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2020 Field Seminars


2020 Field Seminars

Registration for the 2020 Mono Basin Seminars is open.

See the complete list of seminars below, or use the categories to the lower right to help find the seminar(s) you want to attend. Questions? Call (760) 647-6595 and ask for Elin, Nora, or Andrew, or zap us an email.

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Birding Mono Basin Hotspotsregister now
May 29 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$110 per person / $100 for members

Mono Basin creeks and canyons are hidden jewels for breeding and migrating songbirds in a region where high desert habitat dominates. This half-day birding trip will explore lush riparian areas that are hotspots for bird activity. Expect to see warblers, sapsuckers, pewees, buntings, sparrows, towhees, vireos, and if you're lucky, an American Dipper or Townsend's Solitaire. Nora Livingston is the Mono Lake Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. She has spent a decade birding the basin and is an expert on Mono Basin birding locations. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Breeding Birds of the Mono Basinregister now
May 30 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

Late spring and early summer are the best time to find breeding birds in the Mono Basin—they are singing from the tops of every tree and shrub to declare their territory to rivals and protect their mates. This one-day seminar will visit several spots in the Mono Basin to learn about the many breeding birds that raise their families here. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Twilight Birding & Owlingregister now
May 31 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$90 per person / $80 for members

Evening in the Mono Basin is spectacular—clouds light up with vivid color, fading light turns the landscape inky blue, and unique wildlife emerges. Spend the twilight hours with a naturalist while the sun sets. We will look for songbirds, search for twilight specialists like Wilson's Snipe and Common Nighthawk, scan the trees for owls, and scour the back roads for poorwills. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Full Moon Hikeregister now
June 5 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$90 per person / $80 for members

There is no better way to deeply immerse yourself in the majestic calm of the Mono Basin than to experience it by moonlight. On this special evening seminar, we will take a natural history hike as the sun sets and the full moon rises. We will find a perch to enjoy moonrise and hear stories about the night. Nora Livingston is the Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Natural History of Mono Basin Woodpeckersregister now
June 15–18 • Steve Shunk
$192 per person / $177 for members

Join North American woodpecker specialist Steve Shunk for this dynamic overview of Mono Basin woodpeckers. Woodpeckers are one of the most specialized bird families in the world, and at least nine species of woodpeckers occur regularly in the Mono Basin, making the forests around Mono Lake a perfect stage for observing these amazing forest carpenters. Steve has studied the ecology of western forests for the last 16 years and recently completed the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America. This field seminar will complement the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, taking place June 19–21. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

En Plein Air at Mono Lake: Beginning Oil Paintingregister now
June 26–28 • Penny Otwell
$192 per person / $177 for members

Painting outdoors allows an instant connection with landscape, and the textural possibilities and complete-coverage quality of oil paint allow students to portray their own unique feelings in their work. This field seminar is designed to be an introduction to the sometimes-intimidating subject of oil painting for students who may or may not have experience painting but who want to learn oil painting outdoors. Instructor Penny Otwell has painted in oil in the Sierra Nevada for over 20 years, and her distinctive style has evolved as a self-taught painter. Her work has been influenced by the work of Chiura Obata, Maynard Dixon, Edgar Payne, and Wayne Thiebaud. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Big Day Birdingregister now
June 27 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

This fast-paced birding seminar will attempt to record as many bird species as possible in the Mono Basin in one day using American Birding Association rules. Over 300 species have been recorded in Mono County, with over 150 species occurring regularly in the summer. Throughout the day, we will visit a variety of lakes, streams, ponds, forests, and fields to build our list. Nora Livingston is the Mono Lake Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. She holds the Mono County Big Day record after seeing 153 species on July 26, 2011. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Birding Between the Breweriesregister now
July 3 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$135 per person / $125 for members

Mono County is notable for spectacular scenery, great birding, and a growing collection of high-elevation breweries. Combine your love for birds and brews on this relaxing afternoon trip, which will introduce you to some great birding at a few local hotspots as well as great beer at hotspots of another kind. Bring your binoculars, proof of age, and thirst for birds (beginners and experts welcome). We will provide a ten-person van and sober birding guide(s). One beverage per person per brewery is included in the tour fee; participants may purchase additional beverages and food. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Birding the White Mountainsregister now
July 9 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

