As the weather warms up, the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest can shine.
It may be a good time to learn more about the natural history and ecology of our landscapes.
In Jefferson County, many courses are available to learn more about nature, environmental causes and ways to volunteer with local organizations.
Here are some upcoming outdoor education classes:
From March 21 to April 25, the WSU Extension will offer a weekly class on shoreline habitats and marine resources. The classes will take place on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature a variety of lectures, local outings and volunteer opportunities.
“The class is a great opportunity for people to get out to places they might not even know about,” said Cheryl Lowe, coordinator for the WSU Extension Water Programs. “It’s more marine-focused, but we try to cover a lot of different concepts.”
The classes will cover different topics such as coastal geography, intertidal life and habitats, and local species of marine plants and shellfish. Experts like Hugh Shipman, a coastal geomorphologist with state Department of Ecology, and Jeff Adams, marine water quality specialist with Washington Sea Grant, will teach students about coasts and waters.
“I remember one person saying, ‘I’m never going to look at a bluff in the same way again,’” Lowe said.
Class participants are required to commit to 40 hours of volunteering for local marine-related programs and organizations such as the WSU Extension, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Northwest Watershed Institute and others. To learn more about the class or to sign up, go to the WSU Extension website.
Landscaping with native plants
In a two-day workshop, Jefferson County master gardeners will teach techniques for planting and caring for native plants.
The workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 23 and 30.
The first day, students will learn basic landscape design principles and which native plants work best in a garden, and they will tour a garden in which native plants have been incorporated into its formal landscape design.
The second class will include a tour of a recently re-designed native plant garden. Then students will begin to design their own native plant gardens with the help of the county’s master gardeners. To learn more, go to the WSU Extension website.
Jefferson County master gardeners and seasoned experts will teach a six-week class on how to grow your own food.
The class, which will be offered through the WSU Extension, will be take place from 2 to 5 p.m. each Monday starting on Feb. 25 at the Port Townsend Food Co-op.
Students will learn about the science-based skills behind growing vegetables suited for the Pacific Northwest climate and for individual spaces. Gardeners also will teach about soils, seed starting, cultivation practices, pest management and composting.
To learn more or to register, go to the WSU Extension website.
‘Tidelands to Timberlands’ natural history
The Jefferson Land Trust’s annual natural history course from April 19 to June 7 filled up fast this year. The natural history class, which takes students on a field trip each Friday to learn about local plants, animals and Jefferson County land, has a waiting list.
There are still opportunities for people to learn more about the county’s natural history.
“In the past, we’d do these evening programs for participants in the course and for past participants,” said Erik Kingfisher, stewardship director with the Land Trust. “This year we were talking and decided to open it up to the general public.”
The Land Trust will offer an evening lecture on large mammals in the Pacific Northwest and one on glaciers in the Olympics with Bill Bacchus, chief scientist of the Olympic National Park.
“It’s always a really powerful program,” Kingsolver said.
He said those interested in learning more about the natural history course and the evening lectures can visit the Jefferson Land Trust website.
Birding in Skagit Valley
The Quimper Universalist Unitarian Adult Learning Programs will offer a one-day field trip Feb. 18 to see the snow geese, swans and bald eagles of Skagit Valley.
Bring your binoculars and bird books for viewing with wildlife researcher and birders Dave Rugh, Penny Ridderbusch and Rod Mitchell. The trip will begin with the morning ferry to Whidbey Island, drive north to the Padilla Bay National Wildlife Center and then on to Edison, before turning south to view areas southeast of La Conner.
Rugh is co-chair of the Jefferson Land Trust Natural History Society and a wildlife researcher in many parts of North America. Ridderbusch grew up on the Quimper Peninsula and has extensive knowledge of local birds. Mitchell has led Skagit Valley birding trips several times.
For more information or to register, go to the QUUF website.
Crack Plant Society annual hike
The Washington Native Plant Society Olympic Peninsula Chapter will host the Crack Plant Society annual hike on March 15.
Starting at 10 a.m. at Chetzemoka Park, hikers will tour Port Townsend and search for and identify “crack plants” in city streets, sidewalks and rock walls. With Lee Jacobson’s field guide, “Wild Plants of Seattle,” hikers will identify common and iconic street trees, “neo-native” plants and cultivars that inhabit Port Townsend. To learn more, visit the Native Plant Society Olympic Peninsula Chapter’s website.
Kah Tai Valley past and present
Learn about the history of the Kah Tai Valley with the Washington Native Plant Society Olympic Peninsula Chapter at its program at 6:30 p.m. March 19.
The program will feature history of the Kah Tai Prairie preserve, restoration of Froggy Bottoms, Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park and early changes to the landscape in Port Townsend, as well as information about the proposed Chetzemoka Trail, which will honor native people who once lived in the valley and along the beaches in Port Townsend. To learn more, visit the Native Plant Society Olympic Peninsula Chapter’s website.