Friends of the Rappahannock

Friends of the Rappahannock: Water Quality Assessment & Canoeing takes students to Fredericksburg, VA, where they will become water quality specialists and complete sampling and assessment activities to determine the biological and chemical health of the Rappahannock River. After their assessments, they can enjoy nature through a guided tour and a canoe trip on the river. Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) is a citizen organization with a mission to be the voice and active force for a healthy and scenic Rappahannock River. This river dumps directly into the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States.


The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia is the home of the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), where students will come face-to-face with some of the most endangered species in the world. During this field visit, students will explore the career of a Smithsonian scientist as they tour this magnificent research facility, have conversations with Smithsonian researchers, and participate in field sampling exercises. SMSC seeks to sustain global biodiversity by advancing the theory and practice of conservation biology with transformative, transdisciplinary education. 

National aquarium in baltimore

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of the top aquariums in the nation that works at a regional and global level on conservation initiatives that provide real solutions for protecting marine and aquatic life alongside human communities. Students who attend this trip will get special access to the “behind the scenes” non-public areas of the aquarium. Students can expect to learn about the important conservation work this organization is doing to support our marine environments around the world. 


The Water Flow through Earth’s Surface field visit takes students to the Skyline Caverns, a series of 50 million year old caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, and then to Wetland Studies and Solutions, a leading natural resources consulting company focused on wetlands.  During their time at Skyline Caverns, students will learn about the role of water in underground ecosystems and see anthrodite formations unique to these caverns. They will then travel to Wetland Studies and Solutions, where they will tour their LEED-gold offices and learn about their work to protect wetlands.

Shenandoah national park

Shenandoah National Park extends along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and is home to 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Students will hear from National Park rangers and learn about NPS conservation efforts and special projects in Shenandoah. Students will have opportunities to participate in citizen science activities and explore a trail in the park.

*This field visit includes a roughly two mile hike (moderately strenuous), so this visit is not ADA accessible and appropriate footwear is essential.


The Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC) focuses on Potomac River restoration and sustainability practices for the local ecosystem.  Students will tour the state-of-the-art lab facilities, learn about fish ecology in a tidal freshwater system and aquatic ecosystem monitoring, and hear from Mason students and faculty about research at the college level. In the afternoon, students will visit a National Wildlife Refuge to observe fish seining.

mason neck state park

Mason Neck is a Virginia State Park located along the Potomac River and Pohick Bay.  The park is home to bald eagles, great blue herons, ospreys, and many other types of wildlife. Students will have the opportunity to kayak or canoe on Belmont Bay with Visit Experience Rangers and hike a trail while learning about the raptors that call Mason Neck home.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a United States federal government agency responsible for aeronautics and aerospace research. During this field visit, students will learn about the climate research being done at NASA through talks with NASA Engineers and staff. Students will visualize current climate, weather, and oceanography research on NASA’s huge Hyperwall Theater at NASA’s Center for Climate Simulation. This unique visual tools allows researchers to display modeling data across 15 high-definition screens, giving students a detailed look at worldwide climate and weather phenomena.