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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.

Summer | Fall | Certificate Program/Required Courses | Registration | Instructor Bios

Fulfill Your Dream — Become a Naturalist!

9 21Carderock2

ANS Senior Naturalist Stephanie Mason introduces nature enthusiasts to spring blooms, butterflies, and birds along the C&O Canal.

Thirty-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.

Summer Courses 2016

June 20 - August 26, 2016

Summer AzureButterflies of Early Summer
NATH8270E, 1.5 CEU
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6 - 8 p.m.
Course duration: June 23 – July 21, 2016
Field trip dates: July 2, 9, 16 (two required); Sunday rain dates. 
Location: Capital Gallery
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.

Required Reading: 

  1. Butterflies of North America  by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 0618768262.
  2. Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison,  Little, Brown and Company,  ISBN-10:  0316604429, ISBN-13:  978-0316604420 (any edition acceptable).

Highly Recommended/Reference Texts:

  1. Butterflies of the East Coast:  An Observer’s Guide (2007) by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor, Princeton University Press.

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.

2. Butterflies of Illinois:  A Field Guide (2014) by Michael R. Jeffords et al, Illinois Natural
    History Survey.

NOTE:  While the focus on this book is on the Illinois butterfly (not including skippers) fauna, it is such an excellent field guide that it surpasses any other local guides.

Animal Behavior
NATH1151E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7 – 9 p.m.
Course duration: June 21 – August 23, 2016
Field trip dates: July 9, August 13 and an optional Monday
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD 
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register Online
Develop your skills in observing the behavior of animals while learning the basic concepts and theories of modern ethology. Learn the physical and physiological bases for the ways animals do things and the evolutionary and ecological contexts for what they do. Two field trips and examples drawn from familiar animals will help you understand what you see as you learn to recognize patterns of communication, aggression, social behavior and species interactions. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required Text: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach by John Alcock,  newest edition  (ISBN 10 0878932259 & ISBN 13 978-0878932252).

Required Reading (one from the following list):

  1. How Dogs Work by Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein, 2015, Chicago.
  2. Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal, 2015. 
  3. Wild Minds by Marc Hauser, 2000, Holt.
  4. The Mind of the Raven by Heinrich Bernd, 2007.

Green june beetleInsect Life
NATH7130E, 3 CEU
Class day and time: Wednesday, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Course duration: June 22 – August 24, 2016
Field trip dates: July 10 and 24; August 13 (evening)
Location: Capital Gallery, D.C.
Tuition: $365
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. 

Required Reading: National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Art Evans, Sterling Publishing, New York, 2007.

Strongly recommended for field workField Guide to the Insects by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman, 2006.

Agrocybe pediadesIntroduction to Fungi
NATH7203E, 1.5 CEU
Class day and time: Wednesday, 7 – 9 p.m.
Course duration: August 3 - 24, 2016
Field trip dates: August 6 and 20
Location: Woodend Sanctuary
Tuition: $269
Instructor: Tovi Lehmann
Register online
Fungi are incredibly diverse and fascinating organisms that have been shaping the terrestrial biota in many ways we are just beginning to discover and understand. Fungi evolved rather unique strategies of exploitation and cooperation with other organisms. We will cover basic biology of fungi (e.g., anatomy & physiology, life-cycles, ecology, and evolution) while focusing on our local fungi to gain a new perspective and appreciation of their place in the forest around us. 

Required Reading:

  1. Slayers, Saviors, Servants, and Sex: An Exposé of Kingdom Fungi  by David Moore.
  2. Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, Linkoff GH -National Audubon Society.

Recommended Reading:

  1. The Fifth Kingdom by Bryce Kendrick (3rd edition or higher).
  2. The Fungi by MJ Carlile, GW Gooday and SC Watkinson (2nd edition or higher).
  3. Mushrooms of Northeastern North America by AE Bessette, AR Bessette and DW Fischer.
  4. Mushrooms of West Virginia and the central Appalachians by WC Roody.
  5. Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic by B Russell. (This one is excellent for beginners.)

PorcelainberryInvasiveNon-Native Invasive Plants of the Mid-Atlantic
NATH8319E, 1.5 CEU 
Class day and time: Monday, 7 – 9:15 p.m.
Class duration: June 20 – July 18, 2016
Field trip dates: June 25 and July 9
Location: Woodend Sanctuary
Tuition: $269
Instructor: Kerry Wixted
Register online
Learn about organisms that are non-native to the mid-Atlantic region and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause environmental or economic harm, or harm to human health. Focus is on identification and control of invasive terrestrial and aquatic plant species. Students will receive an overview of the issue, acquire understanding of the multiple impacts of non-native invasives, and gain detailed information about major species of concern in our region and how to manage (remove/control) them. Two field trips to area park properties and natural habitat areas are planned so that students become adept at species identification and can compare various management options. Required: a 10x hand lens or higher quality glass loupe.

Required Reading: Invasive Plants: A Guide to Identification, Impacts, and Control of Common North American Species, 2nd edition by Sylvan Ramsey Kaufman and Wallace Kaufman,  Stackpole Books,  ISBN-13:9780811702843.

TidalWetlandsChesapeakeWetland Ecosystems
NATH8211E, 3 CEU 
Class day and time: Mondays, 6 – 8 p.m.
Class duration: June 20 – August 22, 2016
Field trip dates: July 16, 23, and 30
Location: Woodend Sanctuary
Tuition: $365
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.

Required Reading: In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook and Field Guide (Paperback) by Ralph W. Tiner, 2009, Rutgers University Press, 2 Rev Exp edition (September 22, 2005), 352 pages.

