Our program director likes to say that Field Naturalists aren't really generalists—they're specialists in integration. Our curriculum, while it covers the fundamentals of natural history such as geology and botany, emphasizes the complex ways that these landscape "layers" interact to create natural communities and ecosystems. We train naturalists who, dropped into an unfamiliar patch of forest, could tell its story stretching back thousands of years.
Simply understanding the landscape is not enough, however. Students craft their writing and public speaking skills throughout the program, practicing many different styles to reach many different audiences. Field Naturalists strive to forge the link between scientists and the public. And we don't do all the talking; we listen to and learn from people in communities where we work. We bring open minds and objective analysis to develop solutions that work for people and places.
Using these skills, students develop a master's project in consultation with a sponsoring conservation organization such as a land trust, federal or state agency, or municipal parks department. Each project meets a demonstrated need of the organization, ensuring that the work will be used. Field research spans the summer of the first academic year. The product of each student's graduate work includes a professional report or document for the sponsor, written academic reflections, and a journal publication or article in the popular mass media.