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Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate of Merit Program

Start a quest to deepen your knowledge of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Join a community of adult learners who are dedicated to understanding the natural sciences, ecology and culture of the Southern Appalachian region through the Blue Ridge Naturalist (BRN) Certificate of Merit program. Classes meet year round online, onsite and in the field.

Students complete core and elective courses on ecology, botany, geology and plant identification, animals, lichens, insects and more. New courses being offered for certificate credit are listed on the Adult Education Classes page and in the Arboretum’s Learn & Grow monthly newsletter.

All students complete and present a final project prior to graduation. Projects often take the form of service learning, empowering students to tackle needs in their own communities, including establishing pollinator gardens for public enjoyment or researching the effects of stream sedimentation.

Sign up online during our enrollment period to understand your place in the natural world and how to preserve, protect and care for our common home.

Enrollment will open for our Blue Ridge Naturalist Certificate of Merit program beginning December 15th  for our upcoming Spring 2024 term. Enrollment will stay open until January 31, with program onboarding and orientation to be scheduled in February.

This one-time application fee of $150 covers Student Support, Access to Online Course Management and Graduation. The member discount does not apply for this one-time fee, however, classes are priced separately and all carry the member benefit of a 10% discount off all of our classes.

Please Note: If you want to participate and the cost of this program is a hardship for you or your family, please contact Rebecca Caldwell at to learn about scholarship options. We want to create openings for anyone hoping to access this learning opportunity.

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