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American River College

Course Descriptions

Take any of the following courses in the Environmental Conservation Program at American River College Department of Natural Resources to obtain California Naturalist Certification. Environmental Conservation is an interdisciplinary program that advances the understanding of ecological systems and their interrelationships, including those with human society. Everyone is welcome! No prerequisites.

Courses with California Naturalist Certification:

 Spring  NATR 302 Wildlife Biology
 NATR 332 Wildflowers of California
 Summer  NATR 324 Birds and Plants of the High Sierra

 NATR 301 Introduction to Ornithology

 NATR 330 Native Trees and Shrubs of California



NATR 302 Wildlife Biology, 4 Units 
This course is an introduction to the science of wildlife biology and the basic principles and techniques involved in wildlife research, conservation, and management. It emphasizes ecological aspects of wildlife populations and communities such as predator-prey relationships, population dynamics, diseases and parasites of wildlife, and wildlife habitat. Animal behavior, nutritional ecology, and other aspects of wildlife biology are also explored. Human dimensions of wildlife management including wildlife restoration and conservation, human-wildlife conflicts, hunting, invasive species, impacts of global climate change, and other relevant issues are examined. Social, economic, and ecological implications of management alternatives are investigated. Additionally, this course provides hands-on experience with habitat and population sampling, data analysis and interpretation; radio telemetry; wildlife capture and handling; and critical analysis of wildlife management policies and the development of a wildlife management plan. Field trips are required.

Dates: TBA

NATR 332 Wildflowers of California, 4 Units 
This course investigates biology, ecology, conservation, and management in the context of California wildflowers. Field labs focus on the California Floristic Province. The identification, distribution, and interrelationships of herbaceous plants in their natural environment, physical and biological influences, ecological relationships, and representative plant communities are examined. Special emphasis is given to the study of plant families in our local grasslands, vernal pools, oak woodlands, and foothills. Field trips may be required.

Dates: TBA



NATR 324 Field Studies: Birds and Plants of the High Sierra, 1.5 Units 

This field study course focuses on identification, distribution, abundance, ecological relationships, and conservation of bird and plant communities of the High Sierra. Primary environments explored include montane chaparral, riparian woodland, coniferous forest, montane bog and fen, rocky outcrop, montane meadow, subalpine woodland, and alpine tundra. Emphasis is placed on the natural history and life history characteristics of common birds and plants, as well as rare and endangered species and their conservation challenges. Field trips are required.

Dates: TBA



NATR 301 Introduction to Ornithology, 4 Units 

This introductory course covers the biology and natural history of birds. Topics include evolutionary origins of birds and of flight, avian anatomy and physiology, and bird behavior, such as migration, song, feeding ecology, and mating systems. Conservation strategies are also investigated. Laboratory work explores bird structure and function, taxonomic classification, and species identification, particularly of those found in California and the western United States. Field trips may be required. This course is not open to students who have completed BIOL 332.

Dates: August 24 - December 19, 2024

Delivery Mode: In-Person

Lecture: Wednesday(s), 9:00 am to 12:05 pm

Lab: Friday(s), 9:00 am to 12:05 pm

NATR 330 Native Trees and Shrubs of California, 4 Units 

This dendrology course covers classification and ecology of major natural plant communities of California and their component tree and shrub species. Emphasis is placed on biotic and abiotic factors of native woody plant distribution and abundance in northern California, focusing on characterization of the dominant vegetation types and identification of native woody species. Major topics include plant adaptation, evolution, and diversity in time and space; morphology and physiology; life history; soils, climate, and topography; endemism; interspecific and intraspecific interactions; invasive species; disease; anthropogenic and natural environmental change; human uses of native plants; and native plant restoration and conservation. This course involves the creation of a plant collection including at least 60 representative native woody species. Field trips are required.

Dates: August 24 - December 19, 2024

Delivery Mode: In-Person

Lecture: Monday(s), 9:00 am to 12:05 pm

Lab: Friday(s), 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm


Fees: ARC class fees are $46 per unit (without financial aid). In addition to unit fees and lab fees (eligible for hardship fee waiver), California Naturalist Certification fee ($55 per student) will be covered for most students by a scholarship fund through the Environmental Conservation program’s current Strong Workforce grant.

Contact: Jennifer Neale, NealeJ@arc.losrios.edu  


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About the Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Neale has been working in the environmental field for more than 30 years. Her formal education includes a B.A. in Environmental Studies from U.C. Santa Cruz, M.S. in Wildlife Biology from U.C. Berkeley, Ph.D. in Ecology from U.C. Davis, and Post-doc in Environmental Toxicology and Immunology. She has also studied California floristics with a focus on native vascular plants especially in the context of wildlife habitat.  Her research and teaching background has focused on vertebrate wildlife and terrestrial vascular plants; she has been working full-time as a professor at American River College since 2006.