Course Information and FAQ:

Questions? For registration and lodging questions, please contact registration coordinator Kayla Rankin at 937-365-1935 or email For all other questions, please contact Appalachian Forest School Host, Brent Charette, at 513-535-3042, or email

Cancellation Policy. You may cancel your reservation for full refund any time prior to 30 days before the course begins. After that time, cancellations are not permitted. Please try to find someone else to fill your place.

We recommend that you order the book, The Songs of Insects, by course leader, Wil Hershberger, unless you already have a copy in your library. Although the book is now out-of-print, it can still be affordably purchased on the secondary market, such as through You can save a little money by doing it yourself, or, if you prefer, you can order a copy through us when you register at a cost of $20.00. Please remember that you are ordering a used book.

You can further prepare or consult later on Wil’s and Lisa’s online resources, both of which have recordings of most of the songsters we will be studying during this course. 

See Lisa Rainsong’s with her latest recorded sounds, stories from the field, and photography of insect singers in Northeastern Ohio, Her superb website at is an excellent teaching device, featuring insect calls and callers living in NE Ohio, that can be gainfully used for a much broader geography. Wil Hershberger’s is another wonderful natural history and field ID guide to crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas with a wide geographical application. Stories from the field and identification tips and orientation can be found on his blog .

What if I’m hard of hearing? If you can hear bird songs, you should be able to hear over half of sounds we’ll be learning in this course. As we age, most of us lose out on hearing the Meadow Katydids, but we can still enjoy the ground crickets, cicadas, trigs, and tree crickets. Tinnitus can sound amazingly like a background of tree crickets, and will have to be discounted as part of your learning process. Since insects sing at such higher frequencies than do human voices, people don’t always realize when they have lost sensitivity to higher ranges. If you are unsure you can enjoy this course, check out this graph on the frequency ranges used by singing insects, and then go online and see what your higher frequency threshold is with these easy tests: and noiseaddicts.

What background do I need to enjoy this course? Anyone with an enthusiasm for the subject will enjoy this course. Learning insect calls is not only a great skill to possess, it will increase your enjoyment of the out-of-doors for the rest of your life. Complete novices and intermediate students are equally welcome to attend. We have the ”best of the best” leaders for this course, so even advanced students will enjoy rubbing shoulders for a weekend with Lisa and Wil.

Cell phone coverage and internet: Please note that the Sanctuary is in a rural location in the foothills of the Appalachians. Cell phone coverage is spotty and connectivity depends on your phone service company. However, limited Wi-Fi is available at the Museum headquarters, and a short drive to Highway 50 connects to nearly every provider. Sprint is the only carrier that works on Cave Road.

Comfort in the Out-of-Doors: We will be spending most of our time in the field, so please pack clothing that will allow you to be comfortable for a variety of weather conditions, and for hiking at night. The program will go on rain or shine. At this time of the year, common daytime highs in southern Ohio are in the low nineties. Our schedule for insect listening takes us out in the cooler  evenings and provides time for siestas in the hot afternoons.  But it will be hot. If you work daily in an air-conditioned environment, you might be wise to prepare for the course by taking mid-day walks so you can begin adjusting to midsummer outdoor temperatures. A sweater or light jacket might be welcome at night.

Physical Capacity: Because the course is focused on outdoor activities, participants should be able to hike up to 2-3 miles a day sustainably without injury or severe discomfort. During this course we will be moving slowly, a pace well suited for active listening. For the most part we will be following established trails, though they may be narrow and uneven at times.

Location. This course will be held in the tranquility of the beautiful 2600-acre nature preserve known as the Highlands Nature Sanctuary. Our meal hub will be at the Appalachian Forest Museum.

Accommodations. Lodging is available in one of the Sanctuary’s beautiful overnight facilities, most of which are historic and all of which are tastefully and uniquely decorated. Lodging is optional but highly encouraged since you will be studying into the night and will probably want to crash into bed upon return. Lodges are anywhere from 1-5 miles from the workshop hub, but are still closer than most private lodges nearby. All lodges have kitchens or kitchenettes and one or more bathrooms on the hall. The exact lodge a registrant is assigned depends on the availability of the lodges on that particular weekend, and the type of room requested by the registrant. If you are coming with a partner, you may request a room with a double bed. If you are coming solo or with a friend, you may request a room with two twin beds; or alternatively, a room with a single bed and a double bed. If you are not coming with a partner but want to take advantage of the reduced rate of shared rooms, we will try to link you up with another registrant of the same gender. If we can’t find you a roommate, so long as you remain willing to share, even up to the last minute, we will honor your shared rate. If you wish to rent a private Sanctuary cabin or suite for the weekend, instead of renting a single room in one of our group lodges, you may do so, contingent on availability.

What if I want a private room? We have a very limited number of solo rooms and we encourage you to only go solo if you feel you would not make a good roommate for any reason so that we can save those private rooms for people who need them the most. You can also choose to upgrade to the Zen or Eyrie Suites which are private facilities for 1-2 people perched on the rim of the Rocky Fork Gorge, or Leatherwood Cabin with has two bedrooms, Earthstar which is a large stylish dome house with a king bed, and Toadstool, another dome structure with a full bed. If you upgrade, we will simply charge you the difference. Click here if you wish to familiarize yourself with the Sanctuary’s lodges. You may reserve these lodges online. That said, for Sanctuary lodging associated with a Forest School course, it is best to reserve by calling Kayla at 937-365-1935, or email at

Meals: Nine meals are provided from Thursday supper through Sunday lunch. The Arc of Appalachia is well recognized for its fabulous meals that are often based on local organic produce. Meat and eggs are local and pasture-raised whenever available. All meals are provided with vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options. Meat is available for at least one meal a day. Eggs and cheese are frequent accompaniments. If you have food restrictions, please make a note on the registration form and we will let you know how well we can accommodate your needs. All lodges have kitchen facilities if you need to supplement your diet.

