button donate

Make a Difference

NatureTravelLogo trim

logo hh facebook twitter

 GuideStar image

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!

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.

 Summer Courses 2014
June 23 - August 30

Sign up early.  Courses that do not reach minimum enrollment two weeks before the start date will be cancelled.

Wetland Ecosystems
NATH 8211E, 3 CEUs
Class night and time: Mondays, 6-8 p.m.
Class meetings: June 23–August 25
Field Trip Dates: July 12, 19, and 26
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.

HoneyBeeInsect Life
NATH 7130E, 3 CEUs
Class night and time: Mondays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: June 23-August 25
Field Trip Dates: July 13, July 26August 9
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.

Required text: 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 work: Field Guide to the Insects by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman.  2006

Butterflies and Their Conservation Sorry, but this course has been cancelled.
NATH 8275E, 1.5 CEUs
Class night and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: June 10-July 1
Field Trip Dates: June 14, 21 and 28 (must do two of the three trips)
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Pat Durkin
Register Online
Small-scale conservation projects can do much to help butterflies, whose 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. Two all-day and one half-day field trips will include butterfly conservation projects and a variety of habitats. Students will participate in surveys for the Baltimore Checkerspot Restoration effort in Maryland and in the West Virginia Butterfly Survey in Harper’s Ferry, and will visit successful butterfly gardens.

Agrocybe pediadesIntroduction to Fungi
NATH 7203E, 1.5 CEUs
Class night and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: August 6-27
Field Trip Dates: August 9 and 23
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
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 text: Slayers, Saviors, Servants, and Sex: An Expose of Kingdom Fungi  by David Moore

Required text: Field Guide to North American Mushroom / Linkoff GH -National Audubon Society

Recommended books:

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

Summer Wildflower Identification

NATH 7149E, 1.5 CEUs
Class night and time: Wednesdays, 7-9:15 p.m.
Class meetings: July 9-30
Field Trip Dates: July 19 and 26 with optional kayaking field trip at Fletcher’s Boathouse on August 2
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.

Required text:Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb. 

Required text: Finding Wildflowers in the Washington-Baltimore Area by Cristol Fleming, Marion Blois Lobstein, Barbara Tufty.

Recommended: An Illustrated Guide to Eastern Woodland Wildflowers and Trees: 350 Plants Observed at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland by Melanie Choukas-Bradley and Tina Thieme Brown. (Instructor has loaner copies.)

Recommended: Flora of Virginia by Weakley, Ludwig and Townsend

Fall Courses 2014
September 15 - November 25

Bird Diversity 2013Birds of the World
NATH7195E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Mondays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: September 15-November 24
Field Trip Dates:  TBA
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Don Messersmith
Register Online
Learn about the avifauna of each continent or region. Review the factors that contribute to the climate, geography and topography of each continent or region and how they affect the distribution of birds.  Study the diversity of families, the number of species, the endemic and/or unique species in each continent and the conservation efforts being taken to preserve endangered and threatened species. Each lesson will use the instructor’s slides and other media to illustrate points in the discussion. Knowledge of bird classification would be helpful.

No textbook requirment.

Fall Woody Plant Identification
NATH7145E, 3 CEUs

Class Night and Time: Tuesdays, 6-8:15 p.m.
Class meetings: September 16-November 18
Field Trip Dates: Sept. 27, Oct. 18, Nov. 1, Makeup: Nov. 2
As always, 3 field trips are required for successful completion of the class. Make-ups for extremely inclement weather will be on the Sunday following the regularly scheduled field trip.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Elizabeth Rives
Register Online
Autumn's glory is created by colorful trees and shrubs, so fall is the ideal time to study techniques of woody plant field identification. Participants study the major woody plant families and species found in the Central 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.

Required text: The Illustrated Book of Trees by William C. Grimm, rev. ed (by John Kartesz), Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.

Required text: Common Native Trees of Virginia, 2010 edition.

Recommended text: The Sibley Guide to Trees by David Allen Sibley, 2010.

Recommended text: Woody Plants of Maryland by Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown (limited availability).

280px-FoodWebIntroduction to Ecology
NATH1160E, 2 credits

Class Night and Time: Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: September 16-November 18
Field Trip Dates: October 4 and November 1
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Jane Huff
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. Prerequisite: Biology for Naturalists (NATH 1110E) or another biology course. ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required text: Ecology: Concepts and Applications by Manuel Molles, latest edition.

The Living Soil
NATH1175E, 2 credits
Class Night and Time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class meetings: September 17-November 19
Field Trip Dates: Sept. 27, Oct. 18, and Nov. 8
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Joel Cohen
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. Purchase of a soil test kit will be recommended (about $35). ACE College Credit Recommendation Service Reviewed.

Required text: Soil Science Simplified, fourth edition by Helmut Kohnke and D.P. Franzmeier. Waveland Press Inc., 1994. ISBN: 978-0-88133-813-3.

220px-StormcloudsWeather and Climate
NATH 1140E, 3 CEUs

Class Night and Time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Class Meetings: September 17–November 19
Field Trip Dates:  November 9
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD 
Tuition: $355
Instructor: Dan Ferandez
Register Online
Explore a wide range of weather phenomena. Learn about weather observation, clouds and cloud formation, weather map analysis and forecasting, weather satellite imagery and the weather's role in global and local ecological systems and the environment. Note: A fee of $20 for the Chesapeake Bay boat trip will be collected in class.

Required text: Essentials of Meteorology: An Invitation to the Atmosphere by C. Donald Ahrens, 5th edition; Thomson - Brooks/Cole (previous 4th edition would be okay to use).

Eastern Forest Ecosystems
NATH8215E, 3 CEUs
Class Night and Time: Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m.
Class meetings: September 18-November 20
Field Trip Dates: Sundays:Sept. 28, Oct. 19, and Nov. 2
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $355
Instructors: Joe Marx and Stephanie Mason
Register Online
The native vegetation in most of the Mid-Atlantic region is temperate deciduous forest. In the lecture portion of this course, we will learn how geography, evolution, climate, bedrock and soil determine the nature of our woodlands. We will then look at the various types of organism that populate our forest ecosystems and study how webs of matter and energy bind them together. The final lectures will discuss patterns of short-term and long-term change within the Eastern forest. Three full-day field trips--to Appalachian, Piedmont and Coastal Plain locales--will provide hands-on experience with some of the plant and animal species that characterize the major forest communities of our area.

Required text: A Field Guide to Eastern Forests, North America by John C. Kricher, ISBN: 978-0-395-92895-0, Houghton-Mifflin.

NATH 1125E, 2 credits
Class Day and Time: Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon
Class meetings: September 20–November 22
Field Trip Dates: October 26, November 9
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 text: 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.

Required text: Roadside Geology of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC by John Means, ISBN 978-0878425709, Wild Horizons Publishing.

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).

Go to Top

 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

Go to Top