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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.

Winter | SpringCertificate 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.

NHFS e-mail group
Have you ever taken a Natural History Field Studies class? Then join the NHFS e-mail group to keep in touch with other students, share natural history information and learn about nature outings and student events. Email Brady Hartley to join.

 Winter Courses 2015
January 20 – April 2, 2015

Winter Bird Life
NATH7163E, 1.5 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Mondays, 7-9 pm
Course Duration: February 23–March 16, 2015
Field Trip Dates: March 7 and 21 (all day). Both trips required for course completion.
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Don Messersmith
Register Online
Woodland birds are easy to sight in winter when leaves are off deciduous trees, and waterfowl are numerous and easy to locate. Learn about avian winter survival strategies, how to attract overwintering birds, where to look for birds in winter, and the essential connection between waterfowl and the Chesapeake Bay. Two field trips will provide opportunities to identify and study winter birds and their behavior. 

Required text: one of the newer field guides to all the birds of North America

winteroaktreeWinter Woody Plant Identification
NATH 7146E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Tuesdays, 6-8:15 pm
Course Duration: January 13-March 10, 2015
Field Trip Dates: January 24, February 7, and February 28,
with makeup date of March 7
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Elizabeth Rives
Register Online
Winter unmasks nature, revealing our local woody plants in their most skeletal form. Students will learn to identify trees and shrubs by studying the “bare bones” of plants – branching structure, bark, buds, and leaf scars. Classroom lessons and three field trips will help students develop observational skills and use clues such as persistent and fallen fruits and leaves, aromatic twigs, and habitat to identify trees in the winter landscape.

Required texts:

  1. The Illustrated Book of Trees by William C. Grimm, Rev. ed. (by Kartesz, John). Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.
  2. Fruit Key & Twig Key to Trees & Shrubs, By William M. Harlow, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1959.
  3. Winter Tree Finder, by May T. Watts and Tom Watts, Rochester, NY: Nature Study Guild Publishers, 1970.
  4. Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech, Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2011. 

Human Ecology
NATH 8280E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Course Duration: January 20-March 24, 2015
Field Trip Dates: February 7 and March 7
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register Online
Although existing in habitats of their own design, humans cannot escape the biological and physical constraints on energy use, food production, population and interactions with other species. Applying ecological principles, students examine the interactions of the human population, the use of renewable and non-renewable resources and pollution problems and solutions. Course discussions focus on the ecological, economic and political considerations of dealing with environmental problems in the new century. Recommended prior course: Introduction to Ecology (NATH1160E), or equivalent.

Optional text (no required text)Human Ecology: Basic Concepts for Sustainable Development by Gerald G. Marten, Earthscan Publications, 2001.

Eastern Screech OwlOwls
NATH 7165E, 1.5 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Tuesdays, 7:30-9:30 pm
Course Duration: January 20-February 10, 2015
Field Trip Dates: January 31 and February 7, afternoons
Location: Hidden Oaks Nature Center, VA
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Leon Nawojchik
Register Online
Winter is an excellent time to study owls: early sunsets and the absence of leaves on the trees make it convenient to locate these fascinating birds in the field. Learn about the ecology of common eastern owls and field identification, structural and behavioral adaptations, migratory and nesting habits, structural and behavioral adaptations, and position in the food chain, as well as other, rarer, owl species and myths and legends.

Recommended text (no required text): North American Owls, Biology and Natural History by Paul A. Johnsgard, 2nd edition, Smithsonian Institution Press

American Nature Literature  SORRY CANCELLED
NATH8248E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Wednesdays, 7-9:30 pm
Course Duration: January 21–March 25, 2015
Field Trip Date: March 21
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Kent Minichiello
Register Online
Discover the beauty and diversity of America’s natural heritage through the writings of naturalists, explorers, essayists, novelists, and poets. Read, in anthologies and complete works, the rich literature of Americans’ encounters with nature from Roanoke colony through the present day. Learn about major writers and their intellectual and social contexts from lectures, films, and annotated bibliographies. Select, read, and report on works of particular interest. Study primary sources for two special foci of the class: writings about the mid-Atlantic region and women nature writers. There will be one Saturday morning field trip (11:30 a.m.) to the Museum of American Art.

