Missouri's Natural Heritage

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Exploring the Show-Me-State

Missouri is home to 1.5 million acres of national forest, 53 state parks, and the confluence of two of the nation's great rivers, the Missouri and the Mississippi.  Beyond the riverine lowland, where St. Louis and Washington University sit, lie Missouri’s Ozark forests to our south and the great prairie to the north.  Careful stewardship of these habitats over the past half-century has resulted in an unprecedented recovery from the clear cutting of the 19th century and commercial hunting, trapping, and fishing of the early 20th century. 

Each year, a willing group of WashU students forms the "Missouri's Natural Heritage" Ampersand Program class. As a class, we experience Missouri's habitats and wildlife firsthand. We study Missouri’s natural heritage from the perspectives of biology, environmental studies, geology, history, and archaeology.  Additionally, we visit diverse habitats (prairies, forests, glades, and streams) and study the plants and animals we observe (from arthropods, mollusks, and fish, to salamanders, lizards, birds, and mammals).

Missouri Natural History

What Students Have To Say

Neil Stein

"The class served to remind me that it's too easy to get caught up in the hustle of daily life on campus. Out in nature, out in the woods, there's only simplicity and there's a special kind of peace in that."

Liam Engel

"It was ... an invaluable way to experience Missouri as a new resident, and learn about its natural beauty and biology, while breaking out of the WashU bubble."

Ellen Dai

"If you're looking for a community of amazing, caring people and just want to have a good time frolicking in the woods disguised as education, take Missouri's Natural Heritage!"

August Gremaud

"Cooperating both in and out of the classroom meant that class activities such as camping became much more enjoyable, as classmates were not just peers, but friends. Few other courses offer such a valuable and robust interpersonal element."

how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 15, at noon (CT) and closes on Monday, May 21, at noon (CT). There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up. ADDITIONAL PROGRAM COSTS: A lab fee of $480 per semester will cover all expenses on the trips. Need-based financial support is available.

First-Year Programs homepage

Why MNH?

Why should students take this course?

 This course is the best introduction to your home for the next four years. We will travel around St. Louis and Missouri to experience the state’s diversity of forests, prairies, and wetlands. Whether you already enjoy camping or you want to expand your skill set, this class will get you outside and into the wilds of Missouri.

What is different about this program from other opportunities in this major/field?

In addition to gaining a deep understanding of our local diversity, students in this seminar will learn to live and work in a collaborative community that operates through consensus. We will dissect policy and research arguments, collect and analyze data, and create educational resources that are read and cited by thousands of people around the globe. Your major projects in this class will not end up in a drawer or recycling bin; your work will continue educating people about Missouri for many years to come.

What will students get out of the program?

Students in this class will learn how to work together as a team and make decisions by consensus, which is significantly different from “majority rule”. Missouri Natural Heritage alumnae tend to remain close friends for the remainder of their time at Washington University, and many will probably remain close for the rest of their lives.