Urban Naturalist Program

The NYBG Urban Naturalist Certificate Program equips you with the observation, identification, and documentation skills you need to become a citizen scientist and an effective environmental steward. Led by Nancy Slowik and a team of expert naturalists, you’ll use NYBG grounds and select New York City Parks as living labs to investigate the interrelationships between species and discover how our urban environment sustains those ecosystems. NYBG Urban Naturalists will learn to keenly observe the natural world using a variety of scientific tools. You’ll also create scientifically useful records—written, hand-drawn, and photographs—of your observations. Current NYBG Urban Naturalists are using the knowledge and skills they gained to develop their own projects, help manage invasive species in local parks, and document NYC plant species as volunteers in NYBG’s EcoFlora project.

Click here for an overview of the Certificate and required courses and electives.

Location Day/Night Instructor Sort Keywords  
Classes

April
Trees may appear to be strong and silent, but they can "talk"—to one another, to other plants, and to animals and insects. Discover how trees communicate via chemical signals in the air (to warn each other of insect attacks), as more...
04/02 Tu 10:00am-01:00pm Kutos
NYBG
Naturalists are keen observers of the world around them and have played an integral role in the evolution of scientific thought. Now you can be one too! Learn how to identify plants and animals using a 10x hand lens, dichotomous more...
04/10 We 10:00am-01:00pm Risdon-Nugent
NYBG
Our native wildflowers, trees, and shrubs signal rebirth in spring. Learn to identify them and become familiar with their structure and taxonomy. Take part in field walks and classroom sessions, and practice using taxonomic keys. Students are required to make more...
04/12 Fr 10:00am-01:00pm Slowik
NYBG
From towering tulip trees to creeping partridge berries, woody plants make up the forests of the Northeast. Learn to identify trees, shrubs, and woody vines by their vegetative characteristics, using their scientific and common names. The focus is on both more...
04/13 Sa 10:30am-01:30pm Kaechele
NYBG
Over billions of years, life on Earth has evolved in all its marvelous diversity. In this talk and walk through the Haupt Conservatory and Pfizer Lab, Dr. Dennis Stevenson explains the Tree of Life (family tree of plants) and how more...
04/16 Tu 10:00am-01:00pm Stevenson
NYBG
As the mushroom season awakens, discover how and where to hunt for Oysters, Inky Caps, Wine Caps, Dryad's Saddle, Reishi, and the early spring Chicken Mushroom. Even the elusive Morels occur throughout the metropolitan region, and spring is the ideal more...
04/18 Th 10:00am-01:00pm Sadowski
NYBG
Explore the myriad structures and life cycles of the vast diversity of plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria. Delve into the evolutionary reasons behind how and why scientists have divided and classified these organisms. We will also discuss biomes and ecological more...
04/29 Mo 05:00pm-08:00pm Boyer, Ph.D.
NYBG
As the mushroom season awakens, discover how and where to hunt for Oysters, Inky Caps, Wine Caps, Dryad's Saddle, Reishi, and the early spring Chicken Mushroom. Even the elusive Morels occur throughout the metropolitan region, and spring is the ideal more...
04/29 Mo 10:00am-01:00pm Sadowski
MDTN
May
Herbaceous plants occupy prairies, wetlands, forest understories, and many other habitats. The identifying characteristics of this diverse group of plants are often quite different from those of woody plants. You'll learn the fundamental herbaceous plant identification characteristics, as well as more...
05/07 Tu 05:00pm-08:00pm Hagen
NYBG
Trees may appear to be strong and silent, but they can "talk"—to one another, to other plants, and to animals and insects. Discover how trees communicate via chemical signals in the air (to warn each other of insect attacks), as more...
05/08 We 06:00pm-09:00pm Kutos
MDTN
Delve into the fascinating world of the creatures that make up 84% of the Animal Kingdom—what renowned biologist E.O. Wilson once called "the little things that run the world." We'll discuss the roles that insects play—both in maintaining healthy ecosystems more...
05/16 Th 10:00am-01:00pm Chaya
NYBG
Angiosperms (flowering plants) are the dominant plants in most of the world's habitats today. Through laboratory demonstrations and dissections, examine the morphology of flowers, fruits, and vegetative plant parts. You'll also learn about the development of these structures. Prerequisite: Plant more...
05/17 Fr 11:00am-02:10pm Morgan
NYBG
Take your naturalist game to the next level by learning how to sketch. Drawing-more than photography-asks you to slow down and closely observe what you see, which will help you identify unfamiliar species and investigate ecological connections. Botanical artist and more...
