By Duane Friend
On October 20, the Cass/Calhoun/Greene/Morgan/Scott Extension Unit graduated 16 Master Naturalist Interns.
What is a Master Naturalist? These are people who have a love of the outdoors, have a concern for the local environment, and want to provide education and service to the local community. The program provides science based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards.
This year’s program included seminars on botany, forestry, mammology, herpetology, ornithology, geology, weather and climate, and archeology. In addition, four field trips provided activities and hands on experiences. A forestry field trip was taken to Starhill Forest Arboretum, where participants learned about forest stewardship and tree research. For the topic of prairies, we went to Jim Edgar Panther Creek Conservation Area (Site M) along with Rexroat Prairie, which gave attendees a good look at prairies and prairie management. Lakes and wetland management was the focus of a trip to Emiquon Preserve in Fulton County. Archaeology, wetlands and geology were examined on a trip to the McCully Heritage Farm in Calhoun County.
To become a certified Master Naturalist, people must participate in at least 40 hours of initial training, as well as 10 hours of additional training each year thereafter. The first year after initial training, interns must volunteer for 60 hours of approved community based service.
Comments from this year’s group included “Enjoyed and appreciated the relaxed atmosphere and group participation that supported the learning experience” and “This was a great course. I learned so much, and I am inspired to volunteer when and where I can.”
Our first class, which graduated in 2013, has given over 765 hours of volunteer service to the community!
Due to interest, the class may be offered again in 2016. If you have an interest in becoming a Master Naturalist and would like more information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org