What is the Missouri Master Naturalist Program?

The Missouri Master Naturalist Program is a chapter-based, community-based natural resource volunteer educational program sponsored by MU Extension and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Currently, 12 chapters have been organized across the state. MU Extension regional specialists and MDC resource professionals serve as chapter advisors in their respective areas. Volunteers can enroll in training that is conducted at the chapter level and can receive certification after completing 40 hours of basic training, eight hours of advanced training and 40 hours of volunteer service. Volunteers maintain certification by completing an additional eight hours of advanced training and 40 hours of approved volunteer service each year.

Master Naturalist chapters are currently located in Columbia, St. Charles, St. Louis, Washington, Joplin, Rolla, Springfield, Kansas City/Blue Springs, Camdenton/Lake of the Ozarks, Cole Camp, St. Joseph and Hannibal, Missouri. Submit your contact information to program coordinators listed below and we'll let you know when your nearest chapter is holding a training course. Or you can click on the link to various chapter websites for additional information. If you have an interest in helping start a Master Naturalist chapter in your community, contact your MU Extension Center or local Missouri Department of Conservation Office.

Basic training consists of a minimum of 40 hours of combined classroom and field experience. Educational programs include some of the traditional disciplines, such ornithology and botany, as well as instruction on important ecological concepts, wildlife biology, forest management and land use history. Other topics include an overview of Missouri eco-regions, natural resource management practices, interpretation and communication. Instructors come from local colleges or universities and state and federal agencies.

Advanced training provides eight hours of classroom and field experience that is focused on a particular area of interest. Advanced training is often conducted at the chapter level and supplemented by activities that are sponsored at the state level.

A statewide curriculum covers the basic training and learning objectives. Each participant is provided a file box full of natural resource educational materials.

Volunteer community service projects are usually conducted with a group of local partners that have been identified at the chapter level. Projects run the gamut and might include construction and maintenance of interpretive trails; prairie restorations; stream management; invasive species removal; exotic species control; collecting data for fish, wildlife and plant inventories; conducting natural resource programs for adult and youth audiences in the community; working with private landowners or community leaders in developing natural resource management plans; outdoor skills instruction; natural resource interpretation at nature and visitors centers; creating and maintaining naturescaping demonstration areas; and much more.

Within that framework, local chapter coordinating committees identify natural resource-related needs in the community. Volunteers can then design their own projects to meet those identified needs.

Once you are certified, it is your responsibility to maintain your certification. You are expected to stay active in the local chapter and attend meetings, take advantage of advanced training offered through the local chapter and keep accurate records of your service hours.

As a volunteer, you may not profit from your status or violate the policies, missions and goals of the sponsoring agencies that govern use of the master naturalist title.

Master Naturalist volunteers in a community organize into self-governing chapters, with MU Extension and MDC staff serving as chapter advisors.

The Missouri Master Naturalist program is a partnership of the Missouri Department of Conservation and University of Missouri Extension.

This is a self-supporting, fee-based program. Volunteers are expected to pay a registration fee that partially defrays the costs of conducting the program. Chapters may have additional nominal expenses that require fees or dues to support activities and events. Local partners also support the program by providing subject-matter expertise, making donations, supplying volunteer service opportunities and providing other in-kind services.

Contact our state coordinators for MDC and MU Extension:

Rebecca O'Hearn, Missouri Department of Conservation

Bob Pierce, Extension Wildlife Specialist at University of Missouri