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Continuing Education
Natural History Field Studies Program

Cosponsored with the Graduate School USA since 1961

Did you know that when you sign up for a NHFS course a portion of your tuition comes back to ANS? Income from this unique program helps us carry out our dual mission of environmental education and conservation in the greater DC metro area.

Spring | SummerCertificate Program/Required Courses | Registration | Instructor Bios

Fulfill Your Dream — Become a Naturalist!

nhfs0309Thirty-six 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 and applications 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. (See chart below for course requirements/options. A credit is equal to 1.5 CEUs.) For more information or to indicate your intent to pursue the Certificate, please email the certificate counselor or call 202-314-3320.

Classes are offered at several locations around the Washington, DC area, including 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.

Instructors Needed
The Field Studies program is looking for instructors who can teach the following courses: Mammals; Butterflies; or Wildlife Ecology. If you are interested in applying for one of these positions, or you know someone you can recommend, please email Cecily Nabors.

 Spring Courses 2015
April 6 – June 13, 2015

120px-Bullfrog - natures picsReptiles & Amphibians
NATH8276E, 3 CEUs
Class Day and Time: Mondays, 7-9 pm 
Course Duration: April 6-June 15
Field Trip Dates: April 25, May 16, and June 6 
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD 
Tuition: $355 
Instructor: Rachel Gauza
Register Online
The course is an introduction to the study of reptiles and amphibians in the Mid-Atlantic region. Reptile and amphibian biology, ecology, behavior and natural history will be discussed. An emphasis will be placed on local species diversity, identification, and conservation. 

Required texts:

  1. Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians.
  2. Amphibians and Reptiles of Delmarva, by White J.F. and A.W. White. 2007. Revised/2nd edition. Tidewater Publishers. Centerville, Maryland. 243 pgs.

 Recommended text: Peterson’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern North America.

Introduction to Ornithology
NATH7118E, 3 CEUs
Class Day and Time:  Mondays, 7-9 pm
Course Duration:  April 6-June 15
Field Trip Dates:  April 25, May 23, and June 13
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Gemma Radko
Register Online
Learn about birds and their special characteristics. Study their external and internal anatomy, feather structure, plumage, special adaptations, flight, migration, courtship, mating, nesting, eggs, incubation, care of the young, habitats, ecology, behavior, conservation, evolution, classification, distribution, and bird-related activities. Field trips emphasize field identification, bird song and other behavior. 

Required text: The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, by Chris Elphick, John B. Dunning, Jr., David Allen Sibley.  2001.  Alfred A. Knopf, NY.

NATH7301E, 1.5 CEUS
Class Day and Time: Tuesdays, 7–9 pm
Class Duration: April 14 – May 12, 2015
Field Trip Dates: April 18 (SCBI), May 2 (local)
Location: Woodend Sanctuary
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Joel Cohen
Register Online
Use the sciences of genetics, evolutionary biology, and ecology to learn what biological diversity is and why it is important. Examine benefits of and threats to biodiversity, study megabiodiversity sites, and learn methods of curbing declines in populations. Discover diversity in differing environments on two field trips, one of which will go to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA, with a $10 admission fee. Previous courses in Biology for Naturalists and Introduction to Ecology recommended.

Required texts:

  1. Biodiversity an Introduction, Second Edition, by Kevin Gaston and John Spicer; Blackwell publishing; 2004.
  2. Life on Earth, by E.O. Wilson, an iBook, no charge; downloaded to student computers; 2014.
  3. Sparing Nature, by J.K. McKee, Rutgers University Press, 2003.
  4. Perspectives on Biodiversity: Case Studies of Genetic Resource Conservation and Development, edited by C.S. Potter and J.I. Cohen, AAAS Press, 1993, Waldorf, Maryland, USA.    

Recommended text: The Diversity of Life, by E.O. Wilson. 1992. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 

220px-Biological classification.svgBiology for Naturalists
NATH1110E, 2 credits
Class Day and Time:  
Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Course Duration:  April 7-June 9
Field Trip Dates: April 25 and May 16
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register Online
Explore basic biological principles and theories with hands-on examples drawn from the natural world around us. Understand the classification and adaptations of organisms as we explore living things. Outdoor activities and field trips will help you develop the naturalist's way of seeing. This course is recommended background for other courses in the Natural History Field Studies Certificate program. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed. 

Recommended text: Exploring the Way Life Works, by Hoagland, Dodson & Hauck (latest edition). Jones & Bartlett pub. paperback.

