Become a Master Naturalist

Volunteer for Nature in East Central Illinois

The Illinois Extension Master Naturalist Program is a volunteer training program offered by University of Illinois Extension. East Central Illinois Master Naturalist is our local chapter of the program, and it includes volunteers from Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion counties.

Why Become a Master Naturalist?

Nature is everywhere: in your neighborhood, backyard, and house. Becoming more informed about the environment increases your appreciation, enriching your everyday life. As a naturalist, you can be important in sharing that world with others in your community. Community representation matters, and we need volunteers from all walks of life. Join us and help us allow folks to experience nature, develop knowledge of and respect for the environment, and practice land stewardship.

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:

  • Be at least 18 years old 
  • Have a desire to learn and share natural resource information within your community
  • Be willing to devote time to volunteering and continuing education
  • Have availability to complete 40 hours of volunteer training

Volunteer Training

Applications for the 2024 training class are now closed. This training is composed of self-guided study and nature hikes. We aim to host our next Master Naturalist training in 2025. Please apply to receive notifications for our next training.  

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
  • build relationships with new acquaintances with similar interests
  • give something back to nature and your local community
  • learn from and work with local experts

Join us! 

Become a Certified Master Naturalist by following the steps below.  

  1. Apply for the program online.
  2. Meet with the coordinator and submit the required documentation; Master Naturalist Photo ReleaseMaster Naturalist Volunteer AgreementIllinois DCFS Check FormRisk and Release Form, and a Sterling Background check. Trainees must also complete a required Child Protection Course by the end of training. Not all background histories will disqualify folks from participating.  
  3. Complete payment of $200 and receive the Master Naturalist Manual. Fee waivers are available.
  4. Attend Master Naturalist Training.
  5. Complete and report 40 hours of volunteer internship within 24 months of completing the training course.
  6. To remain certified, report an additional 30 hours of service and 10 hours of continuing education annually.

Would you like to get involved in behind the scenes planning and organizing? The East Central Illinois Master Naturalists need your help! Find out more about what we do and why it matters. 

Volunteer with Local Partners

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

Current volunteer openings are posted on their website. Volunteer opportunities include trail stewardship, workdays to maintain natural areas, and assistance with both historical and environmental education programs.

Champaign Park District

Volunteers may remove non-native plants, plant native plants, or help with other maintenance of the four parks that currently have sections of natural areas: Heritage, Porter Family, Scott, and Sunset Ridge.

Urbana Park District

The Urbana Park District uses volunteers in many of its programs and facilities. Opportunities include school tours, work days to maintain natural areas, seed collection and native plantings, invasive species eradication, and assistance with park events. 

Allerton Park and Retreat Center

Allerton Allies assist park staff in protecting and restoring natural lands in Allerton Park. Volunteers may remove non-native plants, plant native plants, clear trails, and more. 

Grand Prairie Friends

Volunteers are needed to steward sites, remove invasive species, collect seeds, plant native species, and participate in education and community outreach. 

Headwaters Invasive Plant Partnership

HIPP is a cooperative weed management area, a partnership between local, state, and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, private landowners, and university groups in east central Illinois to address the threat of invasive plants across boundaries.

Idea Store

This place is a store, a community, a donation center – they are a marketplace of items and ideas! Volunteering at The Idea Store is a great way to meet and work with some of the area’s most creative artists, educators, and innovators. 

Land Conservation Foundation

LCF volunteers enjoy time outdoors and learn from knowledgeable leaders while supporting our critical mission. They improve trails, plant native trees, remove invasive plants, and count mussels, among other tasks. 

Upper Sangamon River Conservancy

Volunteers help with Mussel Surveys, Illinois River Watch science, perform highway and river cleanups, manage invasive species, and enjoy protecting and paddling the Sangamon River. 

Vermilion County Conservation District

The Vermilion County Conservation District (VCCD) administers four county parks. You can join the Kickapoo crew, where volunteers may remove non-native plants, collect and broadcast prairie seeds, preserve and maintain trails, and more. 

Find the support you need from our local staff