SC Natural History logo
Austin Jenkins, Ph.D.

sponsored by the
South Carolina Master Naturalist Program
at Clemson University

NOTE: “A SC Natural History Primer” is an asynchronous course (on your own schedule), entirely online, with no interaction with the instructor. The course is available from March 1, 2022, through July 1, 2022. Registration for this course closes on February 25th. 

This course is open to everyone, so please feel free to forward this information to others.

A South Carolina Natural History Primer is offered through Clemson Online and sponsored by the SC Master Naturalist Program. The course is comprised of 36 video lectures, each approximately one-half hour in length. There are four sections, each followed by an optional quiz. 

Upon successful completion of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic principles, concepts, and language of natural history by exploring SC’s flora, fauna, and geology
  • Understand the scientific method
  • Classify South Carolina’s organisms into basic biological groups
  • Explain the geological formations of South Carolina in the context of ecosystem development
  • Recognize that humans are a part of the natural world, not separate from it
  • Appreciate the history of natural history through knowledge of early naturalists of South Carolina
  • Value the formation and fragility of plant and animal adaptations in the natural world

A South Carolina Natural History Primer is intended to give you an introduction to nature with special references to South Carolina. It is different from the South Carolina Master Naturalist Program field courses offered across the state of SC by the Cooperative Extension Service at Clemson University. There simply is no substitute for being in the field with fantastic naturalists and fantastic people in fantastic places. This online course is not a substitute for that experience or for that knowledge. Rather, it is an ancillary investigation into basic principles of nature, which can serve as a precursor or a follow-up to the knowledge one obtains in a face-to-face SC Master Naturalist Program Course.

The course is divided into four sections. Section one lays the foundation for natural history by describing what it is, why it matters, and how science contributes to our knowledge of it. We investigate the geological formation of South Carolina and the five ecological regions spawned by the geology beneath. We briefly meet some of the early naturalists from South Carolina and abroad.

As naturalists, much of what we marvel at are the connections between species and their environments. Many times, these connections are adaptations. Therefore, section two starts with a look at how adaptations form in nature through the evolutionary process that spawns the robust number of species we have to enjoy. We start to unpack life itself, learning what it takes to become a member of three kingdoms - Bacteria, Protista, and Fungi.

In section three, we begin to unpack the Plant Kingdom, especially the more common phyla. Then we make our way into the Animal Kingdom and selected phyla there, learning the characteristics of each group while examining examples along the way. Because insects have long dominated this kingdom, we spend more time with them than with others, understanding why they are and long have been so successful.

In section four, we move to the vertebrates in pursuit of species more like our own. This section includes a look at fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and finally, mammals. We take a close look at SC snakes, mainly because they generate a substantial amount of interest in so many people.

Each day will start with a “show and tell,” where a random finding from the natural world will be identified and discussed. When appropriate, we will conclude our day with “storytime,” where books are discussed related to the topic of the class, in the event you want to investigate the lecture topics further or answer any outstanding questions.

Each of the four sections ends with an optional quiz. The quizzes help to reinforce the knowledge gained in each section. We recommend taking the quiz the first time without using your notes to see how much information you have retained.

To receive an electronic certificate of completion, participants must complete at least 32 of the 36 course videos. Each video is released after you complete the previous video.

A SC Natural History Primer
Sponsored by the SC Master Naturalist Program at Clemson University
Lecture # Length Topic
1 30 min Introduction to the SC Master Naturalist Program, the SC Natural History Primer, and your instructor
2 30 min What is Natural History and Science?
3 30 min What is Biodiversity and Why Does it Matter?
4 30 min Overview of Early Naturalists
5 30 min Nature's Foundation - Geological Formation of SC
6 30 min Nature's Foundation - Geological Formation of SC
7 30 min Ecoregions of SC - Tour and General Characteristics
8 30 min Ecoregions of SC - Tour and General Characteristics
9 30 min Carolina Bays - Description and Formation
10 30 min Carolina Bays - Description and Formation
11 30 min Connections - Evolution and Adaptation
12 30 min Connections - Evolution and Adaptation
13 30 min Connections - Evolution and Adaptation
14 30 min Naming Nature - Linnaeus and Classification
15 30 min Bacteria
16 30 min Protists
17 30 min Fungi
18 30 min Flora - Plant Kingdom and Selected Plant Phyla
19 30 min Flora - Selected Plant Phyla
20 30 min Flora - Selected Plant Phyla
21 30 min Fauna - Animal Kingdom
22 30 min Fauna - Porifera, Cnidaria, Echinodermata
23 30 min Fauna - Platyhelminthes, Nemathelminthes, Annelida
24 30 min Fauna - Bryozoa, Mollusca, and Arthropoda
25 30 min Fauna - Arthropoda - Insecta
26 30 min Fauna - Arthropoda - Insecta
27 30 min Fauna - Arthropoda - Insecta
28 30 min Fauna - Chordata - Vertebrata - Fish
29 30 min Fauna - Amphibians
30 30 min Fauna - Reptiles
31 30 min Fauna - SC Snakes
32 30 min Fauna - SC Snakes
33 30 min Fauna - Birds
34 30 min Fauna - Birds
35 30 min Fauna - Mammals
36 30 min Fauna - Mammals

Access to the course begins on March 1st and ends on July 1st, so please plan accordingly. 

The registration fee is $300.00. Registration for this course closes on February 25th. 


dragonfly logo

Austin Jenkins, Ph.D.

 Dr. Austin Jenkins

Austin Jenkins is a native of Camden, SC. He received his undergraduate degree studying biology at The Citadel and his MS and PhD degrees from Clemson University while studying various organisms. He is an instructor for the popular SC Master Naturalist Program through Clemson Extension and the SC Wildlife Federation, where he is a former chair and emeritus board member. Jenkins was the first executive director of the Katawba Valley Land Trust. For the past ten years, Jenkins has taught at USC Sumter, where his courses include The Natural History of South Carolina and Environmental Biology. His awards there include the Hugh Stoddard Outstanding Faculty Award, the Student Government Teacher of the Year Award, and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.