The gradient from the Owens Valley up to the White Mountains provides a great swath of diverse habitat, from desert oasis up to high-elevation pinyon-juniper woodland. On a day of birding like this, one could easily see over 100 species in eight hours. This one-day field seminar will search high and low for a great variety of species and end the day tallying up the list at the Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop. Nora Livingston is the Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. She holds the Mono County Big Day record after seeing 153 species on July 26, 2011. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Natural History: Aquatic & Terrestrial Habitatsregister now
July 10–12 • David Wimpfheimer
$207 per person / $192 for members

The Mono Basin is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the continent; this field seminar will be an overview of the varied habitats that are found here. We will enjoy the rich diversity of mammals, butterflies, wildflowers, trees, and other plants as we explore the Mono Basin, and a major focus of this seminar will be the identification and ecology of birds that breed here. A guided canoeing exploration of Mono’s south shore is included in this class. David Wimpfheimer has been an educator and interpreter for over 30 years, focusing on birds and California’s natural history. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Birding the White Mountainsregister now
July 17 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

The gradient from the Owens Valley up to the White Mountains provides a great swath of diverse habitat, from desert oasis up to high-elevation pinyon-juniper woodland. On a day of birding like this, one could easily see over 100 species in eight hours. This one-day field seminar will search high and low for a great variety of species and end the day tallying up the list at the Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop. Nora Livingston is the Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. She holds the Mono County Big Day record after seeing 153 species on July 26, 2011. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

The Art of Wildflower Macrophotographyregister now
July 17–19 • David Gubernick
$275 per person / $250 for members

Learn to take creative and beautiful close-up images, further develop your artistic vision, and enhance your photographic skills in the supportive learning environment of this workshop for beginning to advanced amateur photographers. The weekend will emphasize the artistry of macrophotography and the technical means to render such images; this is not a course in botanical identification. David Gubernick is an internationally and nationally published and award-winning nature photographer and workshop leader. Limited to 8 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mountain Botany & Ecologyregister now
July 17–19 • Michèle Slaton
$182 per person / $167 for members

Join ecologist Michèle Slaton for an exploration of the diverse plant communities from the shores of Mono Lake to the forests and meadows in high elevations of Lee Vining Canyon. We will seek out forest, meadow, and streamside blooms, and dozens of shrub and tree species. We'll learn the basics of flower and plant anatomy and how to use a plant key. We'll discuss soils and geology, and examine the adaptations that enable plants to tolerate the extremes of mountain environments. We'll talk about forest health and causes and recent progression of forest mortality across the Sierra Nevada. Michèle is an Ecologist with the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region Remote Sensing Lab. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Landscape & Night Photographyregister now
July 24–26 • Jeff Sullivan
$275 per person / $250 for members

Summer is Milky Way season for photographers in the Eastern Sierra, with wildflowers blooming, snow lingering on Sierra Nevada peaks catching morning alpenglow, and afternoon cumulus cloud formations for potential sunset color, typically yielding to clear skies for night photography. Accomplished local photographer Jeff Sullivan will teach you some of his favorite techniques and show you some of his favorite spots for landscape and night photography in the Mono Basin. Jeff is a landscape photography and astrophotography workshop instructor, and author of the guidebook Photographing California Vol. 2 – South. Limited to 10 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Mammalsregister now
July 24–26 • John Harris
$182 per person / $167 for members

This class will cover the diversity of mammals found in the Mono Basin, from desert sand dunes to forests and alpine meadows of the high Sierra. More mammals occur here than in many states, and the group will try to see as many as possible by live-trapping and field observation. Participants will look for tracks and learn to identify skulls, focusing on identification and adaptations to Mono’s varied environments. John Harris is a recently retired Mills College biology professor whose interest in Mono’s mammals began in 1975 while studying chipmunks as an undergraduate. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Volcanism at Mono Lakeregister now
August 1 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

Mono Lake sits in a bowl formed by ancient volcanic sediments and recent volcanic eruptions. This one-day seminar will visit several volcanic formations around the lake while addressing the overall picture of volcanism in the Mono Basin and its role in shaping the landscape we see today. Nora Livingston is the Committee’s Lead Naturalist Guide. She has been learning about the volcanism of the Mono Basin since she was 16 years old. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Wildflower Waltzregister now
August 2 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$110 per person / $100 for members

