Montana Master Naturalist
Instructors: Heather Bilden and Drew Lefebvre
June 21 at 7 a.m. – June 25 at 4 p.m.
The core focus of this week-long course will be developing skills to read the landscape. We will use big themes of biogeography, forest succession, and habitat to frame our knowledge. Through this five-day intensive course, participants will cultivate an ability to accurately interpret and understand the plants and animals whose presence tells the story of our landscape.
Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp.
Itinerary: (subject to change based on road/trail closures, blooming cycles, and bird activity)
Day 1: Glacier National Park Habitats and Conifer Identification
We will meet at Field Camp at 7 a.m. for coffee, introductions and a course overview. We will discuss the Glacier National Park geography and its habitat diversity. Then, we will depart for John’s Lake trail, traveling in Glacier Institute vehicles. Here, we will begin our lesson on conifers, exploring their habitat connections, and identification techniques. We will proceed down the trail to the McDonald creek rainforest to further our conifer understanding. We will have lunch in the field before returning to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be at 6 p.m., followed by an evening lesson covering the parts of a flower and plant identification techniques.
Day 2: Firebrand Pass Flower Excursion
Breakfast will be at 6 a.m. Next, we will depart for Firebrand Pass, where we will discuss the wildflowers of Glacier’s eastern prairies. The group will hone in on our flower identification skills and understanding. We will have lunch in the field and continue our flower exploration throughout the afternoon. We will return to Field Camp for dinner at 6 p.m. After dinner, there will be an evening lecture covering the native birds of Glacier.
Day 3: Inside North Fork Road Birding Exploration
Breakfast will be at 6 a.m. The group will then depart for the Inside North Fork road and the Camas Creek Trailhead to search for birds. We will discuss the variety of bird species found in the North Fork Valley, focusing on their habitats, diet, and field identification techniques. We will have lunch on the trail, before continuing onward to Christenson Meadow. Here, the group will continue their bird search. We will return to Field Camp in the afternoon and dinner will be served at 6 p.m. After dinner, there will be a lecture on entomology before retiring for the evening.
Day 4: Naturalist exploration and Final Exam
Breakfast will be at 6 a.m. The group will then depart for Rockwell falls in the Two Medicine Valley. Along the trail, we will have a naturalist exploration incorporating all of the core lessons we have discussed throughout the week. We will have lunch in the field before returning to Field Camp for the final review, followed by the final exam. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. followed by a celebratory campfire.
Day 5: Course wrap-up
Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. followed by a discussion on Citizen Science opportunities. We will have lunch at Field Camp and then take an afternoon stroll around camp and Lake Mcdonald. We will discuss the “Big Picture” ideas, as well as the incorporation of Master Naturalist techniques beyond the classroom. The group will go over the highlights of the week and conclude the course by 4 p.m.
Food: The following meals are provided: Monday lunch through Friday lunch.
Accommodations: Four nights of lodging are included with the course fee. Our student cabins are basic, hostel-style cabins with 5 single beds, bedside lights, and electrical outlets. Students should be prepared to share a cabin with up to 4 other people, cabins are separated by gender. Couples may be paired up in the event there is ample space. We provide a bottom sheet for your bed as well as a pillow and pillow case, but please bring a warm sleeping bag. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp for night trips to the bathroom.
Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are comfortable hiking shoes, at least 1-2 liter water bottle, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, and warm layers. Bring a magnifying glass or small field lens. Binoculars are recommended for spotting wildlife, as well as wildflower field guides, plant keys, and birding guides. A field notebook will be required for taking notes in the field.
Physical Requirements: Easy-Moderate. Hiking distance covers less than five miles per day, with less than 500 feet of elevation change.
Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2021 Academic Credit’ link on our website to learn about OPI credits for our courses.