TNP Winter Newsletter December 21, 2023

Winter begins with the Winter Solstice

Thursday, December 21, at 10:27 P.M. EST

The December solstice marks the sun’s southernmost point in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere this year.

Tennessee Naturalist Program Courses:

TNP core courses are taken as a whole and are not offered individually.

Registration opens January 8, 2024

Long Hunter State Park

Classes begin February 24, 2024, and run through July 20, 2024


Greg Tomerlin      [email protected]

Margie Hunter     

Tuition:   $350

Registration now open

Memphis at Pinecrest Conference and Retreat Center

Classes begin March 4, 2024, and run through May 20, 2024


Charity Siebert     [email protected]

Tuition:   $350


Announcing TNP’s newest chapter

Frozen Head State Park

TNP Chapter Coordinator, George Hawver!

Frozen Head State Park is named for a 3,324-foot peak in the Cumberland Mountains, the top of which is often shrouded in ice or snow in the winter months. There are more than 24,000 acres of wilderness area of densely forested, unspoiled mountain grandeur. Located in Morgan County, Tennessee, Frozen Head features mountains, waterfalls, and rock outcroppings. 

George Hawver is the Tennessee Naturalist Program Chapter Coordinator at Frozen Head SP. “One of the things I am excited about is that we have received the cooperation of the National Park Service via Big South Fork Superintendent Niki Nicholas, and we will have access to their rangers and park property for our outdoor field components. Obed Wild and Scenic River is within a 30-minute drive from Frozen Head.  We have been overwhelmed at the amount of support we have received from other parks and other agencies like Forestry, TWRA, ORNL, TVA, NPS, ….”

George is a retired Army Officer who relocated to Tennessee four years ago and quickly got involved in the local community via several nonprofits and hiking groups.   “Spending so much time in nature really ignited a passion in me to learn about nature. I was not a science major in school and mostly had vague recollections of elementary school science lessons about the life of a pond, etc. Before attending my first TNP class at the Cumberland Mountain TNP Chapter, I let Park Manager Jacob Ingram know I was going to attend. I hoped it would make me more useful at the park assisting programs (I already volunteered on the trail crew and helped where/when I could).  Jacob mentioned that he had wanted to start a Tennessee Naturalist Program at Frozen Head. When I learned from Holly Taylor that they were planning to move the Cumberland Mountain Chapter to Cummins Falls, I realized that it would leave a void in the region. Everything was falling into place, so we began the process of applying for the chapter.  

I am excited to offer the program here and highlight the beauty of Frozen Head, Cumberland Trail (which passes through the park), Obed Wild and Scenic River and the surrounding area.”

Registration will open in February with classes starting in April 2024

For information about TNP Chapters and their schedules click


Tennessee Naturalist advanced courses, delve into individual topics more thoroughly and, where possible, merge this instruction with skill development related to more specific volunteer opportunities. These in-depth TN2 courses are designed for concentrated instruction for certified Tennessee naturalists to gain better understanding and greater command of particular aspects of Tennessee’s natural history.

What has captured these people’s attention?

Photograph, courtesy of Margie Hunter

TNP students watch American White Pelicans, Great Egrets, and several duck species including Mallard, Gadwall, and Northern Pintail at Duck River Bottoms in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge near New Johnsonville, TN, for the Wetlands and Waterfowl Ecology TN2 workshop Oct. 28, 2023. 

Thank you to these TN2 expert instructors for sharing their knowledge and passion for the natural world:

Michael Meister, Certified Master Trail Builder and the Trails & Vista Administrator for Tennessee State Parks:

TN2 Trail Building @ Cumberland Mtn SP, held March 11, 2023.

Pandy UpChurch, Owner of Tennessee Healthy Habitats, LLC, Biologist, TNP co-founder and instructor,

Lisa Powers, Biologist and Master Herpetologist, Froghaven Farm:

TN2 Herps The Amphibians and Reptiles of Cedar Glades and Forests held 4/29/23

TN2 Herps: The Amphibians and Reptiles of Cheatham County held 6/17/23

Margie Hunter, Author, TNP co-founder and instructor,
Pat Miller, Educator:

TN2 Fungi Mushrooms and Toadstools: An Introduction Memphis @ Pinecrest held July 1, 2023

David Sims, TWRA mussel biologist:

TN2 Mussel Biology and Ecology held August 2, 2023

Pandy Upchurch, Tennessee Healthy Habitats, LLC (thank you again Pandy!):

TN2 Wild Edibles @ Murfreesboro/Barfield  held on 9/30/23

Dr. Philip Smartt, Professor of Park Management and Heritage Interpretation at UT Martin:

TN2 – Interpretation (2 day workshop) held 9/30/23 and 10/1/23

Dr. Eric Pelren, UT Martin,

Clayton Ferrell, USFWS Waterfowl Biologist,

Joan Howe, USFWS Refuge Ranger:

TN2 – Waterfowl Biology and Wetlands Ecology held October 28, 2023  

Appreciation to all TN2 participants

Stay tuned for TN2 …  More in 2024!

Quiz time!

(Answers will be posted on the TNP Facebook page the evening of 9/24/23)

LET’S STAY CONNECTED (“Likes” are always great)!

The Tennessee Naturalist Program’s public Facebook page can be found at

Two TNP students, Aprele Griffin and Leslie W-h, recently started a members Facebook page for Tennessee Naturalist Program: Students, Instructors, and Alumni.

Thank you to all TNPers for your volunteer service!

Thank you for being part of the Tennessee Naturalist Program family and for your generous support.

Erica Colmenares

Clare Gibson

Cynthia Wills

Your support will help TNP develop a new operational structure that includes hiring an executive director and a part-time development/marketing coordinator within the next two years.

To advance this mission, TNP is also offering more TN2 programs, raising tuition incrementally and adding new chapters across Tennessee.
Tennessee Naturalist Program is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring the desire to learn and share Tennessee's nature. We do not receive funding from any state or federal sources. All donations are appreciated.


TN State Parks First Hikes  (January 1, 2024)

Click the link to find a first hike at a TN State Park in your area


TWRA Sandhill Crane Festival (January 12 – 14, 2024)

Countdown to Trails & Trilliums Naturalist Rally 2024

As we gear up for our 20th Trails & Trilliums Naturalist Rally on April 19-21 and our second statewide TNP gathering in Beersheba Springs, we are excited about the line-up of hikes and presentations. Registration opens in mid-February along with lodging reservations at the Beersheba Springs Assembly. Save the Date! 

For more information click this link to the Tennessee Naturalist Program website News and Events page:

Contact: Margaret Matens, [email protected] for general information

Raymond Nance [email protected] to volunteer

Cumberland River Compact:

Terra Firma: A Six-Session Course to Build Your Farm Business on Solid Ground

January 9, 2024 - February 13, 2024

This six-part series hosted by The Cumberland River Compact will bring together experts and farmers nationally and from our region to teach Beginning farmers how to better manage their farm businesses.

Class will meet from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on January 9, 16, 23, 30, February 6 and 13 at The Nashville Food Project, 5904 California Ave, Nashville, TN 37209.

Register Here 

Tennessee Environmental Council:

Click the link for ongoing opportunities and projects

Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS)

Fayette County Christmas Bird Count

December 23 @ 7:00 am - 5:00 pm CST

For more information about participating in the Fayette County, TN CBC, including specific meeting times and locations, contact Cliff VanNostrand at [email protected]. See the count circle here.

This is the 124th year for the CBC, the world’s longest running Citizen Science survey.

Visit the TNP Website





 Proceeds help support the Tennessee Naturalist Program!