Save the Date! Come To Our Open House This Spring!

Open House at the National Conservation Training Center

Date: Saturday, May 11, 2024 10:00 am – 3:00 pm ET
Address: 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown, WV 25443

Timed events and ongoing events will be listed on The Open House Schedule.

On Saturday, May 11th from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) will welcome the surrounding community to our Open House. We invite you to learn more about the importance of conservation and NCTC’s role in supporting the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Whether it’s leading conservation training and education, practicing sustainable solutions, managing invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
around the property, or preserving our agency’s history through our museum and archives, we have a lot to show you!

Come rain or shine! There will be fun and interactive activities for all ages. While here, you can learn about the work we do across campus, in the local community, as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and beyond. There will be tours, presentations, interactive exhibits, demonstrations, bird walks, children’s activities, and more. Experience what life is like inside a life-size bald eagle nest replica and see a real-life bald eagle’s nest in the distance. Go on a bird walk to spot many of our feathered friends and get up close to birds of prey like hawks and owls. Take a cinematic journey of family-friendly films, go on a Story Walk around our trails, and discover the critters that live in and around our ponds. We aim to inspire you through our conservation mission! 

Mark your calendars and bring your family and friends to an unforgettable day at the National Conservation Training Center—we hope to see you there!  

Things to Know Before You Go 

  • Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. 
  • There will be water and food available for purchase from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 
  • To help promote sustainable practices, we encourage you to bring your own water bottle!
  • Our campus is accessible, and volunteers will be available to direct you to each activity. 
  • Shuttles from designated areas will be provided throughout the day. 
  • Please wear comfortable walking shoes as NCTC is a walking campus. 
  • All activities will be ongoing throughout the day, but a couple events have specific timings, which are indicated in the descriptions below. 
  • We have ample parking on campus, but we would also like to encourage carpooling where possible.  
  • In the event of rain, we recommend bringing an umbrella or raincoat.

Lunch for the Open House 

Lunch will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. A $10 combo meal ticket will be available for purchase and includes an entrée, side, dessert, and drink. For children 3 years of age and younger, a $7 meal ticket is available for purchase and includes an entrée (items are marked with an asterisk), dessert, and drink. Menu options include:  

Choice of one main entrée

  • Slice of Pizza*
  • Hotdog*
  • Chicken Fingers* (2 fingers for children)
  • Hamburger
  • Cheeseburger
  • Veggie Burger
  • Turkey and Cheese Wrap
  • Ham and Cheese Wrap

Choice of one side

  • Chips
  • Fries
  • Salad

Choice of one dessert

  • Brownie*
  • Cookie*
  • Fruit*

Choice of a drink*

Lunch Ticket Purchase 

Lunch tickets will be available for purchase on Saturday, May 11th, but if you’d like to pre-order your lunch tickets, please call our Front Desk at 304-876-1600 and then pay upon arrival. Tickets will be available at theFront Desk in the Entry building. 

Guests are welcome to bring their own snacks, or picnic meal as well.

What Activities to Expect

Welcoming Remarks from NCTC Director, Steve Chase at 10:00 a.m. 

Lights, Camera, Wildlife: Family-Friendly Films

The American Conservation Film Festival is coming to NCTC for our Open House! It will be an extraordinary experience for film lovers, filmmakers, and anyone deeply passionate about environmental conservation. Don’t miss this chance to connect, be inspired, and celebrate the profound impact each of us can have on our planet. We’ll be screening two family-friendly films from this year's festival: Judy’s Creek and Serengeti. Films will show at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. 

Lands Where We Work and Live: Indigenous History of Shepherdstown 

Matthew “Maasaw” Howard, or Howie, is of Cherokee and Tuscarora heritage. He is an independent field researcher and author who has located dozens of ancient Indigenous villages, ceremonial, and burial ground sites throughout the Eastern United States. Maasaw records these sites and assists landowners in having their land put into protective trusts which preserves their land as well as its history and heritage. Learn about the Tribes that were in the Shepherdstown, WV area at the time of first contact with Europeans. The Peoples include, but are not limited to, the Massawomeck, Haudenosaunee, the Shawnee, and the Delaware. 

Hunters of the Sky: Laurel Fork Falconry  

From Red-Tailed Hawks and American Kestrels to Barred Owls and Bald Eagles, Collin Waybright has a way with birds! One of the youngest, licensed Master Class Falconers in the state of West Virginia, Waybright has practiced falconry since the age of 14. His educational presentations help people understand the nature of birds of prey and their very important role in the environment. As you meet some of the birds he works with, Waybright will share his passion for these magnificent animals, the ancient sport of falconry, how it works, and what goes into caring for and working with Raptors. You will learn natural history, ecology, and how these amazing birds contribute to their habitat. There will be ample opportunities to capture unique photographs with the falconer and birds.

