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.

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

April 9–June 19, 2018

The Living Soil
NATH1175E, 2 credits

Class day and time:  Mondays, 6-8 pm
Class duration: April 9-June 18
Field trip dates: April 28, May 19, June 9
Location: Capital Gallery, DC (L’Enfant Metro)
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Katherine Nelson
Register online
Knowledge of soils is basic to understanding plant communities and ecosystems. Examine the nature of soils and their influence on environment. Learn the structure, properties and the classification of soils and the significance of these factors to plant growth and other uses. Discover life in the soil, and study the soil groups and natural land resource areas of the Central Atlantic region. Previous courses in wetlands and biology are helpful. 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 canceled.

Required text: Know Soil, Know Life by David L. Lindbo,‎ Deb A. Kozlowski,‎ Clay Robinson. Soil Science Society of Agronomy, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-0891189541. ISBN-10: 0891189548

Biology for Naturalists
NATH1110E, 2 credits

Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Class duration: April 17-June 19
Field trip dates: May 5, June 2, June 16
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Paula Wang
Register online
Explore the basic biological principles and processes that govern the natural world. Our evolutionary and ecological lens focuses on mechanisms, patterns, relationships, adaptations, and environmental influences. Topics include the cell and the genetic basis of life; evolution; biological diversity and the tree of life; a comparative survey of the plant and animal kingdoms; and an introduction to ecology. Labs, outdoor activities and field trips provide hands-on opportunities to apply course content. This course is recommended background for other courses in the Natural History Field Studies Certificate program. 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 canceled.

No required text. Materials will be online.

Spring Flower Identification
NATH7135E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30 pm
Class duration: April 11-June 6
Field trip dates:  April 21, May 5, May 19, and June 2; students must attend
3 of the 4 trips.
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor:  Sujata Roy
Register online
Learn to recognize common spring wildflowers. Increase your enjoyment of the season by learning about flower identification, the relationships of plants, and how they are classified. Gain an appreciation for the rich flora of the Central Atlantic region through study of the principal spring-blooming plant families in the area. Field trips emphasize practice in recognizing diagnostic characteristics and in using identification keys. The field trips feature some of the area's best wildflower locations. Recommended: a 10x hand lens. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be canceled.

Required text: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Newcomb, Lawrence, and Morrison, Gordon. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN-10: 0316604429, ISBN-13: 978-0316604420

Recommended: Wildflowers in the Field and Forest by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie, 2006, Oxford University Press.

Stream Ecology
NATH8217E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 pm
Class duration: April 18-June 13
Field trip dates: May 5 and June 2
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Jai Cole
Register online
This course will focus on stream ecosystems and the human-caused stressors that affect them. Topics include stream structure and function, benthic macroinvertebrate and freshwater fish ecology and identification, ecological interactions, and stormwater management and ecological restoration.  At the end of this course, students will have an understanding of physical, chemical and biological processes of streams and rivers, plus the field and laboratory methods commonly used by ecologists to study and restore the health of streams. On field trips, students will visit a stream restoration site, identify fish and benthic macroinvertebrate habitat types, sample for benthic macroinvertebrates, and visit the fall-line Northwest Branch stream. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be canceled.

Recommended text: Freshwater Ecology: Concepts and Environmental Applications of Limnology (Aquatic Ecology), by Walter Dodds and Matt Whiles. 2010, 2nd Edition. Academic Press.

Butterflies of Spring  NEW!
NATH8272E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-8 pm
Class duration: April 19-May 17
Field trip dates: April 21, April 28, May 12, with Sunday rain dates.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC (L’Enfant Metro)
Tuition: $269
Instructor: Rick Borchelt
Register online
Because they spend time as caterpillars feeding on specific host plants but range widely for nectar as adults, butterflies are sensitive indicators of plant diversity and habitat quality.  Participants will learn to identify adult butterflies of the region; study butterfly conservation based on an expanded understanding of butterfly biology, behavior and habitat requirements; and learn how to contribute meaningfully to citizen science projects that track butterfly population dynamics and ranges. Saturday field trips will include opportunities to observe rare and endangered species that are subjects of ongoing conservation efforts, and to participate in one or more official annual butterfly counts. If minimum student enrollment is not reached by one week before the scheduled start date, the course may be canceled. Image credit: aecole2010  

Required text: Butterflies of Pennsylvania by James Monroe and David Wright, University of Pittsburgh Press. 2017. ISBN 978-0822964551

Required text: Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 0618768262

Recommended/Reference Text:
Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer’s Guide by Rick Cech & Guy Tudor Princeton University Press. 2007.
NOTE: This book is out of print, but if you can obtain a copy it is an excellent reference to butterfly identification and biology for mid-Atlantic butterflies. Instructor will provide access to digitized species accounts from this resource.