GNSI Conference Field Trips give participants the opportunity to explore beautiful and interesting sights in the Santa Cruz area and in the region. Full-day and half-day Field Trips are available.

Register for Field Trips when registration opens. Field Trips will have an additional fee. More details will be posted here as they become available.

Full-day Field Trips

Tony Foster,Looking South to Bell Rock. Watercolor and graphite on paper. © 2010, Tony Foster.

Looking South to Bell Rock. Watercolor and graphite on paper. © 2010 Tony Foster.

Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

Searsville Lake and Docent Center. Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. © 2006 Tom Clifton.

Foster Art Museum and Jasper Ridge Hike
Palo Alto, California

Thursday, July 7

Spend the morning touring the Foster Art and Wilderness Foundation in Palo Alto, California, which houses and manages the original work of English watercolor artist Tony Foster. According to the website, “Tony Foster’s paintings on wilderness themes, and their accompanying souvenirs and journals, document one man’s deeply felt experience and resonate with a fundamental human need to connect with the earth. His process is compelling and his work unique.”

In the afternoon, head to the nearby Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (JRBP) for a box lunch and hike in this beautiful natural setting. JRBP is located near Stanford University campus in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The preserve encompasses remarkable geologic, topographic, and biotic diversity within its 1,198 acres and provides a natural laboratory for researchers from all over the world, educational experiences to students and docent-led visitors, and refuge to native plants and animals. Includes opportunities for sketching.

Led by: Mattias Lanas, Scientific Illustrator and former student at CSUMB

Activity level: Easy to moderate. Varied, outdoor trails.

What to bring: Layers (in case it gets chilly), close-toed shoes, long pants, sunscreen, hat, and water bottle. Box lunch provided.

Sea otter raft at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea otter raft. © Jane Vargas-Smith.

Leopard Shark, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Leopard shark. © Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Clown Fish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Baby clownfish. © Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row
Monterey, California

Friday, July 8

Located on the ocean’s edge on Monterey Bay, and overlooking the vast national marine sanctuary it explores, this jewel of California's scenic central coast has been rated as one of the top aquariums in the world. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an amazing window to the vibrant marine life in this area of coastal California. The aquarium is home to sea otters, penguins, sharks, jellies, and thousands of other marine animals and plants; watch up close as they feed and interact. Its mission is to inspire conservation of the oceans.

Following our visit to the aquarium, we will stroll along historic Cannery Row and enjoy dinner overlooking the bay.

Activity level: Easy walking.

Please bring: Layers (including light jacket), comfortable walking shoes, and sunscreen. Box lunch provided. Dinner will be at a restaurant on Cannery Row (bring cash to pay for your share).

Half-day Field Trips

Field Sketching at UCSC
Santa Cruz, California

Sunday, July 3, afternoon

Start off the conference by stretching your legs and enjoying beautiful hikes and sketching opportunities. on the upper campus. Close to Cowell, and free and open to all. A relaxed walk from Cowell College down to the East Field overlook, with its incredible views of Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, then back up across Hagar Drive and through the redwoods to the scenic bridge between Student Services and the McHenry Library, then looping back to Cowell will give conference participants a sampling of the UCSC "experience", and many opportunities for sketching.

Activity level: Easy hiking.

Please bring: Layers (including a long-sleeved shirt and pants), close-toed hiking shoes, hat, sunscreen, water bottle, and insect repellent. Stay on trails—poison oak flourishes in Santa Cruz.

Humpback whale, feeding

Lunge feeding humpback whale off Santa Cruz. © Sanctuary Cruises.

Whale Watch Cruise
Moss Landing, California

Thursday, July 7, morning

Hop aboard an eco-friendly Sanctuary Cruise for a 3-hour whale watching adventure in Monterey Bay! On the biodiesel-powered Sanctuary, marine biologists provide in-depth and interesting marine wildlife insights. The waters right outside the harbor are dubbed the “Moss Landing Whale Park” for good reason—­the deep canyon waters close to shore are teeming with marine life.

Will there be whales in the summer? Monterey Bay is the summer feeding grounds for the great baleen whales, which swarm into the bay to feed on the abundant krill blooms. Humpbacks, blue whales, fin whales, and minke whales can also be found feeding on these seasonal blooms. Orcas come and go to feast on marine mammals. Pelagic birds congregate in the summer, including sooty shearwaters and black-footed albatross. We may see enormous sunfish and huge leatherback sea turtles that come to feed on the prolific jellyfish population. Expect a high marine layer (fog) that clears up as the day warms up.

Activity level: Easy.

Please bring: Warm clothes (dress in layers!), waterproof jacket, gloves, scarf, comfortable close-toed shoes with traction (hiking or tennis shoes, or rubber boots), brimmed hat, sunglasses (polarized are best), sunscreen, and camera/binoculars. Box lunch provided. If you are prone to seasickness, consider taking an over-the-counter seasickness medication the night before and morning of the trip. Additional preparation tips are available here.

Kayaking Elkhorn Slough

Kayaking Elkhorn Slough
Moss Landing, California

Thursday, July 7, morning

Join us on this peaceful guided kayaking adventure in Elkhorn Slough National Marine Estuary. The protected water of the Slough (pronounced “slu”) is an ideal place to observe some of California's finest coastal resources. Sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions and an array of birds can be seen at close range. With 90 percent of California's wetlands lost to development, Elkhorn Slough offers a special opportunity to observe a biologically rich and critically endangered habitat.

We'll explore the Slough's tidal creeks learning about its unique ecology and stop for a picnic on shore. We'll include a hike out to the beach in search of whales.