Meet the Neighbors: Live Exhibit with Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia  

Get up close with amazing birds of prey! Witness these incredible raptors firsthand, marveling at their powerful features, keen eyesight, impressive wingspans and more with the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia (ACCA). The Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia has a mission to conserve the region’s wild birds through research, education and rehabilitation. This nonprofit organization is located near Morgantown, WV. ACCA is licensed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to treat and rehabilitate injured, ill, or orphaned wild birds, including raptors, eagles, songbirds, waterbirds, waterfowl, and sea birds. 

Room With a View: Life in a Bald Eagle Nest

Experience what being inside a bald eagle's nest is like. Take a photo inside a replica of the bald eagle's nest! Learn about the bald eagles' fascinating behavior and biology. Look directly at a real eagle nest in the distance.

Live from the Eagle’s Nest!

Witness the close-up wonders of the NCTC's long-standing bald eagle nest through our eagle cam and feel connected to these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Enjoy a specially curated film loop showcasing the most captivating moments from the eagle cam footage over the years. 

Behind the Lens with Our Best Wildlife Photographers 

Go behind the lens with our very own wildlife photographers! Brett Billings, Ryan Hagerty, and Doug Canfield will each be sharing stories and awe-inspiring footage from their own experiences in wildlife photography and videography. 

From Vision to Reality: Our Architectural Journey 

Discover how NCTC’s campus was designed with conservation in mind, to blend into the landscape, and embody the same values we endeavor to teach. 

“Somewhere in the gap between prosaic and poetic – where the rural vernacular cross-pollinates with urban sophistication – lies the aesthetic origin of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center. Part barn, part laboratory, part office building, part hunting lodge, the 400,000 square foot complex transforms an ungainly program into a refined string of buildings that fit comfortably in its agrarian setting.” Vernon Mays from Architectural Digest   

Thoughts From Home Podcast 

Thoughts From Home is your conservation podcast from the National Conservation Training Center, which is known as the “home” of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Thoughts From Home is an educational podcast offering short episodes on topics including wildlife biology, nature, conservation, NCTC programs and initiatives.You’ll get a chance to be on an upcoming episode as our hosts hope to capture your thoughts about the Open House. You can learn how podcasts are created, too!  

The Painted Duck: Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program and Art Contest 

Calling all young artists! Are you in K-12th grade? If so, you can participate in the annual Junior Duck Stamp Program and Art Contest!  Learn about wetlands, waterfowl, and conservation; and to create and share your very own art to celebrate your favorite duck, goose, or swan. Stop by to see some of the wonderful student artwork on display and find out how you can enter the contest!

Tales in the Woods: Self-Led Story Walk

Take a walk through our trail to read Spring Song by Barbara Seuling. When new leaves sprout, buds appear, cocoons burst open, and other signs announce the coming of spring, various animals from bears to bullfrogs respond to the warmth of the season. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Library has partnered with The Potomac Valley Audubon StoryWalk® to bring storybook nature trails to the National Conservation Training Center! StoryWalk® involves a series of laminated pages of selected storybooks that can be set up anywhere, like along our short hike for families.

You Ate WHAT?! Dig Into an Owl Pellet and Find Out! 

Did you know that owls can’t chew? Owls often consume the entire body of their prey and throw up the bones and other indigestible parts in a lump called an owl pellet. Discover last night's dinner when you play wildlife detective by dissecting a pellet and identifying what you find. You can learn a lot about wildlife from what it leaves behind. 

Mussel Madness: Saving Our Underwater Heroes! 

Mussels are essential to the health of streams and rivers. They filter algae, excess nutrients, and heavy metals from their surroundings and stabilize streambeds by forming dense colonies. They’re also an important source of food for other animals, including fish, mammals, and birds. At Mussel Madness you will be able to test your brain muscles and figure out how to identify the different species of mussels found in our area, see live mussels, and learn why they are important in our waterways.

Justin Perkinson, from Virginia Tech, will be sharing an immersive, 360° Virtual Reality experience documenting the conservation of the most-endangered group of animals in the United States: the freshwater mussel. With a restoration biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as your underwater guide, you’ll dive beneath Appalachia’s Clinch River – the most biodiverse and most-threatened mussel habitat in the country – to explore the vibrant yet vulnerable aquatic world known as the "Benthic Zone". Come learn about conservation and view rivers, streams, and mussels in a whole new light!

Making History: Museum and Archives Tour  

The Museum at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) has over half a million items relating to the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American conservation history.  Join us for an exciting tour as each artifact comes with its own interesting history and story!

Feel the Burn: Learn about Prescribed Fire and Wildland Firefighting 

Prescribed Fire is a vital conservation tool and sustains an ecological balance by preventing overgrowth of brush and trees in ecosystems. Come meet wildland firefighting crew members and learn about how NCTC applies healthy fire to our lands to improve habitat for native, threatened, and endangered species! 

As a smaller wildland fire agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created an inclusive, welcoming fire family that is perfect for those looking to start their fire careers, spend their entire career, or simply find a place where they belong. Wildland not your average job!  

