Naturalist Certification Series

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By Joe Sebastiani, Ashland Nature Center Manager

Delaware Nature Society graduated fourteen “Certified Naturalists” in December, awarding those who successfully completed the year-long Naturalist Certification Series and the associated field journal.  In the past 12 years, over 300 people have taken this class which focuses on gaining a foundation for the study of nature in Delaware.

The Naturalist Certification class visits Teardrop Pond in Blackbird State forest with Jim White, Herpetologist and Delaware Nature Society Director of Land and Biodiversity.

Our graduates this year include: Jen Smyth, Suzanne Blair, Noreen Cambell, Brooke Cherry, Ted Gatanis, Lana Glass, Bea Kaplan, Laurie Linton, Emily Magnani, Christen Majewicz, Diane McGovern, Katie Pollock, Kayla Krenitsky, and Tere Schubert.  Delaware Nature Society congratulates them on their attendance and devotion to completing the field journal!

The first field trip of the year was to Coverdale Farm Preserve to study local mammals.  Register for the 2019 class, which begins on March 21st!  Photo by Noreen Campbell.

Students attend lectures and field trips revolving around 8 topics which include the study of: Mammals, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Reptiles and Amphibians, Birds, Wildflowers, Insects, Trees and Shrubs, and Aquatic Ecosystems.

The 2019 Naturalist Certification Series is ready for registration!  Here is a flyer to review about the class or send to your friends.  If you are a school teacher, by completing the class, you qualify for 60-hours of inservice credit.

A student in the Naturalist Series holds a Northern Pine Snake in the Herpetology lecture. Photo by Jim White

In one year, you will gain experience with tracking mammals, wade into a wetland at night in search of frogs, learn how to compare the ecology of different forests, evaluate stream ecological health, identify trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, understand various insect orders and their role in the environment, and band birds with an ornithologist.  In the process, you’ll make new friends who are interested in the outdoors, botany, wildlife, and the environment.  We hope you can join us for the 2019 Naturalist Certification Series.

In the meantime, here are some “Naturalist Quotes” for you to ponder and enjoy…

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” ~ Charlotte Mason

“Since we humans have the better brain, isn’t it our responsibility to protect our fellow creatures from, oddly enough, ourselves?” ~ Joy Adamson

“Happy indeed is the naturalist: to him the seasons come round like old friends; to him the birds sing: as he walks along, the flowers stretch out from the hedges, or look up from the ground, and as each year fades away, he looks back on a fresh store of happy memories.” ~ John Lubbock

“Even the lifelong traveler knows but an infinitesimal portion of the Earth’s surface. Those who have written best about the land and its wild inhabitants…have often been stay-at-home naturalists…concentrating their attention and affection on a relatively small area.” ~ Edwin Way Teale

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

“Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist.” ~ Charles Darwin

By Ian Stewart, Naturalist Certification Series Student

About a dozen of the Delaware Nature Society’s Advanced Naturalist Club and Naturalist Certification Series recently spent an unusual but enjoyable Thursday night standing up to our waists in a swamp in rural Delaware! We were on the Herpetology field trip of the Naturalists’ Certification Series, a popular program run by the Nature Society in which various experts give an indoor lecture on the biology and identification of such diverse organisms as birds, mammals, insects, trees and wildflowers. The lecture is followed by a field trip a few days later to allow us to put into practice what we learned.

Jim White, our Herpetology instructor whetted our appetites with a fascinating lecture about the surprisingly large number of species of amphibians and reptiles likely to be encountered around the Delmarva peninsula, and then one evening in July we found ourselves standing on the edge of a swamp deep in Blackbird State Forest. Luckily we had been blessed with perfect weather. The air was warm and the water was pleasantly cool as one by one we bravely stepped into the swamp and started off our search by dragging a large vertical net slowly through the water. This caught a variety of aquatic arthropods and also a few Green Frog tadpoles which proved quite a challenge to hold!

 

Our group wades into the vernal pool at Blackbird State Forest at night.

Our group wades into the vernal pool at Blackbird State Forest at night.

We then split into smaller groups and plunged into deeper water, sweeping our flashlights and headlights back and forth through the vegetation to spot amphibians hidden among the leaves and reeds. Our first catch of the night was a Cricket Frog, a small, neatly patterned frog which gets its name because its constant, high pitched trilling call sounds like a household cricket.

Cricket Frog

Northern Cricket Frog. Image by Ian Stewart.

 

By now we had started to get the hang of wading through deep water while holding a net in one hand and a flashlight in the other and soon one of our group skillfully netted a Barking Treefrog. This is a striking, lime-green frog whose dog-like croaks could be heard all around us, although finding the source of the croaks proved much more challenging!  This species is a Delaware endangered species, so it was a rare sound indeed.

Barking Treefrog and Northern Cricket Frog.  Image by Ian Stewart.

Barking Treefrog and Northern Cricket Frog. Image by Ian Stewart.

