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Master Naturalists train 15 new environmental steward volunteers

Master Naturalists welcome 15 new environmental steward volunteers
Photos: New East Central Illinois Master Naturalist graduates (left to right) Ann and Bob Burger, Matthew Hausman, Greg Schroeder, Walter Hurley, Larissa Post, Joseph Anthony, Robert Taylor, Ellen Baranowski, Charlie Smyth, and David Subers.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The East Central Illinois Master Naturalists welcomed 15 new volunteers to their ranks on May 15.

Joseph Anthony, Ellen Baranowski, Theresa Benson, Christine Bidner, Margaret Briskin, Ann Burger, Bob Burger, Adam Casario, Matthew Hausman, Walter Hurley, Larissa Post, Greg Schroeder, Charlie Smyth, David Subers, and Robert Taylor successfully completed 11 weeks of training to better share their passion about the environment with their communities.

Experts from University of Illinois and environmental partners led the first hybrid version of this training, including 24 hours in the field, 28 hours of study from home, and 12 hours of group discussion to cover the prairie state’s natural history and environmental issues.

“Each class is unique, but this year was a totally new experience and we learned a lot from each other,” says Amanda Christenson, Illinois Extension East Central Illinois Master Naturalist program coordinator. “I am so excited to see our class enter the volunteer workforce and make an impact through stewardship, citizen science, outreach, and leadership activities. We are proud to welcome them to the East Central Illinois Master Naturalists”

The Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program is designed for adults who want to have a positive impact on their community by serving as an environmental steward and naturalist.

Now that they have completed their training, the new volunteers will work toward completing 60 hours of service over the next two years with partner organizations such as Champaign County Forest Preserve, Vermilion County Conservation District, Upper Sangamon River Conservancy, and Grand Prairie Friends. Much of our work falls along corridors on the Vermilion and Sangamon Rivers, plus the Kickapoo Rail Trail and a few protected prairies here and there. We also strive to increase biodiversity in urban areas within our region, which includes Ford, Iroquois, Vermilion, and Champaign Counties.

To learn more about the Master Naturalist program or if you’re interested in signing up for the next training, go online to

SOURCE: Amanda Christenson, East Central Illinois Master Naturalist coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes.