Marine Mammal Naturalist Program

The Marine Mammal Naturalist Program is an immersive 4-week educational course designed for people of all ages looking to learn more about California’s marine mammals and ocean environment. Through a combination of classroom and field-based learning, students will have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom, into nature to observe and interpret marine mammal behavior. Students will have the opportunity to meet and engage with world-leading marine mammal researchers and local science/environmental educators to build connections in the marine mammal and local communities.

Students will participate in a variety of activities, including observing the natural behavior of whales in Monterey Bay by boat to learn about how these massive animals interact with their environment, visiting Point Lobos State Natural Reserve to learn about marine mammal history and observe local harbor seal breeding colonies, hiking through Año Nuevo State Park to learn about the natural history of northern elephant seals, and kayaking in Elkhorn Slough to observe the behavior of sea otters, harbor seals, and California sea lions in California’s 2nd largest estuary. Each field experience will be supported and enhanced by a near-college-level scientific curriculum of lectures and activities about the Monterey Bay ecosystems, with a focus on marine mammals.

Marine education specialists will lead the course with direct involvement from leading marine mammal researchers from the University of California Santa Cruz. The evening classroom sessions will meet in-person at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz, CA.


A marine mammal naturalist graduate will have:

  • Fun and exciting stories to tell their friends and families about a one-of-a-kind experience
  • Received a certificate of completion signed by our marine education specialists
  • Directly observe marine mammals in the field to gain new skill sets in animal identification and behavior
  • Participated in an in-depth variety of interactive, hands-on learning and activities both in the classroom and field settings
  • A direct link and long-lasting relationship with local professors, researchers, and educators in the field
  • Group video and photos of their experience to share with friends/family


Course Details

  • Dates: April 10 – May 4, 2024

  • Times: one lecture evening on Wednesdays and one outing per week on Saturdays

  • Location: Long Marine Lab