A shout of excitement then went up as someone spotted a large Bullfrog submerged among a raft of grass. Incredibly, Jim was able to creep slowly up to the frog and then in one swift movement grab it with his bare hands! He then showed us the correct way to hold frogs so that they can’t escape but also don’t get hurt. The Bullfrog was a beautiful specimen and everyone got great looks at its huge eyes and webbed feet.

A Bullfrog showing the correct way to hold one.  Image by Ian Stewart.

A Bullfrog showing the correct way to hold one. Image by Ian Stewart.

Just as we were about to leave, Becky Meister and I came across a small snake patterned with light and dark brown bands. We were unable to capture it as it slithered around in some dense vegetation but we were able to get a sufficiently decent photograph of its body that Jim was able to identify it as a Common Water Snake. We then photographed a small, dark green frog covered in large black spots which Jim later identified as a Southern Leopard Frog, a new one for the evening. This frog gets its name from the large black dots on its back and must have been a young one as it still had a tail stub left over from its days as a tadpole.

A close-up look at a Barking Treefrog.  Image by Jim White.

A close-up look at a Barking Treefrog. Image by Jim White.

After posing for a group photograph we paused to savor the experience of standing in a swamp in the middle of nowhere, lit only by the silvery full moon while countless numbers of frogs called incessantly around us. It was the perfect ending to a memorable evening!

Group

Here we are after our night of herping! Image by Jim White.

By: Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

The Delaware Nature Society’s Naturalist Certification Series concluded last month with 12 graduates.  Congratulations to our new certified Naturalists!  Ruthe Hay, Gary Charles, Judy Charles, Tim Weymouth, Christy Fitzpatrick, Glenda Clay, Dianne Gross, Marian Henderson, Alison Long, Janet Sydnor, Mary Perkins, and Stephanie Seeney were our 2012 graduates.  The course was offered at both Ashland and Abbott’s Mill Nature Center.

The Naturalist Certification Series students visited the DuPont Environmental Education Center to learn about Aquatic Ecosystems.  Photo by Ruthe Hay

The Naturalist Certification Series students visited the DuPont Environmental Education Center to learn about Aquatic Ecosystems. Photo by Ruthe Hay

The Naturalist Certification Series runs from April to September and each student attends 8 lectures and 8 field trips on such topics as Mammals, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Reptiles and Amphibians, Birds, Insects, Wildflowers, Shrubs and Trees, and Aquatic Ecosystems.  The course has run since 2007 and over 140 people have taken it.

Students get hands-on to learn about nature, and after field trips, record observations and experiences in a journal.  Photo by Reese Robinson

Students get hands-on to learn about nature, and after field trips, record observations and experiences in a journal. Photo by Reese Robinson

Students create a naturalist notebook to capture their experience which includes narrative, field notes, photos, drawings, etc.   Many of our students are school teachers in Delaware who take the course for 60-hours of inservice credit, and pass on their learning and enthusiasm about nature to their school students.  Delaware Nature Society staff also take the course and get trained in natural history and how to approach the study of nature.  Anyone can take the class however, and most of our students just take it for fun!  If you think that searching for Coyote scat, exploring ecosystems, searching for frogs in a wetland at night, seeing all kinds of birds, capturing and identifying insects, learning to correctly identify wildflowers, becoming a local tree expert, and catching what swims in a stream sounds like fun…then this course is for you!

Jim White's reptile and amphibian field trip, where students search for frogs, snakes, salamanders, lizards and turtles in a wetland after dark is consistently the favorite of our students.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Jim White’s reptile and amphibian field trip, where students search for frogs, snakes, salamanders, lizards and turtles in a wetland after dark is consistently the favorite of our students. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Start making your plans for 2013 if you would like to be a part of this class!  The class is $200 for DNS members and $250 for non-members.  Register here.  If you are a Delaware school teacher, you qualify to get reimbursed for most of the tuition and receive 60 inservice-credit hours if you graduate.  Call us at (302) 239-2334 if you have any questions and would like to take this class in 2013.  Here is the schedule:

Mammals – lecture: April 4, 6-9pm; field trip: April 6, 1 to 4pm – Derek Stoner

Terrestrial Ecosystems – lecture: May 2, 6-8:30pm; field trip: May 4, 8am to 2pm Joe Sebastiani

Reptiles and Amphibians – lecture: May 16, 6-9pm; field trip: May 18, 5:30-11pm – Jim White

Birds – lecture: June 13, 6-8pm; field trip: June 15, 7am to 11am – Derek Stoner

Insects – lecture: August 8, 6-9pm; field trip: August 10, 9am-3pm – Jim White

Wildflowers – lecture:  August 21, 6-8pm; field trip: August 22, 5:30-7:30pm – Joe Sebastiani

Trees and Shrubs – lecture: Sept. 12, 6-8pm; field trip: Sept. 14, 9:00am-12:00pm – John Harrod

Aquatic Ecosystems – lecture: Sept 26, 6-8pm; field trip: September 28, 9am-2pm – Kristen Travers and Lesley Bensinger