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Public Help Asked in Mapping Plants, Animals in Hillside Nature Area

Friends of Five Creeks is inviting members of the community to help map the species of plants and animals in El Cerrito's Hillside Nature Area.

The volunteer group, Friends of Five Creeks, is inviting public participation in an effort to map the native and invasive plant species growing in the Hillside Nature Area in El Cerrito.

"We are working with the city of El Cerrito to identify and map both native and invasive plants, to help manage this amazing 80+ acres of oak forest and meadow," organization says on its Web site.

The effort also include animal sightings.

One reason for the project is identify infestations of damaging invasive species like broom, and another is to protect endangered species of native plants, said Susan Schwartz, founder of Friends of Five Creeks.

The "What Lives in the El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area" project invites members of the public to record their sightings, along with photos, and upload them to iNaturalist. "You’ll also be contributing to a worldwide database of species!" the group says.

The project also involves organized survey hikes, with the first – a kind of pilot project – set for this Sunday, March 18, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Space is limited, so those who would like to participate are asked to RSVP to f5creeks@aol.com or 510-848-9358. Other survey hikes will be held later in the year.

"You don’t need to be a plant expert," Friends of Five Creeks says about Sunday's survey hike. "You should be a reasonably good observer and able to walk on fairly rough and steep terrain. Experience with photography, GPS, or collecting voucher specimens would be especially welcome."

At the same time, project organizers encourage residents to go out whenever they like. "We hope lots of folks will go out on their own and report sightings via the iNaturalist project," Schwartz said. 

Those seeking guides to wildflowers could check Bay Nature Magazine's Web page on resources for Bay Area wildflowers, Schwartz said.

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