Flying in? Participants may fly into either Cincinnati or Columbus. Both airports are 1 hour and forty-five minutes away from the Sanctuary. Shuttles are not available so participants may need to rent a car. If you wish to car-share from your home or airport, please let us know and we will get you in contact with any other interested participants.

Additional Expenses: Registrants will be providing their own transportation to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and to all field trip locations. Carpooling can usually be arranged with other participants for day trips, and such carpooling is often necessary since some of our locations have limited parking. We recommend you offer a modest gas cost contribution if you link up with another.

Emergency Messages: Emergency messages for course participants can be left at the main line of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary (937) 365-1935 during daytime hours.

Should I prepare for insects?  We experience very few mosquitoes and no black flies at the Sanctuary. You may encounter some ticks in the open fields and a few deer flies in low moist areas. If wander off trail into the grass (which is a good reason not to),you are likely to pick up chiggers. If any of these challenges are new for you, let us know and we will do our best to orient you. No exposure to at least some insects in southern Ohio is not a realistic expectation for outdoor field work. During every field trip there will inevitably be a few ticks. If you see them before they attach, they are not a problem. Just brush them off. It’s the ones you don’t see that might pose a problem. Since we DO have deer ticks in southern Ohio, please read below. Fortunately, because we are staying on the trails, we will not be encountering large numbers of ticks nor chiggers. Still – it’s best to prepared.

A Special Note on Ticks. We will be orienting everyone to ticks in order to minimize exposure to disease which can be carried to you by deer ticks, an exposure which is unlikely but possible. We highly recommend applying rose geranium oil to your legs and pants, which has proved to be a good deterrent. We also recommend a good tick check at night before or after showering. If you have a partner, use him or her to do the ‘primate preen.” If you don’t have a partner, employ a mirror and don’t forget to check your hairline.

The key to addressing Lyme’s disease risk is to be aware of symptoms and demanding proper diagnostic tests if you suspect the disease. You may know more than your doctor so being empowered is important. Lyme’s is treatable if detected in a reasonable time, but because deer ticks have not been in Ohio for very long, many doctors are slow to recognize the symptoms. Being informed and proactive provides you with the highest level of safety.  Here are some symptoms to remember, which tend to be flu-like:

  • Pain areas: in the joints or muscles
  • Whole body: fatigue, fever, or malaise
  • Joints: stiffness or swelling
  • Also common: appearance of large red blotches, sometimes with bulls-eye pattern,
  • Headache
  • Palsy

A Special Note on Chiggers. Chigger bites are very annoying if numerous, and are itchy but not dangerous. The best way to minimize or better yet, completely avoid, chigger exposure is to stay on the trail. Perhaps ironically, we have found that open-toed sandals attract less chiggers than socks and shoes. Chiggers love to bury into tight places between skin and clothing. Bare legs, especially ones doused with rose geranium oil or other deterrents, will deter ticks because you can easily feel the more common dog tick crawling up your legs, as well as visually see them and thus send them on their way. We are not necessarily recommending shorts and sandals during the day, but if you enjoy wearing them, then do so. You may fare better than your less scantily dressed colleagues.

Poison Ivy. We will not be going off-trail, so it is very unlikely you will be exposed to poison ivy. In any case, the leaders know the plant well and will help you avoid exposure. If you do touch the leaves, washing vigorously with soap within an hour avoids reactivity in most people.

What to bring to this course:

  • A copy of The Songs of Insects by Wil Hershberger, our course instructor in hand or ordered through us
  • Close-focusing binoculars are not necessary but will definitely get good use, check out the fabulous Pentax Papilio II Binoculars for amazing close ups
  • Refillable water bottle which we recommend bringing to meals
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking and outdoor wear
  • A small day pack for field trips
  • Rain gear
  • A notebook or clipboard and pen
  • Personal care items; soap, shampoo, etc. (towels, linens, and tissue are provided in the lodges)
  • Sunscreen if you use it (there are environmental reasons not to – check it out)
  • A light-weight, wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
  • Sunglasses if you are sensitive to bright sunlight.
  • Flashlight – VERY important for night viewing. We recommend a small pen light for walking. It will allow you to navigate without ruining your and others’ night vision. A stronger flashlight is great to illuminate a discovery, once an insect is found.
  • Insect repellent for ticks and chiggers is recommended, see details above.
  • Optional: Your own first aid kit appropriate to your needs.
  • Pocket money for snacks and small purchases
Broad-winged Tree Cricket. Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Katydid species by Wil Hershberger
Spotted Ground Cricket by Lisa Rainsong.
Allard's Ground Cricket by Lisa Rainsong.
Field Cricket. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Dark Brown Straight-lanced Meadow Katydid. Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Black-sided Meadow Katydid ovipositing by Lisa Rainsong
Common True Katydid by Lisa Rainsong