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 fourth year of Metro’s It’s Our Nature year long 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 17,000 acres of wetlands, oak savannas and woodlands, Douglas fir forests and prairies. Lessons combine theory with place, all in an outdoor setting. Naturalists take you on journeys in some of Metro’s hallmark nature parks and natural areas such as Oxbow Regional Park and Smith and Bybee Wetlands natural area. In addition, some classes will be held at natural areas that are closed to the public, providing the participant with a sneak peak of some of Metro’s hidden jewels.
It’s Our Nature is limited to 18 adults (ages 18 and over) who can commit to attend at least nine of the 11 field classes, and who can learn outdoors – in all weather conditions and in a variety of terrain. Apart from the orientation, classes will usually be held on the second Saturday of the month, and will typically run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Some time changes may be necessary for certain programs. 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 Thursday evening, March 12, 2015 at the Oregon Zoo.
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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 teaching about the land and its inhabitants for 15 years. She is drawn to all things in the natural world, especially wildlife tracking, astronomy, and birds.
- Dan Daly is a 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.
- Sheilagh Diez has been connecting people to place for over 15 years. She has a background in restoration ecology, geology, and native plants. She is also rather fond of invertebrates.
- 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.
Class schedule and descriptions
Classes are usually held on the second Saturday of the month, except for Orientation. Classes will typically run from 9:30am-2:30pm. Some time changes may be necessary for certain programs. Locations of classes are subject to change and are not given here. The class instructor will provide class members all logistical information via email one week before the class.
Thursday, March 12, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The first of 12 gatherings brings class members together to meet, have dinner, learn about the coming year and plan carpool logistics.
Saturday, April 11
As the days grow longer, birds become more active in preparation for nesting season. Thousands of migrants arrive daily and year round residents begin to vocalize from dawn to dusk. Learn the basics of bird identification by sight and fine tune your ears to the patterns of songs and alarms in order to recognize them by sound. Bring binoculars if you have them. Conley
Fundamentals of animal tracking
Saturday, May 9
Wild animals are all around us, yet are often difficult to observe in the field. Tracking can reveal surprising insights about their secret lives. This class will open the world of tracking by learning to read clear tracks for identification and track patterns to understand gaits. Daly
Plants I, non-flowering plants
Saturday, June 13
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. This class provides the opportunity to take a closer look at identification and natural history of these species. Hand lenses will be provided. Froehlich
Saturday, July 11
Up in the sky, on the ground, in the water, invertebrates are all around. When the summer sun is shining, these spineless ectotherms are at their peak. Spend the day learning the basics of invertebrate classification, capturing creatures and doing our best at basic identification.
All specimens are released after observation. Diez
Plants II, ethnobotany
Saturday, Aug. 8
Building on our knowledge of non-flowering plants, we will dive into the world of flowering plants. We will begin by learning traits of plant families and identification techniques for our most common native trees and plants. Then we will study the ethnobotanical uses for select species. Diez
Saturday, Sept. 12
Have you ever wondered why song birds are in constant dialogue? From hunting Cooper’s hawks to stealthy snakes, birds need to be keenly aware of predators on the landscape. In this class, expand your observation skills and begin to interpret the different voices and subtle movements of birds. Learn to move quietly and perceive some of what songbirds perceive; a skill passed through generations of hunter-gatherer cultures. Conley
Saturday, Oct. 10
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. 14
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 identify every fungus found on our walk, you will learn the basic steps of mushroom identification. Bring along mushrooms you have found before class to try to identify. Froehlich
December: No class
Applied tracking skills
Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016
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, Feb. 13, 2016
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. Along the way learn details about different rock types and the stories of their formation. Diez
Restoration in natural areas
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Habitat restoration work party and potluck lunch.
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