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Volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginians conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. Introductory Class Objectives. Describe what a Master Naturalist volunteer is

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Volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginians conserve and manage natural resources and public lands

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Volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginians conserve and manage natural resources and public lands

Introductory Class Objectives

  • Describe what a Master Naturalist volunteer is

  • Identify and communicate the mission and goals of the Master Naturalist program and what makes it unique from other volunteer programs in Virginia

  • Identify and communicate the requirements and responsibilities of a Virginia Master Naturalist

  • Be familiar with the expected standards of conduct for Master Naturalists and the applicable laws and ethical issues relating to wildlife educators and researchers

  • Understand the role of learning as a lifelong pursuit

  • Understand the many possible options for volunteer service projects, including citizen science, education/interpretation, and stewardship projects


The Virginia Master Naturalist program is a statewide corps of volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

3100 trainees

1300+ active volunteers

>400,000 hours ($9.4 M) of service

Virginia Master Naturalist Sponsors

Sponsored by 6 agencies:

Also supported by:

VA Department of Forestry

Protects 15.8 million acres of forest land from fire, insects and disease.

Manages 17 State Forests and other state lands totaling 47,899 acres for timber, recreation, water, research, wildlife and biodiversity.

Assists non-industrial private forest landowners through professional forestry advice and technical management programs.


VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Manages Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth

Provides opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation; to promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing.


VA Department of Conservation and Recreation

  • Works with Virginians to conserve, protect, and enhance their lands and improve the quality of the Chesapeake Bay and our rivers and streams, promotes the stewardship and enjoyment of natural, cultural and outdoor recreational resources, and insures the safety of Virginia's dams.

  • State Parks

  • Soil and Water Conservation

  • Natural Heritage Program

  • Dam safety and floodplain management

  • Land conservation

  • Recreation planning

  • Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance


Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

  • Protects and improves the environment for the well-being of all Virginians.

  • Administers state and federal laws and regulations for air quality, water quality, water supply and waste management.

  • Houses the Office of Environmental Education.

  • DEQ issues permits, conducts inspections and monitoring, and enforces regulations and permits

Virginia Museum of Natural History

  • Interprets Virginia's natural heritage within a global context in ways that are relevant to all citizens of the Commonwealth.

  • Maintains a state museum to provide a repository of the state’s natural heritage

  • Investigates natural history of Virginia and the world


Virginia Cooperative Extension

  • Enables people to improve their lives through an educational process that uses scientific knowledge focused on issues and needs.

  • A joint program among:

    • Virginia’s land grant universities (Virginia Tech and Virginia State)

    • United States Department of Agriculture

    • State and local governments

  • Program Areas:

  • agriculture and natural resources

  • 4-H youth development

  • family and consumer sciences

  • community viability


ChaptersLed by volunteer officers and committee chairs

Made up of certified Virginia Master Naturalists and individuals working towards certification

Chapter Advisor

Local representative of one of the 5 sponsoring agencies


Leads program development, supports operations of program, provides a central source for program information

Local Partners

Providing training and volunteer opportunities

Executive Committee

Represents the sponsoring agencies and makes final decisions about policy, personnel, and budget.

Steering Committee

Develops program policies and advises program operations. Approves chapter activities.

Program Structure

Virginia Master Naturalist Chapters

  • 29 chapters around the state

Program Structure

  • Master Naturalists are part of a local team, or “chapter” that is volunteer-run.

  • Participating in chapter governance, organization, and activities is an important part of being a Virginia Master Naturalist volunteer.

  • Master Naturalists are also part of a larger statewide structure. They must adhere to statewide policies and keep records of their service to report back to the state (via the chapter’s record keeper).

Volunteers and chapter advisors meet together at the 2006 New Chapter Coordinators’ Training

Certification Process

Basic Training40 hoursClassroom and field experiencesNatural history, conservation and management, teaching and research skillsLed by local experts


Advanced Training8 hoursSpecialized topics that build on basic trainingRequired annually to maintain certification


Volunteer Service40 hoursEducation, citizen science, or stewardshipRequired annually to maintain certification


Certified Virginia Master Naturalist

Mission, objectives, and guidelines of the program

Significance of naturalists and natural history

Biogeography of Virginia

Ecology (basic concepts)

Geology (basic concepts)

Resource management (basic principles)

Some native flora and fauna in the region

Process of science

Roles of Virginia state agencies in the management and conservation of natural resources

A Virginia Master Naturalist Knows…

Use a key to identify organisms

Use a field guide

Share knowledge with others

Make and record observations in nature

Recognize when he or she does not know the answer to a question, but be able to seek out answers from people, books, or other reliable resources

A Virginia Master Naturalist Can…

Advanced Training-Objectives

  • Promotes continued learning and development of naturalist skills

  • Provides knowledge and skills necessary to work in local volunteer efforts

  • Provides an opportunity to focus interests

  • Builds on the core curriculum initially provided

  • Provides information on natural resources and resource management applicable to VA

  • May be 8 hours of one training, or a series of shorter trainings


Citizen Science


Minimum of 40 hours to maintain certification

Must be dedicated to the beneficial management of the natural resources within the local community

Must be for public benefit, not personal gain

May be a series of short, unrelated experiences, a long-term commitment to single project, or a mix

Can be conducted independently or as a team

Can be part of an existing partner project, a new project developed by the volunteer, or a class project

Volunteer Service Project Guidelines

For volunteers spending time on chapter organization!

Volunteer Service: Administrative

  • Examples:

  • planning and supervising VMN training classes,

  • serving as a board or committee member,

  • working on a chapter newsletter,

  • communication efforts,

  • other activities that support the effectiveness of the chapter and statewide program

Note: Local Chapters, at their discretion, may limit the number of such hours credited to an individual’s annual volunteer requirement.

For volunteers who enjoy public speaking or working with youth!

Volunteer Service: Education

  • Examples:

  • Being a volunteer interpreter at a state or local park

  • Developing an interpretive trail

  • Being a guest presenter on a natural resource topic in a classroom

For volunteers who enjoy helping with scientific research!

Volunteer Service: Citizen Science

  • Examples:

  • Recording data for the VA Wildlife Mapping program

  • Participating in a Christmas Bird Count

  • Conducting water quality monitoring

  • Organizing biodiversity inventory of a local park

For volunteers who just want to get their hands dirty!

Volunteer Service: Stewardship

  • Examples:

  • Maintaining trails at a state park

  • Pulling out exotic invasive plants and planting natives at a nature center

  • Restoring bird-friendly habitat at a local park

Stay in touch with the Virginia Master Naturalist Program!





Alycia Crall

Virginia Master Naturalist Program Coordinator

[email protected]



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