The University of Illinois Master Naturalist Program is an educational volunteer training program offered by University of Illinois Extension. The program is designed to give participants an opportunity to experience nature, develop knowledge of and respect for the environment, and practice natural resource stewardship. The local Master Naturalist group, established in 2019, is coordinated by University of Illinois Extension serving Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie, and Shelby Counties. This local chapter is sponsored by Coles County Soil & Water Conservation District, Douglas Hart Nature Center, and Grand Prairie Friends. Our local chapter shares the mission, vision, and goals of this statewide extension program. Find other Illinois Master Naturalist groups on the state website.
The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program is to provide science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards.
To give individuals the opportunity to experience nature, develop knowledge of and respect for the environment, and practice natural resource stewardship/
- Offer Master Naturalist educational programs and materials that provide classroom and field-based training on the environmental and cultural resources of Illinois.
- Cultivate volunteers to serve as educators and community ambassadors for environmental initiatives; as stewards in the management of natural resources in Illinois, and as stakeholders who will perpetuate the Master Naturalist Program.
- Facilitate cooperation and collaboration among partner groups and agencies.
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Why Become a Master Naturalist?
Nature is everywhere, in your neighborhood, in your backyard, and in your house. Becoming more educated about the natural world increases your awareness and appreciation of it, enriching your everyday life. In the tradition of John Muir, John James Audubon, and even Teddy Roosevelt, as a naturalist, you can contribute to conservation and a greener world. And you can play an important role in sharing that world with others in your community.
What Qualifications Must I Meet?
Anyone can become a Master Naturalist- it does not require a degree or years of experience. you do, however, need to:
- Have a sincere desire to learn and share natural resource information within your community
- Be able to communicate effectively
- Be willing to devote time to volunteering and continuing education
University of Illinois Extension's Illinois Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Program is designed for adults of any age that want to learn about and positively impact their local government. The goal of the program is not to teach you everything there is to know about the subjects being covered, but to give you an engaging exposure to the natural world--one that encourages you to seek lifelong learning opportunities to further your development as a naturalist. Additionally, the purpose of training our volunteers is to increase the reach of University of Illinois Extension education.
Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Program participants have the opportunity to:
- learn about Central 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,
- learn from and work side-by-side with experts.
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 ours of continuing education must be performed yearly.
A training session will only be held if 10 or more participants are registered.
Become a Master Naturalist by following the steps below.
- Apply for the program online.
- Attend an orientation meeting and submit required documentation below.
- Complete payment of $250 and receive the Master Naturalist Manual. Fee waivers are available.
- Attend Master Naturalist Training.
- Complete and report 60 hours of volunteer internship within 24 months of completing the training course.
- To remain certified, an additional 30 hours volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education should be performed and reported annually.
- Illinois State Police Background Check Form (pdf)
- Master Naturalist Photo Release (pdf)
- Master Naturalist Volunteer Agreement (pdf)
- Illinois Department of Child and Family Services Background Check Form (pdf)
- Risk and Release Form (pdf)
Grand Prairie Friends
Douglas-Hart Nature Center
Volunteer Time Tracking System
Policies and Guidelines
MN Policies (PDF)
Volunteer Agreement (PDF)
Naturalist Notebook: Reviews and journal entries inspired by nature in West Central Illinois.
Prairie to Perennials: An almanac of all things that grow in Lincoln's backyard.
Spotlight on Natural Resources: Current topics in Illinois Natural Resources
Videos & Webinars
Everyday Environment Webinar: A series of webinars exploring a variety of topics.