We've been training marine naturalists since 1994.

Our marine naturalist training course (MNTP) is an intensive multi-day overview of the natural history of the San Juan Islands and the marine waters of Washington and Southern British Columbia (known as the Salish Sea). This course includes an in-depth treatment of the ecology and conservation of local marine species, presented by highly trained local naturalists, environmental educators, and scientists. The upcoming spring and summer sessions will be dynamic, high-quality hybrid experiences that leave graduates qualified as a regional professional or volunteer naturalist. 

Come Interested, Leave Qualified

Both 2024 sessions will be a hybrid of virtual learning and optional in-person field trips. Participants can earn a Whale Museum naturalist certification by completing an extra 10-hour practicum, which can be arranged during this course. Participants don’t have to participate in the field trips to be eligible for the certification. Completion of this course also entitles you to become a member of the Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists (SSAMN). Clock hour credits are available.

Course Registration

Spring Session Dates:

Registration Closed for Virtual Presentations (approximately 9-5 Pacific time): April 9-13, 2024

In-Person Field Trips on San Juan Island: April 26-28, 2024 (must have completed MNTP to participate)

Summer Session Dates:

Virtual Presentations (approximately 9-5 Pacific time): July 9-13, 2024

In-Person Field Trips on San Juan Island: July 19-21, 2024 (must have completed MNTP to participate)

Class days will mostly be full days, starting around 9:00 am and ending around 5:00 pm Pacific time. 

Virtual Program Tuition Rates:

  • $450 Member Rate (for members of The Whale Museum/Orca Adopters)
  • $500 Non-Member Rate (includes membership/Orca Adoption)

Tuition includes the following:

  • Class sessions (lectures)
  • All class materials

For the virtual portion, a limited number of Diversity & Inclusion scholarships are available (to apply, click here). If applying for the scholarship, do not make a registration payment.

In-Person Field Trip Participation Fee:

  • $350 Member Rate (for members of The Whale Museum/Orca Adopters/SSAMN)
  • $400 Non-Member Rate (includes membership/Orca Adoption/SSAMN)

Fee includes the following:

  • Opening Reception
  • Transportation during the Field Trips to/from The Whale Museum and field trip sites
  • Light breakfast, lunches and snacks during field trip days
  • All class materials

Registration applications are processed in the order they are received. You will be notified with a confirmation letter once your registration has been processed. Field Trip class size is limited to 29 participants.  

Refund Policy

If you cancel, tuition is fully refundable up until four weeks from the start date of your course. Within four weeks, we can only provide a full refund if your space in the program is filled. If not filled and you decide to cancel between two to four weeks before the start of class a 50% refund can be issued. If you cancel within less than two weeks before the start of class, no refund can be issued. Your refund, if any, will be processed on or after the first day of class. The Whale Museum reserves the right to cancel the program at any time. In the event the program is canceled, you will be issued a full refund.

What to Expect for 2024

Lectures will take place virtually through webinar/videoconferencing software, such as Whova and Zoom. They will either be pre-recorded or presented live virtually and recorded at that time. If participating in field trips, they will be in-person here on SJI. A full schedule, class links, and materials with be provided to registered students closer to the start of the session. The main focus of the training is the ecology, current status and conservation of Southern Resident Killer Whales and other local marine species as well as discussions about the environments they live in. The course includes presentations on cetaceans, pinnipeds, otters, intertidal invertebrates, seabirds, and a variety of other topics such as geology and marine conservation. Faculty includes Whale Museum staff, professional naturalists, marine scientists, and environmental educators active in the region. The field trip portion will include either kayaking or a marine wildlife boat trip; birding; a geology hike; visits to San Juan County Land Bank/False Bay/West side areas and Lime Kiln Point State Park; as well as tours of Friday Harbor Laboratories, The Whale Museum, and Lime Kiln Point State Park Lighthouse.

Presentation recordings will be made available to participants for up to 3 months afterwards. 

Feel free to contact Tracie Merrill with any questions.


Need help? Our customer service staff is happy to assist. Call (360) 378-4710 x30. Please leave a message if after business hours. Thanks!

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