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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 | FallCertificate 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.

Summer Courses 2015

June 22 - August 27, 2015

wetlandWetland Ecosystems
NATH 8211E, 3 CEUS
Class day and time: Mondays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: June 22-August 24
Field Trip Dates: July 18 and 25, and August 1
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.

Required text: 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.

Insect Life 
NATH 7130E, 3 CEUS
Class day and time:
Mondays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: June 22-August 24
Field Trip Dates: July 12 and 25, and August 8
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

220px-Lady FernFerns and Lycophytes
NATH 7148E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: June 23-July 14
Field Trip Dates: June 27 and July 11
Location: Capital Gallery, DC Tuition: $259
Instructor: Carl Taylor
Register online
Ferns are ferntastic! This class will reveal the unique structure and fascinating life histories of ferns and lycophytes. Examine their taxonomy, including how names are chosen, and describe, classify, and identify them. Investigate the intriguing evolutionary history of ferns and lycophytes. Learn how easy it is to grow ferns and how to garden with them. Two field trips will focus on the identification and ecology of our native ferns and lycophytes. Students must have a good quality 10X−14X hand lens or they will miss the marvelous detail of these wonderful plants.

Required text: Northeast Ferns: A Field Guide to the Ferns and Fern Relatives of the Northeastern United States by Steve W. Chadde

Understanding Evolution 
NATH 8201E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: June 23-July 21
Field Trip Date: July 11
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Jane Huff
Register online
Explore the theory of evolution, the “grand idea of natural science.” Consider the biological bases for evolution, including genetics, natural selection, sexual selection, and survival strategies. Read Darwin's "The Origin of Species,” review the intellectual background of evolution from Aristotle to Wallace, and survey the modern literature of evolution, including Mayr, Dawkins and E.O. Wilson. Topics are presented for the layperson and amateur naturalist, but a background in biology is helpful.

Required text: The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. The Modern Library edition has a nice intro.

Summer Bird Life
NATH7116E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 pm
Course duration: July 29-August 19
Field Trip Dates: August 8 and 16
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Gemma Radko
Register online
Bird activity is especially busy in the summer, with courting, nesting, and fledging happening in the space of a few short months. Learn about local summer birds and their breeding strategies, nests and nestlings, habitat requirements, and much more. We will discuss the recent state-wide atlas, and what we can learn from atlasing activities. Two field trips to local parks will help participants learn to identify local nesters, their nests, and young birds.  

No required text:  Use any field guide to birds of eastern North America.

800px-Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa UmbelSummer Wildflower Identification
NATH 7149E, 1.5 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9:30 pm
Course duration: July 8-29
Field Trip Dates: July 18 and 25. Optional kayaking trip on August 1.
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 text: 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 text: Flora of Virginia by Weakley, Ludwig and Townsend

Butterflies and Their Conservation
NATH 8275E, 1.5CEUs
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-8 pm
Course duration: July 30-August 27
Field Trip Dates: August 8, 15, and 22 (the last being the DC count); Sunday rain dates.
Location: Capital Gallery, DC
Tuition: $259
Instructor: Rick Borchelt
Register online
Butterfly 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. Saturday field trips will include several butterfly conservation projects in a variety of habitats.

Required text: An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell pbk, 2004
Required field guide: Butterflies of North America by Kenn Kaufman and Jim Brock 2006

Fall Courses 2015

September 15 - November 25, 2015

Bird-Migrationroutes.svgBird Life 
NATH7115E, 3 CEUs
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m.
Course duration: September 16–November 18
Field Trip Dates: Half days on September 26 and October 17, full day to Blackwater NWR on November 14
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD 
Tuition: $355
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, classification, 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 text: any good field guide to the birds of eastern North America
Recommended text: Birding Essentials by Jon Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic Press

EasternForestEastern Forest Ecosystems
NATH8215E, 3 CEUs 
Class day and time: Thursdays, 6-9 p.m.
Course duration: September 24–November 19
Field Trip Dates: September 27, October 18, and November 1
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 history, 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. 

BlueCrabChesapeake Bay Ecosystems
3 CEUs 
Class day and time: Mondays, 6-8 p.m.
Course duration: September 21–November 23
Field Trip Dates: October 10, 17, and 24
Location: Woodend Sanctuary, MD 

Tuition: $355
Instructor: Terry McTigue
Register Online
Discover the dynamic nature of the estuarine environment through study of the interaction between basic physical, chemical and biological processes in the Chesapeake Bay. Explore biological and geochemical cycles and discuss the interaction between nutrients and overall productivity affecting the health of the Bay. Examine the effects of pollution and resources management and the processes that influence temperature and salinity distributions. ($35 field trip fees are collected in class.) This course was formerly called Estuarine Ecosystems.

Required text:  Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Lippson, A.J. and R.L. Lippson.  Third Edition, 2006.  Johns Hopkins University Press.   ISBN:  0801883385.

MapleLeafFall Woody Plant Identification
NATH7145E, 3 CEUs 
Class day and time Tuesdays, 6-8 p.m.
Course duration: September 15-November 10
Field Trip Dates: September 26, October 17, October 31. All three mandatory for successful completion of the course. Make-ups on Sundays following originally scheduled dates.
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. Two sections of the course are being taught. 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: Woody Plants of Maryland by Russell G. Brown and Melvin L. Brown (limited availability)

280px-FoodWebIntroduction to Ecology
NATH1160E, 2 credits  
Class day and time: Tuesdays, 7- 9 p.m.
Course duration: September 15–November 17
Field Trip Dates: October 10 and November 7
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

NATH1175E, 2 credits
Class day and time: Wednesdays, 6-8:30 p.m.
Course durationSept. 23-Nov. 18; no class Oct. 7, Nov. 11
Field Trip Dates: Sept. 26 (3/4 day trip) Oct. 24 & Nov. 7 (half day trips)
Location: Capital Gallery, DC (Metro-accessible)
Instructor: 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.

Required text:  Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils by Nyle C. Brady and Ray R. Weil

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. Next course Fall 2015
Weather and Climate NATH1140E 3 CEUs Fall Next offered 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
Fish Ecology and Identification NATH8278E 3 CEUs Spring Not currently scheduled
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 2015
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 2015
Chesapeake Bay Ecosystems
NATH8216E001 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 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 New in 2015
Bird Life NATH7115E 3 CEUs Fall Annually
Birds of North America NATH7167E 3 CEUs Winter Alternate years
Birds of Prey NATH7155E 3 CEUs Fall Seeking instructor
Butterflies and Their
NATH8275E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered 2015
Ferns and Lycophytes NAT7148E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2015
General Oceanography NATH8310E 3 CEUs Spring Alternate years
Introduction to Grass
NATH8225E 1.5 CEUs Summer Alternate years; next offered
in 2016
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 2016
Night Sky for Naturalists NATH8100E 3 CEUs Fall Not currently scheduled
Owls NATH7165E 1.5 CEUs Winter Alternate years; next offered
in 2017
Rock ID TBA 1.5 CEUs Winter New in 2016
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 Winter Next offered in 2016

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