Life-changing. A bucket list experience. Eye-opening.
Participants in the Wisconsin Master Naturalist program rave about their training experience and what it has meant to them personally.
The Master Naturalist program celebrated 10 years of training, volunteer networking, and recognition by finishing 2023 with record breaking numbers for number of trainings (18), number of participants (307), and number of volunteer hours (61,497) provided in support of Wisconsin’s natural world, which exceeded last year’s 50,144 hours. To date, Master Naturalists have provided a total of 290,028 hours of volunteer service – that’s equivalent to 139 full-time jobs!
Planning efforts to develop the 40-hour training focusing on a broad understanding of geology, ecology, wildlife, plant communities, water, aquatic life, human connections, and environmental education featured two pilot trainings in 2012. The training focuses on outdoor learning experiences that provide motivation to volunteer.
“It’s great to be in a program where I can be out in nature doing something that so clearly not only benefits my own well-being, but potentially benefits everyone else as well,” said Stanley King, Master Naturalist.
Since 2013, this University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension-led effort has coordinated 109 Master Naturalist volunteer trainings with partners from all around the state.
The Extension-trained instructors at these local nature centers, parks, “friends of” groups, and other organizations create unique local learning opportunities following the statewide training materials for adults who are interested in lifelong learning and volunteer service.
“I love being a Wisconsin Master Naturalist,” said Maggie Honig, Master Naturalist. “It brings me so much joy and hope for the future, knowing that there are so many people who care about the natural world and who dedicate so much time and effort toward education and stewardship. This is important work, and it’s wonderful to be a part of this community!”
The Master Naturalist experience begins with the 40-hour training and continues into the lives of participants as they embark on their own volunteer journey with over 1,000 nature-based organizations and efforts across the state in need of volunteers.
Master Naturalists also embrace lifelong learning as they continue to pursue 8 hours of advanced training each year.
The Master Naturalist program truly embodies the Wisconsin Idea reaching across the entire state and increasing both awareness and action in our natural world.
According to Tom Finley, Master Naturalist Instructor, “The Master Naturalist program is a tremendous asset to our state and a wonderful way to offer people meaningful engagement opportunities in the realm of natural resource conservation.”
In addition to providing training materials and program administration, the program has co-hosted two statewide conferences, called the “Summit for Natural Resources Volunteers,” and developed the Great Lakes Trek, an online learning opportunity about the land, water, life, and people of the state’s bordering Great Lakes.
The program has received statewide recognition from the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education and multiple national awards from the Alliance for Natural Resources Outreach Programs (ANROSP). Most recently, Master Naturalist Greg Burns and the state program were recognized for ANROSP’s 2023 outstanding volunteer project.
Looking ahead, the program will release new training materials for the 2024 season. Added to the core subject areas are sections on weather and climate, natural history, the three areas of Master Naturalist volunteer service (citizen science, education, and stewardship) and a section devoted to fostering the sense of community in the Master Naturalist network. Plans are also underway for the next Summit which will be held in the fall of 2024.
Registration for 2024 trainings open on January 8, 2024 at 9:00am. Learn more about the program and training opportunities at www.wimasternaturalist.org or email email@example.com.