05/19 Su 10:00am-01:00pm Guida
NYBG
It takes some finesse, but we can help you build your confidence and ability with microscopes to view a variety of fungi and plant material. We'll show you how to adjust and calibrate the eyepiece, focus on both thick and more...
05/22 We 10:00am-01:00pm Sadowski
NYBG
June
Learn to measure and monitor the ecological diversity observed and celebrated in and around New York City environs. Practice using field techniques for recording observations in nature while walking along trails in the Garden. Explore the biodiversity within your chosen more...
06/05 We 10:00am-01:00pm Slowik
NYBG
What do you see when looking at a butterfly? How do you describe its appearance and make sense of its daily habits and behavior? Where do you go to find interesting or unusual species? And once you have identified a more...
06/13 Th 10:00am-01:00pm Cech
NYBG
Are you a plant-lover eager to up your game and start distinguishing one species from another? Then this is the class for you! Using commonly known plants, you'll learn the terminology used to describe their growing habits and structures. This more...
06/18 Tu 05:00pm-08:00pm Bronson
NYBG
Naturalists are keen observers of the world around them and have played an integral role in the evolution of scientific thought. Now you can be one too! Learn how to identify plants and animals using a 10x hand lens, dichotomous more...
06/18 Tu 06:00pm-09:00pm Willow
MDTN
Learn to identify native and introduced herbs, ferns, shrubs, and trees as they appear in summer, and get to know plants that may be found in fields, on roadsides, and in woodlands and wetlands. Learn about basic plant structure and more...
06/21 Fr 10:00am-01:00pm Slowik
NYBG
July
It takes some finesse, but we can help you build your confidence and ability with microscopes to view a variety of fungi and plant material. We'll show you how to adjust and calibrate the eyepiece, focus on both thick and more...
07/18 Th 06:00pm-09:00pm Sadowski
MDTN
Are you a plant-lover eager to up your game and start distinguishing one species from another? Then this is the class for you! Using commonly known plants, you'll learn the terminology used to describe their growing habits and structures. This more...
07/27 Sa 10:00am-04:00pm Barnes
MDTN
August
Never in human history have plant species been more endangered with extinction. Join Vice President for Conservation Strategy Brian Boom and discover the varied strategies NYBG scientists use to confront this urgent threat—from conservation genetics to documenting key areas of more...
08/09 Fr 10:00am-01:00pm Boom
NYBG
Explore the basic principles that influence the ecological relationships of the forest ecosystem. Using the Garden grounds as a site for observation and field study, learn to understand the forces that shape our natural environment—the Northeast Woodland. Labs and lectures more...
08/28 We 05:30pm-08:30pm Barnes
NYBG
September
Survey the major families of the angiosperms (flowering plants) and learn the characters and principles used to classify them. This course covers newly recognized higher order groupings of species, evolutionary trends in reproductive and vegetative structures, and recently reconstructed evolutionary more...
09/03 Tu 12:30pm-03:30pm Paradiso
NYBG
Get a solid grounding in the basic plant body, from the cell to the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits. After an overview of microscope use and fundamental science in the first session, you'll use both dissecting and compound light more...
09/19 Th 10:00am-01:00pm Kutos
NYBG
For centuries herbs and spices have been prized not just for their flavors, but as state-of-the-art medicine. Learn about a variety of plants historically used for first aid, to revitalize the immune system, and to treat and prevent asthma, insomnia, more...
09/21 Sa 10:00am-02:30pm Anthony
MDTN
This group of plants challenges even trained botanists, but with expert guidance, you can learn how to identify wild native grasses and some of the more popular landscaping ones. Sedges (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae), often confused with grasses (Poaceae), are more...
09/22 Su 10:00am-02:30pm Alvarez
NYBG
Botanical Latin is essential for anyone with a serious interest in identifying plants. But, contrary to popular belief, mastering Latin plant names need not be intimidating or boring. Review the rules of taxonomy, Latin grammar, and pronunciation, and learn the more...
09/25 We 10:30am-12:30pm Bakshi
NYBG
October
Explore the myriad structures and life cycles of the vast diversity of plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria. Delve into the evolutionary reasons behind how and why scientists have divided and classified these organisms. We will also discuss biomes and ecological more...
10/07 Mo 05:00pm-08:00pm Boyer, Ph.D.
NYBG