It's Our Nature outdoor immersion series
Places and activities
› nature immersion for adults
From March 2014 to March 2015, a group of adults immerse themselves in the region's natural areas, learning about natural history topics including geology, tracking, birding and ethnobotany in the third year of this field trip series.
Want to find mushrooms, follow cougar tracks and watch wild salmon spawn? Join a team of experienced naturalists to explore some of the region’s most spectacular places during the third year of Metro’s It’s Our Nature field trip series. From March 2014 to March 2015, a group of adults will immerse themselves in the region's natural areas, learning about natural history topics including geology, tracking, birding and ethnobotany in the third year of this field trip series. Monthly adventures give you opportunities to experience the natural world hands-on as the seasons change. If you crave the behind-the-scenes story, learn by doing and don’t mind getting muddy, this year-long journey could be for you.
From bedrock to tree canopy, It’s Our Nature explores some of Metro’s 16,000 acres of wetlands, oak savannas and woodlands, Douglas fir forests and prairies. Lessons combine theory with place: participants employ all five senses at destinations like Smith and Bybee Wetlands, Clear Creek Natural Area, Oxbow Regional Park, Canemah Bluff Natural Area, Mount Talbert and Cooper Mountain nature parks.
It’s Our Nature is limited to 20 adults (ages 18 and over) who can commit to attend at least 11 of the 13 classes, and who can learn outdoors – in all weather conditions and in a variety of terrain. Apart from the orientation, classes begin at varying times on Saturday mornings (except for Orientation) and run into the early afternoon. Applications are assessed for the applicant’s level of interest and ability to commit to the program, and are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. No deposit is required. Tuition of $300 is due upon acceptance into the program. Orientation is scheduled for Wednesday evening, March 19, 2014.
Meet the naturalists
It’s Our Nature is taught by veteran Metro naturalists. By sharing their expertise about the region, the naturalists are creating a community of learners and nature enthusiasts who in turn can show others how to be careful stewards of the land and its inhabitants.
Ashley Conley has been working to reconnect people to the land for the past 15 years. Her passions lie in bird language, animal tracking, and astronomy. She is a certified Level III tracker.
Alice Froehlich has been leading nature programs in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. She loves most things in nature, but especially all things plant, fungus, lichen, and bird related.
Deb Scrivens is a certified tracker and has been a naturalist for 32 years, working for Metro and the National Park Service. Her specialties include forest ecology, salmon, bird language, tracking and botany, particularly ethnobotany.
Dan Daly is a certified Level III tracker with a background in geology, bird language and wilderness skills. He is passionate about salmon ecology and enjoys exploring the layers of interconnection between people and nature.
Class schedule and descriptions
Classes are held on Saturdays, except for Orientation. Classes begin in the morning and end by mid afternoon. Start and end times vary depending on the topic. Locations will be provided to class members.
Wednesday, March 19, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This first of 13 gatherings brings class members together to meet, have dinner, learn about the coming year and plan carpool logistics.
Spring birding extravaganza
Saturday, April 12
April and May mark the peak of spring bird migration in Oregon. Not only do thousands of birds arrive daily, but year-round residents make their voices heard by singing from dawn until dusk. All of this singing is done in their finest breeding plumage, too! We will work on bird identification by song and by sight, so bring your binoculars if you have them. Conley
Saturday, April 26
Songbirds are in constant dialogue about predators. Class members learn their language--the distinctly different movements and sounds birds use to announce the presence of different predators such as Cooper’s hawks, snakes or bobcats. Participants learn to move quietly, expand powers of observation, and perceive some of what songbirds perceive; a skill passed through generations of hunter-gatherer cultures. Scrivens and Conley
Saturday, May 17
This class provides an introduction to plant evolution and focuses on the first land plants. We will dive into the world of mosses, liverworts, ferns and conifers. Taking a closer look at our native plants and learn about their traditional uses in this part of the world. Froehlich
Saturday, June 7
There are over 250,000 species of flowing plants in the world, and some scientists estimate there are up to 400,000. We will start to break that huge number down by learning traits of plant families and getting to know our most common native trees and plants. Froehlich
Saturday, July 26
Since all arthropods (“bugs”) are ectotherms (cold-blooded), July is a peak of arthropod activity and diversity. We will look for a variety of bugs in different habitats, put them in appropriate containers, and then do our best at basic identification. Catching and putting the various arthropods in containers for the safety of the participants and the bugs keeps everyone happy. All specimens are released after observation. Conley
August: no class
Fundamentals of Animal Tracking
Saturday, Sept. 27
Tracking is like the written language of the natural world. Animals’ life histories are etched on the landscape as they search for food, shelter and mates, and communicate territorial boundaries. Even beginners can start to read the compelling stories that are written on the ground. Daly
Saturday, Oct 11
Nothing says “Pacific Northwest” like the annual return from the ocean of salmon, fighting upstream to spawn and die in the rivers of their birth. In October, witness this ancient, iconic phenomenon as you walk the banks of a wild river. See firsthand how salmon are so intricately tied to the ecology of the Western Cascades, and learn the science behind salmon restoration efforts that are improving rearing conditions for wild fish. Daly
Beginning fungus identification
Saturday, Nov 1
Autumn rains elicit the most astonishing “bloom” of the famously diverse fungi of the Northwest. Mushroom identification is a challenge. While we won’t be able to identifying every fungus found on our walk, you will learn the basic steps of mushroom identification. Bring mushrooms you have found before the class along to try to identify. Froehlich
Applied tracking skills
Saturday, Dec 13
Following fresh footprints is one of tracking’s most challenging skill sets. Interpreting an animal’s trail brings insights into its story and its connection to the landscape. Go beyond the basics to enter the realms of trailing and interpretation, learning core skills needed to practice alone in the field or with friends. Daly
Geology in Oregon
Saturday, Jan 24, 2015
Four hundred million years ago, the landscape now known as Oregon was open ocean. Oregon has been forged by earthquakes and floods, volcanoes and ancient island chains. Journey through geologic time to discover the epic events that make life in the Cascadia Subduction Zone what it is today. Daly
Winter birds: raptors and waterfowl
Saturday, Feb 21, 2015
Winter is the prime time to see raptors and waterfowl. With the barren branches of deciduous trees, raptors stand out as they perch on mossy limbs. In addition, the Willamette Valley’s mild winter climate makes our wetlands the perfect “southern” destination for waterfowl. Bring your binoculars as we search for our beautiful feathered friends. Conley
End of the year celebration
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Habitat restoration work party and potluck lunch.