Atlanta Urban Ecologists


The Atlanta Urban Ecologists program for youth in grades 8 through 12 will guide students in the discovery of the fascinating, rich ecology of Metropolitan Atlanta, providing opportunities for hands-on field experiences, conservation, and citizen science. 


This program is perfect for students interested in pursuing careers in science or conservation or those who just enjoy being outside in nature, the program will provide students with opportunities to learn alongside experts in the field, as well as meaningful experiences in the outdoor places that make Atlanta the “City in a Forest.” Students will establish a network of environmental professionals who can assist with their academic and career development while having fun outdoors with their peers. The program will culminate with a canoe trip on the Chattahoochee River and a graduation lunch.  


Sessions are hosted by a different environmental nonprofit on the second Saturday of each month from 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM from October to May.  Please see the schedule below.


Pro-rated registration is available since the course has already begun for 2017-18. Please reach out to Melanie Furr, director of education, at for pricing information.








November 11 - Reptiles at Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta is an active partner in reptile and amphibian conservation here in Georgia as well in other parts of the world.  As part of this session, students will explore some of the ways in which the zoo conserves species, especially local species that students can see in their own backyard.  In addition, they will get an opportunity to meet members of our Herpetology team, learn more about their work and even see what it’s like to be a reptile conservationist by tracking local reptile’s population through conservation research.


December 9 -  Bird Banding, Identification, and Citizen Science at Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Atlanta Audubon Society (North Buckhead, Fulton County)

This session will begin with an interactive program on bird banding. Students will learn how to setup mist nets for catching birds and the tools and techniques used in the banding process, as well as facts about the biology and life history of the birds we catch. This program will allow participants to see birds up close and learn how scientists use the data they collect, as well as to learn about careers in ornithology.  After lunch, an interactive class session will teach students how to identify common local birds by sight and sound, as well as how to identify unfamiliar birds by observing field marks, behavior, and habitat and by honing field guide skills. Before we wrap up, we'll grab our binoculars and head back outside to see what birds we can identify; students will keep a bird checklist and contribute to citizen science.


January 13 - Urban Watersheds at the Outdoor Activity Center, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (City of Atlanta)

The Urban Watershed program is designed to educate students about urban water quality stressors like aging water infrastructure systems, pollutants, and storm water runoff and the associated impacts on algal, fish, and invertebrate populations, as well as to emphasize the benefit of trees and plants in improving water quality. The students experience a day of intense and enjoyable instruction learning about our water/wastewater infrastructure and receive an introduction to chemical and biological monitoring techniques. They will also learn about aquaponics and rain gardens through service learning activities at the Outdoor Activity Center. The goal is to help them to discover the beauty of their local waterways and encourage stewardship of the lands that support those waters. 


February 10 -- Mammals in the City: Wildlife Monitoring and Landscape Conservation, Blue Heron Nature Preserve (North Buckhead, Fulton County)

Coyote, Beaver, and Deer are some of the mammals found at Blue Heron Nature Preserve, a City of Atlanta park tucked into one of Atlanta's most developed neighborhoods. During this Urban Ecologist session we will explore the impacts of urban development on these animals and examine the ways in which they can, in turn, impact the urban landscape.  We will explore maps and historical stories and data, view and analyze images from wildlife cameras, and complete field surveys in several distinct habitats found in the 30-acres currently managed by Blue Heron. Our classroom and field work will give us insight into how the landscape of the Preserve was used in the past, its current use, and ways it might be used in the future to benefit both people and wildlife. The program will be capped off with AUE participants applying their knowledge in a hands-on project to alter the Blue Heron landscape for the betterment of both the wildlife and people who use this public park. 


March 10 -- Amphibian Identification and Monitoring at Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, Amphibian Foundation (Decatur) 

Amphibians eat millions of bugs, provide critical medical advancements in human health, and are important indicator species for the health of our planet, yet nearly 40% of the world's amphibians are in decline or already extinct. The Amphibian Foundation will lead students in lab and field identification of the 28 species of frogs and salamanders native to this region of Georgia—the ones found in our urban neighborhoods—as well as teach students how they can help collect important data for science and conservation.  Students will conduct a field survey, learning the best practices for locating and safely handling amphibians.  After the session, students can continue to participate in the Metro Atlanta Amphibian Monitoring Program (, conducting field surveys and collecting data on our urban amphibian communities.


April 14 - Natural Plant Communities and Geology Walk at Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, DeKalb County Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs (Lithonia, DeKalb County)

Just beyond the urban core of Atlanta lies one of the best outdoor laboratories to study and experience Atlanta's urban ecology.  As Atlanta’s urban wilderness, Arabia Mountain is 2,500 acres of forests, wetlands, and unique rock outcrops that protect a great diversity of life.  Plan for an adventurous day of hiking to be introduced to Arabia's unique ecosystems and vegetation communities.  We will highlight endemic plant species, adaptations, and the ecological relationships between plants and animals.  We’ll explore, ask questions, and have fun.  


May 12 - Graduation and Canoe Trip on the Chattahoochee River, Chattahoochee Nature Center (Roswell, Fulton County)

At this final session celebrating our inaugural class of Atlanta Urban Ecologists, students will learn about the unique ecology of Chattahoochee River and its surrounding watershed. We’ll view the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s movie “The Chattahoochee: Re-Imagine our River” and explore the Chattahoochee River during a guided canoe trip that introduces students to the river, its history, and our human impact on it.  The trip will be led by a CNC Certifi­ed Interpretive Guide; no prior canoeing experience is necessary.  After our canoe trip, we’ll have an outdoor lunch and graduation ceremony to celebrate the students’ accomplishments.