Keeping It Green: Sustainable Practices on Campus

NCTC strives to exist in harmony with the land through sustainable practices consistent with conservation values. Examples of best practices include reforesting, prescribed burning of habitat, reducing light pollution, choosing environmentally friendly products, minimizing food waste, and actively composting and recycling. Come learn how you can live more sustainably too! 

Wanted DEAD or ALIVE: Invasive Species Management 

Come learn about what invasive insect species are, which ones pose the greatest threats, and what can be done to combat these ecological threats. Meet both the current and former NCTC Land Manager to find out what NCTC is doing to protect our forests from these pests, and what you can do to help! We will also be hosting a subject matter expert from the University of Maryland Extension Service to discuss best practices when dealing with these pests around the home. We'll have informational handouts, coloring sheets, and an interactive display of the industry leading tools to combat these invaders!

Suitcase for Survival: Unpacking Illegal Wildlife Trade 

Some of the world's best-loved species are being ruthlessly slaughtered by wildlife criminals for illegal trade. 

  • Wild tigers are being hunted to extinction for their skins, bones, teeth and claws.
  • Last year, more than 30,000 African elephants were poached for their ivory tusks.
  • South Africa has experienced a 7,000% increase in rhino poaching since 2007.

Just because it's for sale does not mean it is legal. This suitcase is full of illegal wildlife parts and products seized here in America by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Learn how you can help save nature by asking basic questions and getting the facts. When in doubt, don't buy. You can help stop wildlife crime.

A Real Page Turner: America’s Wild Read 

America’s Wild Read is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Library's virtual, quarterly book club focused on inspiring readers to engage with conservation literature and nature writing, both classic and contemporary.  

Ready for My Closeup: Conservation Hero Selfies

Take a selfie with a conservation hero! While many have gone on to shape the history of conservation in the United States, we’d like to highlight a handful of individuals who are some of our greatest conservationists, who have made indelible marks on how we view the conservation of the land and its resources today. 

  • Rachel Carson (1907-1964) Author of the Modern Environmental Movement 
  • J. N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) Conservation Cartoonist  
  • Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) The Ethical Ecologist 
  • Olaus and Mardy Murie (1889-1963) (1902-2003) Wilderness Warriors  
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) The Conservation President

Nature All Around Us: Birds, Trees, and Blooms Walk   

Nature walks are a fun and easy way to get outdoors and explore the world around us. Your guide will identify various native trees or plants, or feathered friends like woodpeckers, warblers, and other jewels of the forest!  The walks will begin at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. and will cover easy terrain, but we recommend you wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes. 

Casting and Crafts  

Learn to cast a fishing rod with a basic casting technique and some simple steps. Aim for the target ring or hoop to play! Once you’ve learned how to cast a fishing rod, get creative and craft a personal cloth napkin, perfect for your lunchbox and special occasions, and the best part – you'll be reducing waste! 

DIY Seed Bombs for Native Wildflowers!  

Whether it's a plant pot, flowerbed, wild patch in your lawn or an entire meadow, sowing wildflowers in your garden provides vital resources to support a wide range of insects that couldn't otherwise survive in urban or built-up areas. Throwing, breaking up or digging ‘seed bombs’ into areas in your garden that need a little brightening up is a perfect way of spending an afternoon!

Pond Life

Come experience the amazing life that is found at NCTC's Central Pond. See and touch live animals and plants such as tadpoles, fish, turtles, insects, cattails and more. Discover how biologists use traps, nets and other equipment to catch and study aquatic wildlife. Find out what you can do to help protect aquatic habitat. 

Learn More About

Friends of the National Conservation Training Center 

The Friends of NCTC are a community of conservation-minded individuals who support NCTC through the Eagle Cam, community programs, education outreach, and social activities. Consider becoming a member where you can enjoy films, lectures, volunteering, and more, while supporting conservation education. 

The Children’s Tree House Daycare

Children's Tree House Inc. CTH is a non-profit, nature-based early learning center located on NCTC’s Campus. CTH is open to the public for children 8 weeks through 5 years of age and during the summer hosts W.O.W. (Wild Outdoor Wonders) camps for school age children. CTH is the home of West Virginia's first Certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom. For additional information please contact the CTH Director Nickie Haines via email or by phone 304-876-7354.

Potomac Valley Audubon Society 

The Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS) was organized in 1982 as a local chapter of the National Audubon Society. PVAS serves Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties in West Virginia and Washington County, Maryland. PVAS offers a wide variety of educational programs for children, adults, and families. Their goal is to get people of all ages outside to explore and learn about the natural world!

Get Involved

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center is a conference and training center located in West Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, WV. Our mission is to lead the nation with training and education for conservation professionals to meet the goal of conserving fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the benefit of the American public. For more information, visit the National Conservation Training Center website and connect with us on social media: Facebook and Youtube.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit  USFWS website  and connect with us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube.

Event date and time
Event location name
National Conservation Training Center


698 Conservation WayShepherdstown,25443WV

Event category

Open house
Age range
All ages