Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time to Register for USDA Natural History Courses

It seems like ages ago -- it WAS ages ago -- that Matt took evening classes on wild edibles and mushrooms and launched us on one of the best parts of this crazy adventure that is our lives. USDA doesn't do much on edibles anymore, but they still offer lots of fantastic natural history courses. You can even get a certificate in Natural History Studies.

Classes typically meet two hours one evening a week, and also have weekend field trips. They cost $355 for a 10 week course. Meetings are at the Audubon Naturalist Society's Woodend Sanctuary unless otherwise noted. Links go to the registration page for each course.

red-tailed hawk at arroyo laguna
Photo credit: minicooper93402
Bird Life. "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." Led by Mark England, trip leader for the Audubon Naturalist Society and the Montgomery Bird Club.
Mondays, 7-9 pm, September 19- November 28, with field trips Oct. 1, Oct. 22, and Nov. 19

Birds of Prey. "Experience the wonder of the fall raptor migration and learn to identify raptors in flight. Study habitat requirements of birds of prey and their relationships to other species. This course will concentrate on species typically found in eastern North America but will also cover additional selected species. Three field trips are planned, with one likely to be to Cape May." Led by Liam McGranaghan, who teaches Biology at Northern Virginia Community College and Loudon Valley High School.
Wednesdays, 7-9 pm, September 21-November 30, with field trips Oct. 1, Oct. 22, and Nov. 5 or 19. At Oakton High School, VA.

jug bay
Photo credit: The Natural Capital
Estuarine Ecosystems. "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." Led by Teresa McTigue, acting director of NOAA's Center of Coastal Monitoring and Assessment.
Mondays, 6-8 pm, September 19-November 28, with field trips Oct. 1, 15, and 22.

Introduction to Ecology. "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." Led by Dr. Jane Huff, a natural science educator and former Director of Education for the Audubon Naturalist Society.
Prerequisite: Biology for Naturalists (NATH 1110E) or another biology course.
Tuesdays, 7-9 pm, September 20-November 22, with field trips Oct. 1 and Nov. 5

Liquidamber leaf
Photo credit: rogersanderson
Fall Woody Plant Identification. "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." Led by Melanie Choukas-Bradley, field guide and natural history author.
Wednesdays, 7-9:15 pm, September 21-November 16, with field trips Oct. 1, 22 and Nov. 5.

Geology. "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." Led by Joe Marx, who teaches physical and historical geology at Northern Virginia Community College.
Saturdays, 9 am-noon, September 24-December 17, with field trips Oct. 23 and Nov. 13. At Capital Gallery (L'Enfant Plaza), DC.

Weather and Climate. "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." Led by Dan Ferandez, Coordinator of the Earth-Space Science Program at Johns Hopkins University Graduate Division of Education.
Wednesdays, 7-9 pm, September 21-November 30. At Capital Gallery (L'Enfant Plaza), DC .

If only there were more hours in the day!