Master Naturalist orientation July 23, 28 in Springfield

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The Master Naturalist Program engages Ozarkers in the stewardship of our state's natural resources. Orientations for upcoming Master Naturalist classes will be held July 23 and July 28 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's Southwest Regional Office in Springfield.

The Master Naturalist Program engages Ozarkers in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources. Orientation for upcoming Master Naturalist classes will be held on two days, July 23 and July 28, at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Regional Office in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Protecting Missouri’s natural resources is an ongoing and challenging task. The challenge is made easier when private citizen groups – as well as state agencies – can provide education, outreach information, and services. That’s the idea behind Missouri’s Master Naturalist Program.

Individuals interested in learning more about this program can register for an upcoming training class that will be held Sept. 10 through Oct. 22 at the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Southwest Regional Office in Springfield at 2630 N. Mayfair Ave. Though the course doesn’t start until September, interested parties must attend one of two orientations that will be held 6:30 p.m. on July 23 and again on July 28 at the MDC Southwest Regional Office.

After attending this orientation, participants must register by Aug. 5 for the course, which is being conducted by the Springfield Plateau Master Naturalist Chapter. The Springfield Plateau Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalists organized in spring of 2006 with the first class of 28 graduating members. Now there are more than 100 volunteers who have completed training.

Master Naturalists are available as volunteers for a variety of environmental/conservation projects. Knowledgeable volunteers perform hands-on projects such as trail building, bird counts, stream monitoring and testing, native and threatened plant counts and rescues, as well as presentations and outdoor workshops on nature-related topics. Educational and hands-on assistance is available to all age and grade levels.

The Missouri Master Naturalist program mixes science with service. Master Naturalists engage Missourians in the stewardship of our state’s natural resources through science-based education and volunteer community service. The Master Naturalist program is a partnership between MDC and the University of Missouri Extension.

“The intent of the Master Naturalist Program is to better connect people to the environment and nature,” said MDC Volunteer and Interpretive Program Coordinator Syd Hime. “There are a lot of people with an interest in nature who are looking for opportunities to develop their skills as a naturalist and use those skills in volunteer service. We provide that through a community-based natural resource volunteer and education program.”

To become a Master Naturalist, individuals must receive training and contribute volunteer services. Once individuals receive Master Naturalist certification, they will be required to give 40 hours of service and complete eight hours of additional advanced training annually to maintain their certification.

For more information, call MDC Conservation Education Consultant Jay Barber at 417-895-6881, ext. 1643 or e-mail Jay.Barber@mdc.mo.gov. Details about the Master Naturalist Program can also be found at www.monaturalist.org

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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