Fall Courses 2016

September 19 - November 23, 2016

NATH8290E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time:  Mondays, 7- 9:15 p.m.
Class duration: September 19-November 21
Field trip dates: October 15, November 5
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Kerry Wixted
Register online

Examine the characteristics, physiology, adaptations, ecology and behavior of mammals with emphasis on species of the mid-Atlantic region. Studies will include identification through analysis of skulls, study skins, tracks, and other signs commonly found in natural areas. Field trips will include nocturnal and diurnal observation of wild mammals in their natural habitats.

Required Reading:

  1. Mammal Tracks & Sign: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch , ISBN-10: 0811726266, ISBN-13: 978-0811726269
  2. Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, Fourth Edition, by Fiona Reid, ISBN-10: 0395935962, ISBN-13: 978-0395935965

Introduction to Ecology280px-FoodWeb
NATH1160E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Mondays, 6-8 p.m.
Class duration: September 19-November 28
Field trip dates: October 23, November 12
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Amanda Rose Newton
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. A previous course in biology is strongly recommended. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required Reading: Ecology: Concepts and Applications by Manuel Molles, latest edition preferred, but older editions acceptable.

fall foliageFall Woody Plant Identification
NATH7145E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8 p.m.
Class duration: September 13-November 15
Field trip dates: September 24, October 15 and 29
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. There will be no class on September 20.

Required Reading:

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

Recommended Reading:

  1. The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley. 2010
  2. Woody Plants of Maryland by Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown (limited availability)

Bird LifeFeathers
NATH7115E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class duration: September 21-November 23
Field trip dates: October 1 and 23, and November 19
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Mark England
Register online
Study the life histories and ecology of resident and migrant birds of the Central Atlantic region. Emphasis is on birding techniques, use of field guides, introduction to birdsong, and identification of our area's birds. Bird forms and adaptations, habitats, plumage, migration, and conservation are also covered. The course features a field trip to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland as well as two other field trips.

Required Reading: Any good field guide to the birds of eastern North America

Recommended Reading: Birding Essentials, by Jon Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic Press

NATH1175E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class duration: September 14-November 23
Field trip dates: October 1 and 23, and November 12
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Joel Cohen
Register online
Knowledge of soils is basic to understanding plant communities and ecosystems. Examine the nature of soils and the ways they affect their local environment. Learn the structure, properties, nutrient supply, and classification of soils and the significance of these factors to plant growth and other uses. Discover the biodiversity of life in the soil, experience hands-on labs on soil groups and soil properties. Field trips to natural land resource areas of the Central Atlantic region. Previous courses in wetlands and biology are helpful. There will be no class on Oct. 12. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required Reading: Soil Science Simplified, Fourth Edition, by Helmut Kohnke and D.P. Franzmeier , Waveland Press, Inc.; Long Grove, Illinois

ISBN: 978-0-88133-813-3

Birds of Preyosprey
NATH7155E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class duration: September 22-November 17
Field trip dates: October 8 (Cape May), November 5 (Waggoner's Gap) and one TBA
Location: Oakton High School, VA
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Liam McGranaghan
Register online

Experience the wonder of the fall raptor migration and learn to identify raptors in flight. Study habitat requirements of birds of prey and their relationships to other species. This course will concentrate on species typically found in eastern North America but will also cover additional selected species. Three field trips are planned, with one likely to be to Cape May.

Required Reading: The Raptor Almanac: A Comprehensive Guide to Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and Vultures by Scott Weidensaul

Recommended Reading: A raptor identification guide, such as Crossley ID Guide: Raptors by Richard Crossley or Peterson Field Guides to Hawks of North America by William Clark and Brian Wheeler

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; Fall course in 2016
Weather and Climate NATH1140E 3 CEUs Fall Annually; Spring course in 2016

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
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
in 2016
Spring Flower Identification NATH7135E 3 CEUs Spring Annually
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 2017
Chesapeake Bay Ecosystems
NATH8216E 3 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered in 2017
Stream Ecology NATH8127E 3 CEUs Spring Annually
Wetland Ecosystems NATH8211E 3 CEUs Summer Annually

Conservation (complete 2 courses):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
Conservation Philosophy NATH8250E 3 CEUs Winter Alternates with Am. Nature Lit.;
next offered in 2018
Land-Use Principles NATH8255E 3 CEUs Winter Annually
Human Ecology NATH8280E 3 CEUs Winter Next offered in 2017


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 Next offered in 2016
Biodiversity TBA 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Bird Life NATH7115E 3 CEUs Fall Annually
Birds of Prey NATH7155E 3 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered in 2016
Early Summer Butterflies NATH8270E 1.5 CEUs Summer New in 2016
Ferns and Lycophytes NATH7148E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Introduction to Grass
NATH8225E 1.5 CEUs Summer Not currently scheduled
Introduction to Fungi
(formerly Mushroom ID)
NATH7203E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2016
Late Summer Butterflies NATH8271E 1.5 CEUs Summer New in 2017
Night Sky for Naturalists NATH8100E 1.5 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Non-Native Invasive Plants
of the Mid-Atlantic
NATH8319E 1.5 CEUs Summer Next offered in 2016
Owls NATH7165E 1.5 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Rock ID NATHxxxxE 3 CEUs Winter Next offered in 2018
Spring Birding NATH7187E 1.5 CEUs Spring Not currently scheduled
Summer Bird Life NATH7116E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Summer Wildflower Identification NATH7149E 1.5 CEUs Summer Annually
Wildlife Ecology NATH8265E 3 CEUs Winter Not currently scheduled
Winter Bird Life NATH7163E 1.5 CEUs Winter Alternate years; next offered in 2018

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