Natural History Classes

The Highlands Center offers a wide range of Natural History classes to teach about the flora, fauna, and geology of the Prescott area.  Classes are designed to be interactive and experiential and often involve a lab component.  Join us for the ten-part Community Nature Study Series in January and February or for any of our Insights classes, which are offered once a month during the rest of the year.

Community Nature Study Series

Join expert naturalists, researchers, and conservation leaders from across Arizona in this improved and expanded annual series celebrating study of the natural world! Topics and presenters are carefully selected and classes are designed to be engaging and interactive.  Register for individual classes or for the entire series!  See below for full descriptions of classes.

Where: Highlands Center for Natural History
(1375 South Walker Road)

When: Tuesdays & Thursdays | January 23-February 22 | 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Cost$25 per class | 10% Discount for Members

Note: Jan 23rd class is full.  Full Series registration has been reduced to $200 and no longer includes this class.

Snake Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation-CLASS IS FULL

January 23 | Dr. Erika Nowak, Assistant Research Faculty & Herpetologist, NAU
Drawing on research she and her students have conducted on wild rattlesnakes and federally-threatened gartersnakes, Dr. Nowak will cover the physiological, ecological, sociological, and conservation implications of what it means to be a snake. The first part of the program will be an informal lecture, illustrated by specimens and hands-on demonstrations of scientific research tools used to study snakes. During the second part of the program, participants will observe live non-venomous snakes, and there will be an opportunity to practice safe handling techniques.

Bringing Nature into Urban Areas

January 25 | Matt Killeen, Environmental Coordinator, The City of Prescott
This program will look at the natural processes that shape our world and the ways they have been altered in city settings.  Participants will learn about the quality of life indicators and economic and ecological benefits that nature provides in city settings.  The class will examine a number of local and regional methods currently being utilized and ways they can be scaled up or down for application in yards, urban open spaces, and new development.  The class will conclude with a discussion of ways this global theme may be acted upon locally with tangible and actionable examples of how to make your voice heard.

The Upper Verde River: Biodiversity, Culture, & Conservation

January 30 | Gary Beverly, Peter Kroopnik, & Ed Wolfe, CWAG
This program will begin with an interactive screening of the film, “Viva La Verde,” which unveils the value of and the threats to Northern Arizona’s Upper Verde River.  After the film, river activist and filmmaker Gary Beverly will moderate an audience discussion and questions.  Peter Kroopnick will describe the uses of groundwater modeling to analyze the impacts of groundwater pumping on base flow and to project a likely future for the Upper Verde.  Ed Wolfe will describe the complex geology of the Big Chino Valley.

Falling in Love with the Natural World

February 1 | Dr. Tom Fleischner, Executive Director, Natural History Institute
We are all drawn to the practice of natural history–but what is natural history? Participants will learn about the historical roots and cultural and scientific contexts of natural history and then apply this integrative discipline through short field exercises.

All About Feathers: Exploring Structure, Function, and Flight

February 6 | Dr. Katie Benson, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Participants will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with specimens of local bird species and learn about the structure and function of different types of bird feathers. We will glance into the unseen world of feathers using compound and stereo microscopes, learn how forensic ornithologists use microscopic features of feathers to solve mysteries, as well as explore the science behind feathers and flight.

The World’s Greatest Bird Artists

February 8 | Micah Riegner, Prescott College/Field Guides
Join international bird guide, budding bird illustrator, and Amazon explorer, Micah Riegner, in a morning of discovery and celebration of the world’s great bird artists. In this visually stunning presentation, Micah will explore the works of master bird artists, including Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Gorge Miksch Sutton, and Larry McQueen. In the second half of the program, Micah will provide a bird-drawing workshop emphasizing avian structural anatomy and field sketching.

Watersheds, Riparian Areas, and Us

February 13 | Michael Byrd, Executive Director of Prescott Creeks
“Wherever you stand, you stand in a watershed.”  Join Prescott Creeks Executive Director, Michael Byrd, for an exploration of watersheds and their riparian areas in central Arizona.  Emphasis will be placed on the Verde River and Granite Creek Watersheds, with discussion of natural history, ecosystem functions, and values, as well as the ecosystem services humans derive from watersheds and riparian areas.  Attendees will participate in a planning exercise that grapples with complex topics in a real-world case study.

Measuring Forest Health in the Mogollon Highlands

February 15 | Joe Trudeau, Southwest Advocate, Center for Biological Diversity
This workshop will delve into the science and methodology of restoration ecology.  During the lecture portion, participants will learn about how forest health is measured and monitored and how fire regime data is used to describe ecosystems and inform management practices.  During the field portion of the class, participants will use standard forest measurement tools to collect data and create a scientific analysis of the health of the forest.  The workshop will conclude with an analysis of current forest service management strategies and challenges.  Key questions to be addressed: How have human interactions with forests changed their composition?  How is forest composition measured? What are the limitations to this system of data collection and analysis?

Invasive Species: What Belongs Where?

February 20 | Dr. Matthew Chew, Arizona State University
Dr. Chew will explain how the concepts of alien and invasive species were developed and how they have been used over time, then lead a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of these ideas as a basis for laws, regulations, and management actions.  In addition to learning about particular species and habitats, we will discuss the history, development, and dynamics of the Prescott area ecosystem, consider the destructive and creative roles humans have played (and continue to play) in local ecological matters, and take a peek into the future to see what changes we ought to expect.

Animal Rescue and Conservation in Central Arizona

February 22 | Wayne Fischer, Director of Conservation, Heritage Park Zoo
In this workshop, Wayne Fischer will discuss the ways that animals are affected by human encroachment here in the Prescott area.  He will draw on his experience responding to wildlife rescue calls to discuss the types of animals that are the most affected and the types of injuries that are seen and will provide suggestions about what the community can do to address these issues.  During the workshop, participants will also be able to examine and touch various furs and bones to learn more about animal identification and characteristics.

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