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Naturalist Skills

The Skillset

By practicing this skill, you will learn to notice the natural world and identify the plants, animals, and other life that you'll find there.

Naturalist Skills Tracker

(1) Participate in a nature walk or experience in your area and document what you observe.

Local parks, nature reserves, ponds, and walking paths make great experiences. Try to focus on locations where you’re likely to encounter native species.

(2) Learn to identify 10 native species in your area by sight and/or sound.

You can often find field guides for your area in secondhand bookstores, but you can also use online resources such as local nature websites and free apps like iNaturalist.

(3) Learn how to differentiate three pairs of lookalikes in your area.

Lookalikes may be two species of similar-looking plants or fungi, two bird calls that sound alike, or two animal tracks that resemble one another.

(4) Go foraging or birding in your area and document your experience.

If you go foraging, be sure to check that you are visiting an area that permits foraging, and if you plan on eating what you forage, go with a guide who can help you ensure safety while you learn.

(5) Learn to identify 20 additional native species in your area by sight and/or sound. Then, teach 5 of the species you know to someone else.

When sharing your new knowledge with a friend or family member, choose someone with patience and willingness to learn about the world around them.

You can also download the skills tracker as a printable .PDF here.

Resources to Get You Started
  • If walking or hiking is inaccessible to you, consider visiting a natural history museum or observing the species that live in your or a friend's backyard.
  • If you are a U.S. resident, take a look at The Nature Conservancy's Map of Protected Areas to find a preserve near you.
  • How to Keep a Field Journal

Getting Your Badge

You can find the naturalist badge here.