This is an ideal trip for wildlife enthusiast and those new to the sport of kayaking.

Activity level: Easy paddling. First-time kayakers welcome.

Please bring: Layers (insulating materials that also dry quickly), windbreaker, water shoes (or any shoes that can get wet—you will wade in to launch your boat), hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottle, binoculars and camera (in a waterproof bag), and a change of clothes. Box lunch provided.

Seals at Elkhorn Slough
Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Arial view of Seymour Marine Discovery Center and Long Marine Lab. © University of California, Santa Cruz.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Santa Cruz, California

Thursday, July 7, afternoon

Take in the spectacular Monterey Bay view on this private, outdoor group tour. Focus will be on the Younger Marine Reserve, which contains diverse coastal habitat and is home to birds of prey, migrating sea birds, bobcats, and other wildlife. Come see what scientists are doing to track local mammals, restore native habitat, and learn about the workings of one of California’s rare coastal lagoons.

A self-guided indoor tour of the 20,000 square foot Seymour Marine Discovery Center will follow. This seaside learning center is dedicated to teaching people about the role scientific research plays in the understanding and conservation of the world’s ocean. Situated adjacent to the Long Marine Laboratory, a world-renowned university research facility, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center offers hands-on immersion into the world of ocean exploration and discovery. Guests can see exhibits showing the latest discoveries in ocean science, experience touch pools, and more. Sketching time will be available.

Activity level: Easy. The outdoor tour portion of the field trip is 45 minutes, with gentle walking.

Please bring: Layers (including a light jacket), comfortable walking shoes, hat, and sunscreen.

Blue Whale Skeleton at Seymour Marine Discovery Center

Blue whale skeleton. © A. Gude.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Birds taking off from the last remaining natural bridge. Natural Bridges State Beach. © Melissa Wiese.

Natural Bridges State Beach and Tide Pool Walk
Santa Cruz, California

Friday, July 8, morning

Natural Bridges Beach, with its famous rock formations, is an excellent vantage point for viewing shore birds, migrating whales, seals, and otters playing offshore. Further along the beach, tide pools offer a glimpse of life beneath the water. The low tide in the morning will reveal sea stars, crabs, sea anemones, and other colorful ocean life. The park also includes a large area of coastal scrub and grasslands. Moore Creek flows through the park, forming freshwater wetlands and a salt marsh before it reaches the sea. Learn about the annual monarch butterfly migrations that roost here every fall.

After an introduction at the visitor center, our group will have a guided tide pool walk led by a park naturalist. Our walk leads us through many of the park’s twelve natural habitats. There will be ample time for sketching and photos. A PDF brochure about Natural Bridges State Beach can be downloaded from the California Parks website here.

Activity level: Easy to moderate walk, about 1 mile total.

Please bring: Layers, a lightweight jacket (may be windy), tennis shoes (better than hiking or water shoes for the tide pool areas), water bottle, sunscreen, hat, sketching gear, and/or camera.

View from Ridge Winery

View from Ridge Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. © star5112.

Santa Cruz Wine Tasting Experience
Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Friday, July 8, afternoon

Come join us and unwind with an unforgettable guided tour of three local wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sample a variety of wines, enjoy a catered lunch, and the spectacular scenery. What more can we say?

Activity level: Easy walking.

Please bring: Comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen. Wine samples and catered lunch are included in the field trip cost.

Soquel Vineyards Tasting Room

Soquel Vineyards tasting room. © Soquel Vineyards.

Henry Cowell State Park

The Redwood Grove Trail (old-growth loop) in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. © Bmp713.

Henry Cowell State Park
Santa Cruz, California

Saturday, July 9, morning

Get outdoors and enjoy a guided hike in this beautiful state park located just minutes from the UCSC campus. Sketching and photography opportunities abound. The skyscraping redwoods here were admired by explorer John C. Fremont and President Theodore Roosevelt, and inspired some of California’s earliest redwood-preservation efforts. The park’s ancient marine deposits, called the Santa Cruz Sand Hills, are home to rare animals and plants, including coastal ponderosa pines. The park includes four distinct ecosystems; keen-eyed visitors may spot banana slugs, black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats in the forest, and steelhead trout in the river.

Activity level: Moderate hiking. Varied terrain; 2–5 miles depending on group preference.

Please bring: Layers (including a long-sleeved shirt and pants), close-toed hiking shoes, hat, sunscreen, water bottle, and insect repellent. Stay on trails—poison oak flourishes in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

UCSC Farm Flower Bouquets

Flower bouquets at UCSC’s organic farm stand. © University of California, Santa Cruz.

UCSC Farm Stand

UCSC’s organic farm stand. © University of California, Santa Cruz.


UCSC’s 30-acre organic farm and gardens. © University of California, Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Tour
UCSC campus

Saturday, July 9, morning

Join us for a fascinating walking tour of the 30-acre organic UC Santa Cruz Farm. Explore the farm's greenhouses, orchards, fields, and gardens, and learn about the current research, education and public service work of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). The farm and garden offer thriving examples of organic agriculture and horticulture on both a hand-worked garden scale and medium-sized, tractor-worked farm scale. Founded in 1971, the beautiful, internationally acclaimed UC Santa Cruz Farm offers vibrant examples of organic agriculture and horticulture, and gives students and visitors a place to learn about organic gardening and farming techniques as well as larger issues facing our food system. Sketching opportunities will be available.

Activity level: Easy walking.

Please bring: Comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen. This tour will start at the newly restored Cowell Ranch hay barn located near the base of campus.