Note: The 2014–15 It's Our Nature class is full and in progress.
Join a team of experienced naturalists to explore some of the region’s most spectacular places during the third year of the It’s Our Nature series. Lessons combine theory with place: participants employ all five senses at destinations like Smith and Bybee Wetlands, Clear Creek Natural Area and Oxbow Regional Park. 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.
The series is limited to 20 adults (ages 18 and over) who can attend at least 11 of the 13 classes, and who can learn outdoors, in all weather conditions and variety of terrain. Tuition of $300 is due upon acceptance into the program.
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 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.
- Dan Daly has 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. He is a certified Level III tracker.
- Alice Froehlich has been leading nature programs in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. She especially loves 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.
Class schedule and descriptions
Classes are held Saturdays, except for orientation. Classes begin in the morning and end by mid afternoon. Start and end times vary depending on the topic. Locations 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 carpools.
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! Work on bird identification by song and sight. Naturalist: Conley
Saturday, April 26
Songbirds are in constant dialogue about predators. 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. Learn to move quietly, expand your powers of observation, and perceive some of what songbirds perceive; a skill passed through generations of hunter-gatherer cultures. Naturalists: Scrivens and Conley
Saturday, May 17
Dive into the world of mosses, liverworts, ferns and conifers in an introduction to plant evolution and focuses on the first land plants. Take a closer look at native plants and learn about their traditional uses in this part of the world. Naturalist: 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. Start to break down that huge number by learning traits of plant families and getting to know the most common native trees and plants. Naturalist: Froehlich
Saturday, July 26
Since all arthropods (bugs) are ectotherms (cold-blooded), July is a peak of arthropod activity and diversity. Look for a variety of bugs in different habitats, put them in appropriate xcontainers, and then do our best at basic identification. All specimens are released after observation. Naturalist: Conley
August break – 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, mates and communicate territorial boundaries. Even beginners can start to read the compelling stories that are written on the ground. Naturalist: Daly
Saturday, Oct. 11
Nothing says Pacific Northwest like the annual return from of salmon, fighting upstream to spawn and die in the rivers of their birth. 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. Naturalist: 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 any mushrooms you have found before the class to try to identify. Naturalist: 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. Enter the realms of trailing and interpretation, learning core skills needed to practice alone in the field or with friends. Naturalist: 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. Naturalist: Daly
Winter birds: raptors and waterfowl
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015
Winter is 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. Naturalist: Conley
End of the series celebration
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Habitat restoration work party and potluck lunch.