Naturalist Training Program: Reading the landscape
The Naturalist Training Program is a series of 7 classes designed to give you a wide variety of skills to make you feel at home in the natural world.
The program is designed to develop your skills in wildlife tracking, plant identification, navigation and map reading, outdoors survival, and ability to read the landscape. Most importantly, we want to help you develop a sense of belonging in nature and become more aware of how everything is connected to everything else.
Wildlife tracking is a large component of each class. Most animals are hard to observe directly, so instead, we learn about their presence through the tracks and signs they leave behind. Tracking opens up a whole new way of seeing the world. It teaches us how to pay attention to our surroundings and, through recognizing signs of past events that are everywhere on the landscape, helps us to understand how everything on earth is interconnected. Each class will emphasize a different element of tracking, however, since it is the animals themselves that determine what we see, anything could potentially be covered on any day.
Tracking and wildlife
- Track Identification: Identify clear and subtle tracks, from large mammals to small rodents and birds.
- Gaits, Track Patterns, and Interpretation: Identify different gaits and trail patterns and learn what they can tell you about an animal's activity.
- Sign Tracking: Identify the myriad of evidence that animals leave behind besides their tracks.
- Mammal behavior and ecology: Learn what mammals are found in the area, their taxonomy, general habitat, diet, and lifestyle.
- Amphibians and reptiles: Learn the common amphibians and reptiles of this region.
- Plant identification: Learn to identify the common plants of the area.
- Wild plant foraging: Learn common edible plants and how to forage both safely and ethically.
- Conifer ecology: Learn to identify the conifers of the Cascades, where they are found, and what they can tell you about the ecosystem.
Tools to be out in nature
- Awareness: Learn tools to increase your awareness of what is going on around you and your ability to move unobtrusively.
- Navigation: Learn to use a map and compass, the difference between magnetic north and true north, and how to navigate off-trail using terrain features.
- Safety: Learn what your priorities are in a survival situation and the common hazards of being in the forest.
- Understand the concept of a habitat and be able to recognize the common habitats and forest types in the Cascades and greater Portland area.
- Ecology: Understand the fire ecology of the Cascades, shade tolerance and succession, and how trees can inform you of both the history and climate of the area.
- Bird language: Learn how birds can alert you about what is going on in the forest.
Please note that while each class emphasizes a different element of tracking, it is the animals themselves that determine what we see, so anything could potentially be covered on any day. Each day includes 5 hours of field time, start and end times will be set to accommodate travel times to and from the sites.
October 6 - Wildlife tracking: identifying clear and blurry tracks, gaits and trail patterns; Mammals of northwestern Oregon; Awareness techniques. Location: Sauvies Island
November 3 - Navigation: reading a map and compass and using terrain features to navigate; The Big Picture: habitats and forest types: Conifer identification; Wildlife tracking: introduction to sign tracking. Location: Clackamas River area, Mt Hood National Forest
January 19 - Wildlife tracking: sign tracking in the forest; Animal behavior and ecology. Location: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, near Carson.
February 16 - Wildlife tracking: snow tracking and trailing; Winter ecology; Wilderness survival priorities. Location: weather dependent, TBD
March 16 - Wildlife tracking: identifying clear and blurry tracks; Amphibians of northwest Oregon; Wetland ecology; Human-wildlife interactions. Location: Fernhill Wetlands
April 20 - Wildlife tracking: more tracks and sign; Plant identification; Introduction to wild edible plants. Location: Oxbow Regional Park
May 18 - Wildlife tracking: sign tracking; Fire and tree ecology; Conifer identification and ecology of the east side of Cascades. Location: Lower White River, Mt Hood National Forest
June 15 - make up date
Cost is $475 for the series, or $75 for each individual class. A discount is given for Wolverine Tracking Project volunteers; cost for volunteers is $375 for the series, or $65 for each individual class.