Freshwater Ecosystems
NATH8207E, 3 CEUs
Class Day and Time: 
Wednesdays, 7-9 pm
Course Duration: 
April 8-June 10
Field Trip Dates: 
April 25 and May 16
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Instructor: Jai Cole
Register Online
This course will focus on the foundations of Freshwater Ecology. Topics covered will include basic water chemistry, geology, stream flow dynamics, benthic macroinvertebrate and freshwater fish ecology and identification, ecological interactions, stormwater management and ecosystem restoration. The focus will be on stream systems but lakes and wetlands will be covered as well. The field trips will visit a stream restoration site to talk about the dynamics that go into design and construction and to look at different freshwater ecosystems and become familiar with the organisms that inhabit them. 

Required text: Pond and Brook, a guide to nature in freshwater environments, by Michael J. Caduto, University Press of New England.

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

NATH1175E, 2 credits
Class Day and Time: 
Wednesdays, 6-8 pm
Course Duration: 
April 8-June 10
Field Trip Dates: 
April 18 (9 am-1 pm), May 9 (9 am-1:30 pm), and May 30 (9 am-12 pm)
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
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. 

Required text:  Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils, by Nyle C. Brady and Ray R. Weil.

Summer Courses 2015
June 22 - August 27, 2015

wetlandWetland Ecosystems
NATH 8211E, 3 CEUS
Class day and time: Mondays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: June 22-August 24
Field Trip Dates: July 18 and 25, and August 1
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Terry McTigue
Register Online
The National Capital area harbors a rich variety of wetlands, ranging from bogs to tidal marshes. Become familiar with the landscape and ecological processes that form wetlands and how to identify the plants and animals commonly found in wetlands. Gain an understanding of wetland conservation, including wetland restoration, and policy.

Insect Life 
NATH 7130E, 3 CEUS
Class day and time:
Mondays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: June 22-August 24
Field Trip Dates: July 12 and 25, and August 8
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Cathy Stragar
Register online 
Learn to identify insects and discover their roles in the balance of nature. Study their life histories, the ecologies of important insect forms, the necessity of insects in biotic communities and principal insect families of the Central Atlantic region.

220px-Lady FernFerns and Lycophytes
NATH 7148E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: June 23-July 14
Field Trip Dates: June 27 and July 11
Location: Capital Gallery, DC Tuition: $259
Instructor: Carl Taylor
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Ferns are ferntastic! This class will reveal the unique structure and fascinating life histories of ferns and lycophytes. Examine their taxonomy, including how names are chosen, and describe, classify, and identify them. Investigate the intriguing evolutionary history of ferns and lycophytes. Learn how easy it is to grow ferns and how to garden with them. Two field trips will focus on the identification and ecology of our native ferns and lycophytes. Students must have a good quality 10X−14X hand lens or they will miss the marvelous detail of these wonderful plants.

Understanding Evolution 
NATH 2201E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: June 23-July 21
Field Trip Date: July 11
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register online
Explore the theory of evolution, the “grand idea of natural science.” Consider the biological bases for evolution, including genetics, natural selection, sexual selection, and survival strategies. Read Darwin's "The Origin of Species,” review the intellectual background of evolution from Aristotle to Wallace, and survey the modern literature of evolution, including Mayr, Dawkins and E.O. Wilson. Topics are presented for the layperson and amateur naturalist, but a background in biology is helpful.

Summer Bird Life
NATH1116E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: July 29-August 19
Field Trip Dates: August 8 and 16
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Gemma Radko
Register online
Bird activity is especially busy in the summer, with courting, nesting, and fledging happening in the space of a few short months. Learn about local summer birds and their breeding strategies, nests and nestlings, habitat requirements, and much more. We will discuss the recent state-wide atlas, and what we can learn from atlasing activities. Two field trips to local parks will help participants learn to identify local nesters, their nests, and young birds.

800px-Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa UmbelSummer Wildflower Identification
NATH 1149E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9:30 pm
Course duration: July 8-29
Field Trip Dates: July 18 and 25. Optional kayaking trip on August 1.
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Melanie Choukas-Bradley
Register online
From milkweeds and morning glories to orchids and asters, summer presents a diverse array of wildflowers for study of plant family characteristics and ways to identify different species. Field trips to two scenic locations for summer wildflowers provide an opportunity for practice in the use of identification guides. Previous Spring Flower Identification class or similar course is recommended but not required.