Click here for class readings: Required and Recommended Texts

LandUsePlanningLand-Use Principles
NATH8255E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time:  Wednesdays, 6:30–8:45 p.m.
Course Duration: January 21-March 25, 2015
Field Trip Dates: February 7 and March 7
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD

Instructor: Katherine Nelson
Register Online
Examine the social, economic, ecological, legal and physical principles that govern land use. Apply a variety of land-use principles to land-resource use and conservation by planning the use of an actual site. Additional examples of land-use problems in the United States are considered. Field trips visit several sites to study typical land uses and land-use problems. There will be no class on Feb. 25. 

Required Text: Planning in the USA: Policies, Issues and Processes by J. Barry Cullingworth, Roger Caves. THIRD edition, please.  

NATH1125E, 2 credits 
Class Day and Time: Thursdays, 6-9 pm 
Course Duration: January 22–March 26, 2015 
Field Trip Dates: March 1 and March 14 
Location: Capital Gallery, DC 
Tuition: $355 
Instructor: Joe Marx 
Register Online
We may not have the Rockies in our back yard, but we have the roots of mountains that were as high as the Alps. Although local earthquakes are rare now, this area broke in two twice and oceans flowed in. Central Atlantic geology tells a story as fascinating as any place on the planet. Course lectures introduce the landscapes, subsurface structures and geologic history of our region. Two field trips emphasize the recognition of local landforms and of the geological processes that created them. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required texts: 

  1. Essentials of Geology by Frederick K. Lutgens, Edward J. Tarbuck, and Dennis Tasa. Books a la Carte loose-leaf version of 12th edition. Prentice Hall, ISBN 978-0321957801.
  2. Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC by John Means, ISBN 978-0878425709, Wild Horizons Publishing.

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. 

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. 

Biodiversity - TENTATIVE
NATH xxxx, 1.5 CEUs
Class Day and Time:  Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Course Duration:  April 7-May 5
Field Trip Dates:  April 18 and May 2
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Joel Cohen
Register Online
Some scientists argue that Earth’s biological diversity is declining. In this course, we will use the combined sciences of genetics, evolutionary biology, and ecology to address three questions: What is biological diversity and why is it important? Where do we find it? How can we conserve it? The student will examine benefits of and threats to biodiversity, study megabiodiversity sites, and discover diversity in differing environments through two field trips. The culminating project will discuss recent declines in biodiversity and their causes. Students will leave with an in-depth understanding of the diversity needed to support life and what now puts that diversity at risk. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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 26 credits)

Basic Studies (complete 3 courses):

Course Title Course Code Units Term Comments
Biology for Naturalists NATH1110E 2 credits Spring Annually
Geology NATH1125E 2 credits Fall Annually
The Living Soil NATH1175E 2 credits Spring, Fall Annually in Spring; Fall courses in 2014
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 Usually taught at two locations;
only one in 2014
Fish Ecology and Identification NATH8278E 3 CEUs Spring Possibly offered in 2015
Insect Life NATH7130E 3 CEUs Summer Annually
Introduction to Ornithology NATH7118E 3 CEUs Spring Annually
Mammals NATH8290E 3 CEUs Winter Next offered in 2015
Reptiles and Amphibians NATH8276E 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years; next offered 2014
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 2014
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 2015

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 2015
Animal Behavior NATH1151E 2 credits Winter Alternates with Human Ecology;
next offered in 2016
Bird Life NATH7115E 3 CEUs Fall Annually, but not offered in 2014
Birds of North America NATH7167E 3 CEUs Winter Alternate years;
next offered in 2014
Birds of Prey NATH7155E 3 CEUs Fall Seeking instructor
Birds of the World NATH7179 3 CEUs Fall Next offered in 2014
Butterflies and Their
NATH8275E 1.5 CEUs Summer Seeking instructor
Ferns and Lycophytes NAT7148E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
General Oceanography NATH8310E 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
Introduction to Grass
NATH8225E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
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 2014
Night Sky for Naturalists NATH8100E 3 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Owls NATH7165E 1.5 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
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 Spring Seeking instructor

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