Student Spotlight: Makayla Freed

Makayla Freed, a transfer student and experienced naturalist, has been lucky enough to get involved in a major and program that has shaped her experience here at Sonoma State University. 

The senior Environmental Studies and Planning student came to the university as a transfer student, unaware of how she would get acclimated. During her first weeks as a seawolf, when she was overwhelmed with a feeling of loneliness, she knew she had to get involved somehow. 

At the start of the Fall 2016 semester, Freed got an email that would change her college experience. The email entailed a naturalist program flyer. Freed was intrigued and attended the program meeting. Freed, recollecting uneasy feelings, stated she wasn’t ready for the commitment in the begining, but at the end of the meeting, she was signed up.

“It was the start of my journey at Sonoma State, the program made me feel like a Seawolf.” Freed stated. explains the term naturalist as “A type of biologist who studies the impact of living species on each other and the environments in which they live.” This is a term that Freed identifies with due to her love and interest of the environment and the natural world.

However, naturalists in the program at Sonoma State University learn not only about the local ecosystem, but also how to educate people on the environment around them.

The volunteer naturalist program that Freed is involved in takes place at Fairfield Osborn Preserve, located 15 - 20 minutes away from Sonoma State. 

It is mostly unknown to many that this nature preserve is university property. People that work and encompass the property respect and treat the location like they would the campus. 

The program is open to students of all majors and ages and occurs both in the Fall and Spring semester.

The Sonoma State Environmental Inquiry website describes research that volunteers and visitors can get involved in while on the property. “Research at the Osborn Preserve includes independent studies conducted by researchers and Preserve-coordinated efforts that target management needs.” These needs being managed by Freed as well as others. 

Freed has been a paid employee and volunteer at the preserve since she began at Sonoma State, stating that the preserve serves many purposes. It is used for research, field trips, as well as student engagement. It is open to children and the general public, enlightening them on the excitement and amazement of the natural world through hikes that are offered. Each hike is lead by at least two naturalists. 

In addition to being a naturalist, Freed completed the spring Land Management program, which teaches students land stewardship and trail maintenance. 

Freed has been working at the preserve for two years now and has guided numerous hikes. Working at the preserve has helped her immensely, stating, “Leading hikes as well as just working at the preserve has helped prepare me for interviews as well as strengthening my interactive skills.” The preserve also serves as internship credit, which was needed by the Environmental Studies and Planning student. 

Being very involved with her major as well as the preserve, the benefits that Freed reamed from the Fairfield Osborn Preserve are tremendous. Her major of choice was very broad, leading her to  question what her next step was after graduating. Fortunately, with working with the preserve, her path was narrowed down. 

Through all of these experiences, she got to see what was more suitable for her as well as learning what Freed could see herself pursuing for employment after she graduates this upcoming December.  

Looking back at her time with the preserve, Freed has only positive memories. “It prepared me, it gave me connections, it gave me knowledge and a sense of enquiry. It truly helped me feel like a kid again.” 

Although Freed’s plans for after graduation is unclear, she knows that she will not be left in the dark. Her interest is broad and she is excited for the many opportunities that have already been brought to her. 

Freed, stating her love for the environment as well as the biological side of things, knows her future will be bright. 

Benefiting from being a loyal and loved employee and volunteer at the center, she is comforted to know she has made great connections that can lead to possible job opportunities. 

To get involved in the naturalist program, one should visit the environmental inquiry homepage on the Sonoma State website. To get in contact with the preserve and learn more about possible field trips and volunteer opportunities, email