Butterflies and Their Conservation
NATH 2175E, 1.5CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: July 30-August 27
Field Trip Dates: August 8, 15, and 22 (the last being the DC count); Sunday rain dates.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Rick Borchelt
Register online
Butterfly populations are increasingly impacted by urbanization and other factors. Participants will learn to identify butterflies of the region, study the principles of butterfly conservation, and work on plans for their own conservation projects, based on an expanded understanding of butterfly biology, behavior and habitat requirements. Saturday field trips will include several butterfly conservation projects in a variety of habitats.

Registration is Easy! You can sign up ...

  • Online HERE
  • By phone: 202-314-3320 or toll free at 888-744-GRAD
  • By fax: 866-FAX-GRAD or 202-475-6843
  • By USPS:  Registrars Office, Suite 120, 600 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 2004
  • In person at the Registrars office, Mon-Fri, 8 am-7 pm.

Bookshop Open!
On the first night of classes held at Woodend, our Sanctuary Shop will be open for a half hour prior toclass for students to buy books and other items. A special 20% discount will be offered to field studies students. We usually carry textbooks for classes, but call to confirm (301-652-3606).

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 REQUIRED COURSES (Complete 39 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) taken in five subject areas. A credit is equal to 1.5 CEUs.)

Basic Studies (complete 3 courses):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
Biology for Naturalists NATH1110E 2 credits Spring Annually
Geology NATH1125E 2 credits Winter Annually
The Living Soil NATH1175E 2 credits Spring, Fall Annually in Spring; Next course in 2016
Weather and Climate NATH1140E 3 CEUs Fall Annually

Identification Courses
(complete 3 courses, to include 1 plant and 1 animal course):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
Fall Woody Plant Identification NATH7145E 3 CEUs Fall Annually
Fish Ecology and Identification NATH8278E 3 CEUs Spring Not currently scheduled
Insect Life NATH7130E 3 CEUs Summer Annually
Introduction to Ornithology NATH7118E 3 CEUs Spring Annually
Mammals NATH8290E 3 CEUs Fall Next offered in 2016
Reptiles and Amphibians NATH8276E 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years; next offered 2015
Spring Flower Identification NATH7135E 3 CEUs Spring Annually; not offered in 2015
Winter Woody Plant Identification NATH7146E 3 CEUs Winter Annually

Ecosystems (complete 2 courses):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
Introduction to Ecology NATH1160E 2 credits Fall Annually
Eastern Forest Ecosystems NATH8215E 3 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered in 2015
Estuarine Ecosystems NATH8206E 3 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered in 2015
Freshwater Ecosystems NATH8207E 3 CEUs Spring Annually
Wetland Ecosystems NATH8211E 3 CEUs Summer Annually

Conservation (complete 2 courses):

Course Title Course Code CEUs Term Comments
Conservation Philosophy NATH8250E 3 CEUs Winter Alternates with Am. Nature Lit.;
next offered in 2016
Land-Use Principles NATH8255E 3 CEUs Winter Annually
Human Ecology NATH8280E 3 CEUs Winter Alternates with Animal Behavior;
next offered in 2017

Electives (complete 6 CEUs):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
American Nature Literature NATH8248E 3 CEUs Winter Alternates with Conservation
Philosophy; next offered in 2017
Animal Behavior NATH1151E 2 credits Winter Alternates with Human Ecology;
next offered in 2016
Biodiversity TBA 1.5 CEUs Spring New in 2015
Bird Life NATH7115E 3 CEUs Fall Annually
Birds of North America NATH7167E 3 CEUs Winter Alternate years
Birds of Prey NATH7155E 3 CEUs Fall Seeking instructor
Butterflies and Their
NATH8275E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered 2015
Ferns and Lycophytes NAT7148E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
General Oceanography NATH8310E 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years
Introduction to Grass
NATH8225E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2016
Non-Native Invasive Plants NATH8219E 1.5 CEUs Summer Not currently scheduled
Introduction to Fungi NATH7203E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2016
Night Sky for Naturalists NATH8100E 3 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Owls NATH7165E 1.5 CEUs Winter Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Rock ID TBA 1.5 CEUs Winter New in 2016
Spring Birding NATH7187E 1.5 CEUs Spring Not currently scheduled
Spring Woody Plant Identification NATH7147E 1.5 CEUs Spring New in 2015
Summer Bird Life NATH7116E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
Summer Wildflower Identification NATH7149E 1.5 CEUs Summer Annually
Understanding Evolution NATH8201E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
Wildlife Ecology NATH8265E 3 CEUs Winter Next offered in 2016

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