Serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion Counties

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 environment. 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,
  • and learn from and work side-by-side with experts.

To become a Certified Master Naturalists, you must complete 60 hours of field and classroom training which is offered each fall. During and after training, you may begin working on the 60 hours of volunteer service required to complete your Master Naturalist internship. You have 24 months to complete your internship and become a certified Master Naturalist. To remain certified, an additional 30 hours volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education should be performed and reported annually.

    The East-Central Illinois Master Naturalist (ECIMN) Program, established in 2005, is coordinated by University of Illinois Extension serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. This local chapter is sponsored by Champaign County Forest Preserve District, Urbana Park District and Champaign Park District. Our current team of 160 Master Naturalists have contributed over 14,000 hours of service valued at about $300,000 to Central Illinois in 2018 alone. The East-Central Illinois program exists within the framework of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. 

    Policies and bylaws of the East Central Illinois Master Naturalist program.

    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.

    Since the establishment of the East-Central Illinois Master Naturalist program in 2005, 391 residents have become active Master Naturalists. Volunteer efforts have provided over 83,000 hours of service valued at more than $1,743,000 to East-Central Illinois.

    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

    What Does the Training Involve?

    Training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a three-month period and are led by expert educators in the region. Approximately 60 hours of classroom instruction and field study and 60 hours of volunteer internship work are required to complete the program and become certified. In order to remain a certified Master Naturalist, 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education or advanced training are required each year.

    You become a Master Naturalist by applying to the program, going through background checks, being accepted into a class, completing the training, and providing volunteer hours to the Master Naturalist program.The Master Naturalist Program is eligible for CPDU credits. 

    1. Check the latest training schedule (schedule is similar in timing once a year)
    2. Apply for the program online
    3. Attend an orientation meeting and submit required documentation below
    4. Complete payment and receive payment
    5. Attend Master Naturalist Training
    6. Complete and report 60 hours of volunteer internship

    Required Documents


    To develop an expanding corps of well-educated volunteers to provide service and support for partnering organizations in the conservation, restoration, management, and interpretation of natural resources and natural areas in East Central Illinois.

    Goal 1:

    Offer Master Naturalist educational programs and materials that provide classroom and field based training on the environmental and cultural resources of East Central Illinois.

    Goal 2:

    Cultivate volunteers to serve as educators and community ambassadors for environmental initiatives; as stewards in the management of natural resources in East Central Illinois; and as stakeholders who will perpetuate the Master Naturalist Program.


    1. Continue Master Naturalist Program development through web assistance, newsletter development, and Advisory Board service.
    2. Offer assistance in developing new and enhancing existing environmental education offerings to the community.
    3. Provide assistance with the stewardship of regional natural resources.
    4. Act as ambassadors who expand community awareness of environmental activities and initiatives.

    Goal 3:

    Facilitate cooperation and collaboration among partnering groups and agencies.


    1. Attain representation from local conservation and cultural resource groups on ECIMN Advisory Board.
    2. Identify and approve service projects with partnering groups.

    Volunteer Locally