommend recharging in nature for physical and mental health benefits.

“In the past 20 years, there has been much research conducted on the health benefits of being in nature, and many books written on the topic,” says American River College nurse Pamela Whipple. “This body of work tells us that getting out there is essential to our physical and psychological well-being.”

Effie Yeaw Nature Center, located 4 miles from the American River College Campus, has lots of opportunities for students to volunteer, research, or just enjoy nature. EYNC is a 100-acre nature preserve in Carmichael that borders the American River. 

There are many ways to volunteer at EYNC, from caring for the animal ambassadors in the Nature Center to battling invasive plant species for habitat restoration.

EYNC has nearly 30 different animal ambassadors that the public can learn from, with birds including an American kestrel, a Swainson’s hawk, a peregrine falcon, and a great horned owl. They also have plenty of creatures for budding herpetologists: a western pond turtle, a northern Pacific rattlesnake, a Skilton’s skink, gopher snakes, king snakes, tree frogs, and toads.

At Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a mule deer keeps watch on the hikers on the trails. (Photo by Megan Wutzke)

There are also volunteer opportunities for clerical assistants and receptionists to assist in the day-to-day work of keeping the center open. While most of the volunteers are retirees, many high school seniors volunteer at the center to fulfill their graduation requirements.

Students who go through the California Naturalist program will have even more opportunities to volunteer at EYNC. The California Naturalist program introduces students to ecological stewardship, creating citizen scientists. During this 10-week course through U.C. Berkeley, students use project-based learning to create their own EYNC volunteer project.

With 100 acres of nature preserve, there are lots of research opportunities for students and citizen scientists.

“We’ve had people do research on termites, ants, beetles, rattlesnakes, oak trees, water pollution, recreational use, mycology and everything in between,” EYNC director Kent Anderson says.

While students can create their own research opportunities at EYNC, Anderson says that EYNC is working to create a formal relationship with the local colleges themselves. One goal is to set up a professional internship program for college students.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” Anderson says. “There are a number of environments there that you won’t find anywhere else within close proximity to the Greater Sacramento area.”

These unique environments bring a variety of wildlife to the land. Visitors get opportunities to see animals not normally found in an urban area, such as deer, egrets and coyotes. Birdwatchers search for iconic birds such as the California scrub jay or the acorn woodpecker. 

Some animals, such as a particular great horned owl living outside the museum, are well known to the staff.

“This owl has a scratchy voice,” Anderson says. “It makes you think of (California Gov.) Gavin Newsom. When this owl calls, you know it’s him.”

EYNC is free for visitors to walk the trails from sunrise to sunset. Coming early morning or late evening will give the best chances to watch and photograph the wildlife.