Fulfill your dream of becoming a naturalist!

Our Natural History Field Studies courses, offered quarterly on a rotating basis, provide a unique opportunity to learn natural science from experts while exploring the ecosystems of the Central Atlantic region. Intended for the lay person and taught at the college freshman level, these evening courses are open to anyone at least 18 years old. Individual courses are useful to professional and amateurs alike in acquiring knowledge of specific subject matter and enhancing enjoyment of the out-of-doors.

The Natural History Field Studies curriculum has been designed to provide participants with a comprehensive and stimulating overview of the regions natural history and conservation issues with an emphasis on learning in the field. A Certificate of Accomplishment is awarded for completion of a required curriculum of 39 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) taken in five subject areas.

Summary of Required Courses
Classes are offered at the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, MD, and the metro-accessible Capital Gallery (L’Enfant Plaza stop) in downtown DC. The Natural History Field Studies program is cosponsored by the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Graduate School USA. NHFS Instructor Bios

Fall Courses

September 18 – December 9, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Ecosystems
NATH8216E, 3 CEUs

Class day and time: Mondays, 6-8 pm
Class duration: September 18–November 27
Field trip dates: Field trips will be two Saturdays in October
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Terry McTigue
Register online
Discover the dynamic nature of the estuarine environment through study of the interaction between basic physical, chemical and biological processes in the Chesapeake Bay. Explore biological and geochemical cycles and discuss the interaction between nutrients and overall productivity affecting the health of the Bay. Examine the effects of pollution and resources management and the processes that influence temperature and salinity distributions. (Students split the cost of the day-long boat ride, usually about $50.) If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

Required text:  Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Lippson, A.J. and R.L. Lippson.  Third Edition, 2006.  Johns Hopkins University Press.   ISBN:  0801883385

Chemistry for Naturalists
NATH7129E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Mondays, 6-9 pm
Class duration: September 25–December 4
Field trip date:  December 2
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Joe Marx
Register online
Study the basic chemical principles that operate in natural environments. Learn to recognize the evidence of chemical processes in a landscape. By adding basic chemistry to the study and interpretation of local ecology, learn to form rudimentary but accurate models of the principal chemical processes in the environment. The course is completely descriptive, does not involve either mathematics or homework problems, and is suitable for both field studies and horticulture. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

No required text

Fall Woody Plant Identification
NATH7145E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8 pm
Class duration: September 12–November 7
Field trip dates: September 23, October 14 and 28
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Emily Ferguson
Register online
As summer fades and fall colors emerge, do you wonder which trees contribute to the kaleidoscope brightening our environment? Now’s the time to take another item off of your ‘to do’ list and learn to identify the trees surrounding you. Participants will study the major woody plant families and species found in the Mid-Atlantic's forest communities. Field trips feature the use of recognition characteristics and botanical keys to identify many local woody plants.  Students should have a 10x hand lens. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: Mariana Sevilla

Required texts:

  1. The Illustrated Book of Trees by William C. Grimm, rev. ed (by John Kartesz), Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-0811728119, ISBN-10: 0811728110
  2. Common Native Trees of Virginia, 2010 edition

Introduction to Ecology
NATH1160E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Class duration: September 19–November 21
Field trip dates: October 7, November 4 and one TBA (optional)
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register online
A fundamental understanding of ecology and the physical and biological principles on which ecosystems depend is essential for any naturalist. In this course students learn to interpret the patterns and processes of nature by studying energy flow, food webs, biogeochemical cycles, population dynamics, communities, behavioral and evolutionary ecology, biodiversity, biomes and plant/animal interactions. Modern ecological issues such as habitat loss, species extinctions, environmental chemicals and climate change will be considered. A previous course in biology is strongly recommended. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Required text:  Ecology: Concepts and Applications by Manuel Molles, latest edition

Weather and Climate
NATH7140E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6–8:30 pm
Class duration: September 21–November 16
Field trip dates: TBA
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Sean Potter
Register online
This course explores fundamental concepts related to weather and climate. Students will learn the physical processes that make up Earth’s atmosphere and drive local, regional and global circulation and weather patterns. Topics include weather map analysis and forecasting, weather satellite imagery, clouds and cloud development, and severe storms and hurricanes. Other relevant topics, such as El Niño and global climate change, will also be discussed. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: RZStudios.com

Required text:  Essentials of Meteorology: An Invitation to the Atmosphere, 7th Edition by C. Donald Ahrens, 2015. ISBN-10: 128546236X  |  ISBN-13: 9781285462363
Note: Used copies of 5th and 6th editions are acceptable and are less costly.

Eastern Forest Ecosystems
NATH8215E, 3 CEUs 

Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-9 pm
Class duration: September 28–December 7
Field trip dates: October 7 and 21, and November 4
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Instructors: Joe Marx and Stephanie Mason
Register online
The native vegetation in most of the Mid-Atlantic region is temperate deciduous forest. In the lecture portion of this course, we will learn how history, geography, evolution, climate, bedrock and soil determine the nature of our woodlands. We will then look at the various types of organism that populate our forest ecosystems and study how webs of matter and energy bind them together. The final lectures will discuss patterns of short-term and long-term change within the Eastern forest. Three full-day field trips--to Appalachian, Piedmont and Coastal Plain locales--will provide hands-on experience with some of the plant and animal species that characterize the major forest communities of our area. There will be no class on October 19. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be cancelled. Image credit: Jeff Kubina

Required text: A Field Guide to Eastern Forests, North America by John C. Kricher, ISBN: 978-0-395-92895-0, Houghton-Mifflin.