Tidelands to Timberline Natural History Course

Woman looking through binoculars at the sea.

Participants in the Tidelands to Timberline course gain an understanding of our interconnected ecosystems from the sea to the mountains.

Tidelands to Tim,berline Natural History Course

Tidelands to Timberline course participants study local plants, fungi, animals, geology, climate, and ecosystems through a series of field trips and study sessions.

Offered each spring, our extremely popular Tidelands to Timberline natural history course is an eight-week, field-based course that offers committed participants the chance to become intimately familiar with the natural history and ecosystems of the northeast Olympic Peninsula, absorb the knowledge and passion of some of the greatest naturalists in the area, and experience firsthand the amazing interconnections between diverse local ecosystems from the sea up to the mountains.

In addition to eight days together on the land for six to eight hours every week, the course’s curriculum asks participants to spend an additional three to ten hours a week during the intervening weeks learning about (and potentially observing) certain features of our local natural history.

Tidelands to Timberline Natural History Course Overview

We invite adults curious about nature to participate in Jefferson Land Trust’s eight-week Tidelands to Timberline natural history course each spring. The course generally takes place each Friday, from mid-April through the beginning of June. These instructional field days days typically last eight hours. There’s a course fee to cover program expenses and scholarships are available to help make this more of a sliding-scale registration fee, so people are encouraged to reach out if they’d like a scholarship.

The course is suitable for a broad range of participants. If you’ve got a basic curiosity about the natural world, or even if you have years of experience studying and observing the natural world, this course will provide extensive learning opportunities. Whether you’re just curious about the natural environment around you, want to pursue a career as a naturalist, or want to become a dedicated Preserve Steward volunteer for Jefferson Land Trust or other land steward organizations, this course is ideal for you.

The Tidelands to Timberline natural history course is designed to provide a relatively comprehensive overview of the variety of habitats encountered across our local landscape on the northeast side of the Olympic Peninsula. The course begins by exploring the marine environment, then progressively moves inland and upwards to eventually end on the ridges of the Olympic Mountains. Each field day we will explore a different habitat type, typically by visiting more than one site.

The Friday field days are co-led by some of the region’s top naturalists specializing in different aspects (e.g., wildlife, geology, botany) of the respective habitat. Each session will include time identifying focal species and qualities of the habitat, ensuring that you will have an opportunity to gain a general and practical knowledge base of the natural history in the northeast portion of the Olympic Peninsula. In addition to the eight Fridays, the course includes reading and journal assignments to accomplish during the week.

To facilitate the in-depth knowledge and understanding of fundamental components of our local environment, while not getting lost in trying to assimilate the exhaustive amount of information available during a single spring program, this course is structured to focus on the central features of the habitat characteristics and focal species central features for each environment. Lead Naturalists will provide insight and more in-depth teaching about these, while also providing general interpretation on other elements of our local environment. Participants are expected to spend time outside of the course field days (typically around 5-15 hours/week) learning more about (and potentially observing) these elements and documenting their learning in their journals.

The curriculum for this course also includes an element of having the participants practice teaching some of the natural history information they’re learning. The naturalists who have designed this course believe that the act of sharing information with others is one of the most powerful ways to learn, and that this component of the curriculum will enhance everyone’s learning experience. Guidance and techniques for sharing information will be provided.

Course Participant Principles and Responsibilities

Signing up for this course indicates an interest in generating a more meaningful and intimate connection with the natural world. Participants are seeking greater awareness and understanding of the natural world in which we live. They are interested in working with local naturalists to seek this greater awareness and understanding, including visits to areas they may have not otherwise seen or experienced before.

Responsibilities of the participant will be primarily recorded in their journal (blank journals will be provided). The natural history journals will be a very important learning tool during this course, and will become the participants close companion as observations are made, notes are taken during research, and reflections are contemplated.

Participants will familiarize themselves with habitat features and focal species prior to each field day using different references and suggested readings provided in the course syllabus. Journal work prior to each field day will help participants learn a few basic facts about the habitats and species, such as seasonality, key identifying features, behaviors, etc., while also having a basic understanding of any focal concepts before the field day.

Lead Naturalist Principles and Responsibilities

We have a cadre of highly trained and skilled naturalists in the community that have generously agreed to support Jefferson Land Trust and the Northwest Naturalist Program. Lead Naturalists come with a variety of backgrounds, insights, perspectives, and techniques. Their primary role in this course will be to help enhance your observational skills, encourage you to ask relevant and intelligent questions, and help you become more familiar with the natural world. Lead Naturalists want participants to wonder about their observations, and eventually gain the tools and confidence to find their own answers. Lead Naturalists also want to recruit involvement in the conservation movement, and with that in mind, will be focused on building participant’s appreciation and understanding of the natural world.

A central theme for this course is: Through intentional observation we build awareness of the ecological interconnections around us which inspires appreciation.

Lead Naturalists will use their own unique teaching styles and ways of presenting ideas and will augment the field sessions by going in depth in subjects about which they are passionate and knowledgeable.

General Course Schedule

  • Friday, Week 1 – Orientation
  • Friday, Week 2 – Marine Environment
  • Friday, Week 3 – Shorelines
  • Friday, Week 4 – Rainshadow Forests and Prairies
  • Friday, Week 5 – Aquatic and Riparian Environments
  • Friday, Week 6 – Temperate Rainforests
  • Friday, Week 7 – Montane Forests
  • Friday, Week 8 – Subalpine and Alpine Environments
  • Friday, Week 9 – Optional Slideshow and Potluck

Following completion of the Tidelands to Timberline natural history course, participants may be interested in continuing their study of the natural history of the Olympic Peninsula by joining the Natural History Society.

“We live in one of the most biologically productive environments in the world, full of incredible plants and animals all interacting with each other in ways we never would have imagined only a generation ago. This course will help participants really get to know this part of the world.”

– Erik Kingfisher, Jefferson Land Trust Stewardship Director