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 which includes volunteers from Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermillion counties.

Why Become a Master Naturalist?

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

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 2022 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 2023. 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 60 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.

Volunteer with Local Partners

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

Current volunteer openings are posted on the cuvolunteer.org website. Volunteer opportunities include trail stewardship, work days 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 the protection and restoration of 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 seed, 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 important 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 also join the Kickapoo crew in which volunteers may remove non-native plants, collect and broadcast prairie seeds, clear and maintain trails, and more. 

Master Naturalist Staff