The 2017 class has filled.
To add your name to the 2017 waitlist, please email email@example.com.
Check back in November 2017 for the application for the 2018 class.
Want to find mushrooms, follow cougar tracks and watch wild salmon spawn? Join a team of experienced nature educators to explore some of the region’s most spectacular places during Metro’s It’s Our Nature year-long field trip series.
From February through November, a group of adults will immerse themselves in the region's natural areas, and learn about natural history topics, including geology, animal tracking, birding and ethnobotany. Monthly adventures give participants opportunities to dive into the natural world by learning through hands-on experiences. 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.
Classes combine theory with place, all in an outdoor setting. Naturalists take you on journeys in some of Metro’s hallmark nature parks, such as Oxbow Regional Park. Additionally, many of the classes will be held at Metro natural areas that are closed to the public, providing participants with a sneak peek of some of Metro’s hidden nature jewels.
Learn more about the It's Our Nature experience from Judy McLean, a past participant
Read the Q&A
It’s Our Nature is limited to 18 adults (ages 18 and older) who can commit to attending the majority of classes. You must be willing and able to learn outdoors in all weather conditions and in a variety of terrain. Many program sites do not have running water, shelters or restroom facilities.
Classes will usually be held on the second Saturday of the month from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Applications are assessed for the applicant’s level of interest and ability to commit to the program. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Tuition of $300 is due upon acceptance into the program. Registration opens Nov. 8, 2016.
Meet the nature educators
It’s Our Nature is taught by veteran Metro educators. By sharing their expertise about the region, these experts create a community of learners and nature enthusiasts who in turn can show others how to be careful stewards of the land and its inhabitants.
- Punneh Abdolhosseini has been teaching outdoors since 2011. Her background is in understanding the relationships that different cultures have with nature. She appreciates all things in nature but especially enjoys birds, plants and geology.
- Ashley Conley has been teaching outdoors in Portland since 2004. Astronomy, insects, birds and tracking are just some of her many passions in the natural world.
- 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.
- 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.
2017 class schedule and descriptions
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017: Orientation
6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Oregon Zoo
The first of 11 gatherings brings class members together to meet, have dinner, and learn about the coming year. This is a required class for participants. All instructors
SATURDAY FIELD CLASSES, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.:
Feb. 11: Birding basics
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
March 11: Moss and lichen
This class provides an introduction to the smaller things in the forest. Small but mighty, moss and lichen play many important roles in a forest ecosystem. The communities they form on soil, rocks, and trees create small ecosystems of thousands of living things. We will take a closer look at these systems while we discuss plant evolution and lichen natural history. Hand lenses will be provided as we learn to identify the most common mosses and lichens in the area. Froehlich
April 8: Introduction to bird language
Birds are one of the most vocal animals on Earth. Have you ever wondered why they are in constant dialogue? From hunting Cooper’s hawks, to sneaky snakes and elusive felines, birds need to be keenly aware of predators on the landscape. In this class, expand your observation skills and begin to interpret the five voices of song birds and how predators shape their movements. Daly
May 20: Native plants (Note: This class is the third Saturday of the month.)
This class provides an introduction to identification of native plants. In this class we will discuss human uses of plants and provide the opportunity to take a closer look at the natural history of these species. Hand lenses will be provided. Abdolhosseini
June 10: Fundamentals of animal tracking
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. Conley
July 8: Geology in Oregon
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
Aug. 12: Insects
Insects are the largest and most diverse group of animals on Earth. When summer is in full swing, these ectotherms are at their peak. The day will be spent learning the basics of invertebrate classification, capturing creatures and doing our best at basic identification. All specimens are released after observation. Conley
Sept. 9: Wetland ecology
Wetlands play a vital role to the health of our region. They purify water, offer habitat to a diverse array of animals and so much more. Much of the land along the Columbia River Slough was once wetland. This changed dramatically as the region’s population began to grow in the 1880s. The class will be spent learning about aquatic plants, diving into cultural history and exploring the flood plain. Abdolhosseini
Oct. 14: Salmon homecoming
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
Nov. 4: Beginning fungus identification and end of class celebration (Note: This class is the first Saturday of the month.)
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
We will end the field portion of the day a bit early and head to a nearby pub to reflect on the year and share some good stories and good food. All instructors