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

Fulfill Your Dream — Become a Naturalist!


This summer's pleased Ferns and Lycophytes students
pose with course instructor Carl Taylor, a botanist with the Smithsonian Institution.

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.

Winter Courses 2016

January 19 - March 28, 2016

AnimalBehaviorAnimal Behavior - SORRY CANCELLED
NATH 1151E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: January 19-March 22
Field Trip Dates: February 20 and March 19
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 Reading: Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach by John Alcock, 2009, 9th edition, (ISBN 10 0878932259 & ISBN 13 978-0878932252).

RachelCarsonConservation Philosophy
NATH 8250E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30 pm
Course duration: January 20-March 30
Field Trip Dates: N/A
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $365
Instructor: Kent Minichiello
Register online
Learn the history of conservation in America. Discover the importance of worldwide environmental history for today’s conservation problems. Explore the relationships between attitudes toward nature and environmental action. Study the development of conservation ethics and issues. Read, discuss, and report on the classic books of conservation literature. Trace the evolution of conservation concepts from Henry David Thoreau and George Perkins Marsh through John Wesley Powell and John Muir to Rachel Carson, E. O. Wilson, and Al Gore. Take part in investigating the history of science and politics of climate change. No class February 24. 

Required Reading (listed in the order that they are to be read):

  1. Udall, Stewart: The Quiet Crisis and the Next Generation, Gibbs Smith, 1988. (This is the 1988 expansion of The Quiet Crisis, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963.) This book out of print, but it is available as loan from the instructor at the first class meeting or before; and it is available at a modest price used on the Internet.
  2. Leopold, Aldo: A Sand County Almanac, Oxford, 1949,1967 (revised ed.), 1987. Available new or used.
  3. Carson, Rachel: Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin, 1962. Available new or used.
  4. Scientific American: Managing Planet Earth. W. H. Freeman, 1990. Available as a loan or used.
  5. Minichiello, J. Kent, and Anthony White: From Blue Ridge to Barrier Islands, Johns Hopkins, 1996. Available new or used.

NATH 1125E, 2 credits or 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Saturday, 9 am-noon
Course duration: January 23–March 26
Field Trip Dates: February 28 and March 13 (all day)
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
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. There will be no class on March 12.

Required Reading:

  1. Essentials of Geology by Frederick K. Lutgens, Edward J. Tarbuck, and Dennis Tasa, Prentice Hall, ISBN 978-0321832061. The 12th Edition is available but any edition will suffice.
  2. Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. by John Means, ISBN 978-0878425709, Wild Horizons Publishing.


landuseLand-Use Principles
NATH8255E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 6-8:15 pm
Course duration: January 20-March 23
Field Trip Dates: February 6 (9 am-1:30 pm) and March 5 (9 am-3 pm)
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
Register online
Instructor: Katherine Nelson
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.

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

milky quartzRock Identification
NATH7150E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time:
 Saturdays, 1-4 pm
Course duration: February 27-March 26
Field Trip Dates:  N/A
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $269
Instructor: Joe Marx
Register online
The field identification of rocks requires knowing how to conduct a simple chemical test, recognize six common minerals, and distinguish about ten aspects of rock texture and appearance. In this course, we will learn these skills and then apply them systematically to identify the twenty-five or so types of rock common in the Mid-Atlantic. A hand lens or magnifying glass with a magnification of 6 to 10x is required.

Required Reading: The Identification of Common Rocks by Eileen Van der Flier-Keller and William J. McMillan, 1987 Edition. Publisher: Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Mineral Resources Division, Geological Survey Branch. Available online at: http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geoscience/EducationalResources/Documents/IC1987-5-idrocks.pdf

TuftedTitmouseWinter Bird Life
NATH7163E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time:
Mondays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: January 25–February 22
Field Trip Dates:  February 13 (9 am-12 pm) and February 20 (8 am-6 pm). Both trips required for course completion.
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $269
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.

oaksinwinterWinter Woody Plant Identification - Enroll ASAP or class may be cancelled.
NATH 7146E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8:15 pm
Course duration: January 19-March 15
Field Trip Dates: January 23 and February 6 and 27. All three field trips required for course completion.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $365
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 mandatory 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. You must be able to attend all three field trips to successfully complete the class.

Required Reading:

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

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
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

Instructor: Jai Cole
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
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
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
NATH 7135E, 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
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
NATH 7140E, 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
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.

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 Fall course in 2016
Weather and Climate NATH1140E 3 CEUs Fall Usually in Fall. Next offered Spring 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 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 Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Bird Life NATH7115E 3 CEUs Fall Annually
Birds of North America NATH7167E 3 CEUs Winter Not currently scheduled
Birds of Prey NATH7155E 3 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Early Summer Butterflies NATHxxxxE 1.5 CEUs Summer New in 2016
Ferns and Lycophytes NATH7148E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
General Oceanography NATH8310E 3 CEUs Spring Not currently scheduled
Introduction to Grass
NATH8225E 1.5 CEUs Summer Not currently scheduled
Non-Native Invasive Plants NATH8319E 1.5 CEUs Summer Next offered in 2016
Introduction to Fungi NATH7203E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2016
Night Sky for Naturalists NATH8100E 1.5 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Owls NATH7165E 1.5 CEUs Fall Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Rock ID NATH7150E 1.5 CEUs Winter New in 2016
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
Understanding Evolution NATH8201E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Wildlife Ecology NATH8265E 3 CEUs Winter Seeking instructor
Winter Bird Life NATH7163E 1.5 CEUs Winter Annually

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