Illinois Master Naturalist Program

Teacher points at object in stream with young students

University of Illinois Extension Illinois Master Naturalist Program is designed for adults of any age that want to learn about and positively impact their local environment. The goal of the program is to give participants engaging exposure to the natural world--one that encourages you to seek lifelong learning opportunities to further your development as a naturalist.

Illinois Master Naturalist Program participants have the opportunity to:

  • learn about Illinois' natural history, ecosystems, plant and animal communities and environmental issues,
  • enhance your love of nature through hands-on training and community-based service,
  • practice lifelong learning and sharing,
  • interact and build relationships with new acquaintances with similar interests,
  • give something back to nature and your local community,
  • and learn from and work side-by-side with experts.

Training Structure

The training consists of self-learning assignments, field experiences, classroom training throughout western Illinois led by experts in each field (botany, forestry, wildlife, ecology, entomology, geology, aquatics, etc). Master Naturalists must complete 40 hours of field and classroom learning and 60 hours volunteer service within two years to become a Certified Master Naturalist. To remain active in the program, an additional 30 hours volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education must be performed yearly.

Current Training

Our 2023 course will kick off on 3/14/23 and follow this schedule:

  1. Tues, March 14, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm
  2. Tues, March 21, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm
  3. Sat, April 1, 2023 - Time TBD (3 hrs) FIELD TRIP
  4. Tues, April 4, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm
  5. Sat, April 15, 2023 - Time TBD (3 hrs); FIELD TRIP
  6. Tues, April 18, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm 
  7. Sat, April 29, 2023 - 9:00a-4:00pm; FIELD TRIP
  8. Tues, May 2, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm
  9. Friday, May 5, 2023 - 9:00a-1:00pm; FIELD TRIP
  10. Sat, May 13, 2023 - 9:00a-1:00pm; FIELD TRIP
  11. Tues, May 16, 2023 - 6:00-8:00pm

A training session will only be held if 10 or more participants are registered.

The Western Illinois Master Naturalist course fee is $125.

This fee covers:

  • 40-hour general ecology course that combines both classroom and field learning (must attend min. of 40 hours to graduate)
  • One-on-one assistance in finding a volunteer position that fits your personal interests, abilities and time restraints for as long as you remain a Certified Master Naturalist
  • Continuing-education events and opportunities
  • Professional Development (PD) credits for licensed teachers

To be notified of upcoming Master Naturalist trainings in this area, please complete an interest form.

Volunteering & Partners

Volunteer Opportunities

Master Naturalists volunteer at various, local organizations performing a wide variety of service projects. Examples of volunteer service that Illinois Master Naturalists have done include:

  • Assist in a prescribed fire burn crew
  • Teach a class of adults about bats or fishing or mammals
  • Conduct a stream survey in local parks
  • Conduct an activity at a Moth Festival at a state park
  • Create signs and educational pieces for trail walkers
  • Lead bird hikes and perform bird counts
  • Perform trail maintenance
  • Lead canoe and kayak outings for residents

Want to be a Partner Organization?

If your organization can benefit from volunteer service by trained Master Naturalists, please contact Amy Lefringhouse (

We are here to help.