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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!

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.

Spring Courses 2016

April 5 - June 9, 2016

220px-Biological classification.svgBiology for Naturalists
NATH1110E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Course duration: April 5-June 7
Field trip dates: April 30 and May 21
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
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 Reading: Natural History by Michael Runtz, 2013.

Ten Mile Creek 2015aStream Ecology
NATH8217E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7 - 9 p.m.
Course duration: April 5-June 7
Field trip dates: May 7 and May 21, and one alone for the student's project.
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.

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

120px-Bullfrog - natures picsReptiles & Amphibians
NATH8276E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8:15 p.m.
Course duration: April 5-May 31
Field trip dates: April 30, May 7, and May 28; students must attend at least two of the three.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
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 Reading

  1. Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians, 2nd Edition, Chris Mattison, Ed, Firefly Books (September 12, 2008), ISBN: 1554073669 (IBSN-10); 978-1554073665 (IBSN-13)
  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 Reading: Peterson’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern North America.

FeathersIntroduction to Ornithology
NATH7118E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Course duration: April 6-June 8
Field trip dates: April 23, May 21, and June 4
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
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, worldwide birds and bird-related activities. Field trips emphasize field identification, bird song and other behavior. 

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

Mertensia virginica - Virginia BluebellsSpring Flower Identification
NATH7135E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Course duration: April 6-June 1
Field trip dates: April 16 and 30, May 14 and 28. Attendance is required at 3 of the 4 field 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.

Required Reading:
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb. 
Recommended Reading: Wildflowers in the Field and Forest by Steven Clemants and Carol Gracie, 2006, Oxford University Press.

220px-StormcloudsWeather and Climate
NATH7140E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m.
Course duration: April 7-June 9
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.

Required Reading: 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.

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.

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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