Registration Now Open for Pinelands Summer Short Course

An Opportunity to Learn About Reserve’s Flora, Fauna and History
May 30, 2018

Registration is now open for the second annual Pinelands Summer Short Course, co-sponsored by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and Stockton University, to be held on Thursday, July 29. The Pinelands Summer Short Course was inspired last year by the popularity of the “regular” Pinelands Short Course.

“The Pinelands Commission has held the Pinelands Short Course in early March for the past 28 years, and that event is thriving,” said Nancy Wittenberg, the commission’s executive director, in announcing the birth of the new event. “While we will continue to hold the regular Short Course in March, we felt it was important to create a new tradition that enables the public to explore the Pinelands during the peak of summer, when wildlife abounds.”

The inaugural Pinelands Summer Short Course proved popular as well, so it is back.

“We are pleased to participate in sharing our region’s history, culture and ecology,” said Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman. “This is a wonderful opportunity for both local residents and summer visitors to experience the summer beauty of the Pinelands.”

The name of both events is somewhat of a misnomer, because they don’t offer just one course, but many. Participants in this year’s summer event actually get to pick from a menu of seven field trips and seven classroom lectures as well as an hour-long musical performance by the appropriately named instrumental trio Denizen Pine.

This summer’s field trips include three full-day events. One is a guided van tour through the heart of the Pinelands led by Ryan Rebozo, director of conservation science at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. He’ll focus on the area’s fire ecology and how various plants have evolved to respond to disturbance in the pygmy pine plains. But the tour will be one of extremes in the sense it will also visit the Webbs Mill Bog, a wetland savanna that is home to some of the rarest orchids and carnivorous plants in the Pinelands.

A second guided van tour is led by Jeff Larson, who has been exploring the Pinelands for three decades. It will focus of the traditional industries in the Pinelands and will make several stops such as Hampton Furnace, where once-thriving industrial sites have been reclaimed by the forest.

Naturalist John Volpa will set the pace for a daylong 4-mile hike between the Mullica and Batsto rivers where participants will walk along the uplands and edges of the two rivers, learning about native plants and animals as well as other unique features of the Pinelands.

Another option is a 2-mile, two-hour and 45-minute guided hike at Hammonton Lake, led by German Georgieff, chief naturalist at Wells Mill County Park. He will introduce hikers to plant identification, fire ecology and human usage of local natural resources while winding through an oak-pine upland area and a white cedar swamp wetland area.

Naturalist and photographer Michael Hogan will guide another 165-minute tour, zooming in on macroinvertebrates at Batsto. They’re aquatic creatures such as stoneflies, caddisflies and other water bugs that, like a canary in a mine, are lead indicators of water quality.

Shorter field trips include a two-hour tour of the Atlantic Blueberry Co.’s commercial farm in Hammonton and a two-hour walk at Batsto Lake that focuses on dragonflies and damselflies, led by Burlington County Park naturalist Jennifer Bulava.

The classroom presentations, all 75 minutes long, explore subjects such as an overview of the Pinelands, the history of Garden State winemaking, the Revolutionary War Battle of Chestnut Creek, fire and biodiversity, dragonflies and damselflies (Bulava again), moths of the Pinelands, and a talk about the Brotherton Indian Reservation in Shamong, Burlington County, the first, if short-lived, reservation in the American colonies and the only reservation in New Jersey’s history.

The center for all of this activity is Stockton University’s Kramer Hall, located at 30 Front St. in Hammonton. Registered attendees should check in at Kramer Hall between 8 and 8:45 a.m. The Summer Short Course events will follow, starting at 9 a.m. and running through 3 p.m.

Space is limited, so those interested in attending should register as soon as possible. Teachers should be especially interested considering the Pinelands Summer Short Course is registered with the state Department of Education so that professional development credits can be earned.

For further information, call 609-894-7300, extension 125, or visit the Pinelands Commission website at, where full course descriptions may be found. To register online, visit To register by phone, call 609-652-4227 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Registration is $60 per person.

— Rick Mellerup

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