Working on your wildflower identification? This will be the perfect year to practice as the flowers will be out in abundance, taking advantage of plentiful runoff from this wet winter. On this half-day seminar we will scour meadows and canyons for the plethora of blooms that grace the trails. We will focus on identification and natural history of the flowers we see. Great for photographers and budding botanists. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Natural History at the Edge of the Sierraregister now
August 8 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

The Natural History Institute defines natural history as the "…practice of intentional, focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy." On this day trip, we will make our way up the east slope, stopping at several locations to connect with all that we may find. Throughout the day, we will have moments of quiet reflection to allow ourselves to ponder the grandeur and the minutia that envelops us in this amazing place: the edge of the Sierra. Nora Livingston is the Committee's Lead Naturalist Guide. She has spent over a decade exploring the many unique nooks and crannies of the Mono Basin and the Eastern Sierra. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Falling for the Migration: Bridgeport Valley & Mono Basinregister now
August 13–14 • Dave Shuford
$172 per person / $157 for members

The east slope of the Sierra Nevada is a major migration route for birds traveling from northern nesting areas to warm southern habitats. As a result, late summer is the time of year to see fall migrants and early arriving wintering birds in the Mono Basin and Bridgeport Valley. Dave Shuford has been a staff biologist at Point Blue Conservation Science for over 30 years. He has conducted numerous surveys and research projects in the Mono Basin and beyond and is well acquainted with where to find birds in the Eastern Sierra. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Geology of the Mono Basinregister now
August 14–16 • Greg Stock
$182 per person / $167 for members

From volcanic craters to glacial moraines, earthquake faults to tufa towers, the Mono Basin displays some of the most unique, spectacular, and accessible geology anywhere in the world. This seminar, consisting mostly of field visits to the premier sites, will present the geologic stories of the Mono Basin in understandable fashion. Greg Stock is the first ever Yosemite National Park geologist. He has authored and co-authored over 50 papers and abstracts on Sierra Nevada geology and is co-author of the book Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Falling for the Migration: Crowley, Mammoth, Monoregister now
August 15–16 • Dave Shuford
$172 per person / $157 for members

The east slope of the Sierra Nevada is a major migration route for birds traveling from northern nesting areas to warm southern habitats. As a result, late summer is the time of year to see fall migrants and early arriving wintering birds in the Crowley, Mammoth, and Mono Basin areas. Dave Shuford has been a staff biologist at Point Blue Conservation Science for over 30 years. He has conducted numerous surveys and research projects in the Mono Basin and beyond and is well acquainted with where to find birds in the Eastern Sierra. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Creating the Illuminated Field Journalregister now
August 21–23 • Hannah Hinchman
$192 per person / $177 for members

A field journal is an ideal vehicle to record moments of discovery about the natural world, as well as a quiet way of simply being present outdoors. In this workshop, artist and writer Hannah Hinchman will guide you in exploring the variety of nearby habitats—opening windows to nature's many secrets and learning to personalize these experiences through journal entries, both drawn and written. Hannah is the author of three books about field journals—with a fourth in progress—and has been teaching field journal workshops all over the US for over 20 years. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin & Bodie Photographyregister now
August 28–30 • David Gubernick
$300 per person / $275 for members

Join this warm and supportive field seminar to enhance your photo-taking abilities in the uniquely beautiful Mono Basin and at the world-renowned Bodie State Historic Park. Field trips and classroom sessions will combine to cover a multitude of photographic topics. Plus, the group will visit Bodie for private after-hours evening access. David Gubernick is an internationally and nationally published and award-winning nature photographer and workshop leader. His exhibition prints can be seen at Gallery Sur in Carmel and the Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Tree Identificationregister now
September 4 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

This one-day seminar will delve into the diversity of trees in the Mono Basin and their identifying traits. We will examine, observe, and even smell the trees to help ingrain the knowledge into our senses. Nora Livingston is the Committee’s Lead Naturalist Guide. She was lucky to study dendrology (the study of trees) in the Appalachian Mountains where there are well over 100 tree species in a small geographic area. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

A Long Journey: Shorebird Migrationregister now
September 5 • Nora Livingston
$140 per person / $130 for members

As birds fly south for winter, the common questions include “Where exactly are they going? Where are they coming from? How long does it take them to get there? How do they know where to go?” This seminar strives to answer those questions during a fun time in the field observing these lightweight travelers as they fuel up along their migration. We will focus on waterbirds and shorebirds, but there will be plenty of landbird migrants as well. Nora Livingston is the Committee’s Lead Naturalist Guide. She spent nine years migrating to and from the Mono Basin along with the birds, until she finally became a resident in 2016. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Restoring Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheepregister now
September 11–13 • John Wehausen
$182 per person / $167 for members

This field seminar will involve discussions of the fascinating biology of the federally endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, their relationship with other mammals (including mountain lions and humans), and their conservation in the field. Past participants saw bighorn 15 out of the last 16 years—while there is a very good chance of seeing bighorn sheep during this seminar, there is no guarantee. John Wehausen has been studying the Sierra Nevada bighorn and working for their conservation since 1974. Please be aware that this seminar involves very strenuous hiking at the 10,000-foot elevation and above.
Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Geology of the Mono Basinregister now
September 18–20 • Greg Stock
$182 per person / $167 for members

From volcanic craters to glacial moraines, earthquake faults to tufa towers, the Mono Basin displays some of the most unique, spectacular, and accessible geology anywhere in the world. This seminar, consisting mostly of field visits to the premier sites, will present the geologic stories of the Mono Basin in understandable fashion. Greg Stock is the first ever Yosemite National Park geologist. He has authored and co-authored over 50 papers and abstracts on Sierra Nevada geology and is co-author of the book Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Fall Color Forayregister now
October 2 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$90 per person / $80 for members

Every fall, quaking aspen trees famously paint the landscape with golden hues as their leaves change. This half-day seminar will hit the hotspots of colorful groves during peak season. We will enjoy glittering golden, ruby, and emerald forests while learning about aspen ecology. Great for photographers. Limited to 9 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Arborglyphs & Aspen Natural Historyregister now
October 3–4
Richard Potashin & Nancy Hadlock
$197 per person / $182 for members

A century of sheep grazing brought Basque sheepherders into the Mono Basin'
s aspen-bordered meadows, and they left numerous carvings—or arborglyphs—on the aspens. Join the instructors for an enchanting journey into the aspen groves to explore this historic art form and to learn about the wildlife, insects, and birds that are drawn to the groves. Richard Potashin has been discovering and documenting aspen carvings for many years. Nancy Hadlock has been a naturalist, interpreter, and educator for the National Park Service and US Forest Service for over 30 years. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Fall Color Forayregister now
October 9 (half day) • Nora Livingston
$90 per person / $80 for members

Every fall, quaking aspen trees famously paint the landscape with golden hues as their leaves change. This half-day seminar will hit the hotspots of colorful groves during peak season. We will enjoy glittering golden, ruby, and emerald forests while learning about aspen ecology. Great for photographers. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Watercolors in the Wild: Autumn Floraregister now
October 9–11 • Andie Thrams
$192 per person / $177 for members

Painting in wild places is powerfully transforming, yet working outdoors can be overwhelming. A series of guided studies designed to get us working with ease will focus on autumn flora, with a particular emphasis on fall's color palette. During gentle forays outdoors and inside the studio, we'll carefully observe local plant life, collect ideas, and experiment with drawing and painting techniques using watercolor, gouache, and ink. All levels are invited. California-based visual artist Andie Thrams uses watercolors onsite in wildland forests to create paintings and artist's books that explore mystery, reverence, and delight, while also grappling with the vanishing habitats of our era. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

Mono Basin Fall Photographyregister now
October 9–11 • Robb Hirsch
$275 per person / $250 for members

Autumn in the Mono Basin is one of the greatest photographic experiences in the country—spectacular foliage and skies combine with exceptional light, presenting ample subject matter. Join accomplished photographer and workshop leader Robb Hirsch to explore shoreline locations at sunrise and sunset, fall color in nearby canyons, and grand overviews of the Mono Basin. Photographers of all levels are welcome; a fully adjustable camera of any size or format is suggested. Limited to 12 participants. Click here for a full seminar itinerary.

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Finished seminars:

Winter Photography at Mono Lake
January 10–12 • Joe Decker
$275 per person / $250 for members

Mono Basin Winter Wanders (half-day)
February 1, February 15, March 7, March 21
Nora Livingston
$90 per person / $80 for members

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Questions? Call (760) 647-6595 and ask for Elin, Nora, or Andrew. You can also email us if that's easier.

All seminars operate under permits from the Inyo National Forest and California State Park system.

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The Mono Lake Committee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.