The Kanawha Valley Chapter of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Program is accepting new members to become certified Master Naturalists.
The West Virginia Master Naturalist Program, through coursework, volunteer opportunities and networking, lets individuals increase their knowledge and appreciation of the natural world while helping their communities and the environment.
Training is offered in a wide range of specialties in the fields of natural history and environmental education. Topics include: mushrooms, wildflowers, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, habitats, geology, fossils, nature interpretation and teaching, and more, all from a West Virginia perspective.
Coursework plus volunteer time qualify the trainee for certification as a West Virginia Master Naturalist.
Master Naturalists help construct and maintain nature trails, lead interpretive walks at state parks, assist biologists with research and give presentations to schoolchildren and other groups. They will learn the best ways to enhance wildlife habitat and how to apply this knowledge and share it with others.
To be certified, individuals must complete 64 hours of classroom and field training (48 hours of core classes and 16 hours of electives). Participants must also complete 30 hours of volunteer work. To maintain certification, eight hours of training and 16 hours of volunteer time are required each year.
“The concept of the Master Naturalists began in San Antonio, Texas, in 1996, when the administrations of the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and the Department of Texas Parks and Wildlife sought to establish a corps of volunteers to support their natural education outreach,” Kanawha Valley Master Naturalist Program Chapter Coordinator Becky Linger explained. “The initial group modeled the program after the Master Gardener Program that was well established.
“From those humble beginnings,” Linger said, “the program spread to include 48 chapters across Texas. Word of the successful volunteer outreach spread nationwide and now over 35 states have Master Naturalist chapters.”
Linger said the development of West Virginia’s Master Naturalist Program got underway in 2003, evolving through a partnership among the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, including the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section’s Wildlife Diversity Program and the Parks and Recreation Section; the West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service, the Canaan Valley Institute and Davis and Elkins College.
“The first West Virginia Master Naturalist training session was held over the weekend of April 30-May 2, 2004, at Hawks Nest State Park in Fayette County, with a class of 20 students and continued quarterly at different West Virginia state parks,” said Linger, who also is a professor of Medicinal Chemistry at UC.
Local chapters were established across the state and currently the program has eight active chapters, located in Charleston, Fayetteville, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Elkins, Wheeling, Davis and Shepherdstown.
“Statewide, the West Virginia Master Naturalists number over 1,000,” Linger said. “The Charleston chapter, the Kanawha Valley Master Naturalists, has a membership of over 300 volunteers. Master Naturalists can be seen leading nature walks in Kanawha State Forest in the spring with the Osbra Eye Wildflower Walks — this year’s walk will be on April 18, starting at 9 a.m. — and the Margaret Denison Fall Nature Walks, which are held on the third Saturday in September.
“The program also works with state parks in invasive species removal and educational outreach programs. They also hold educational programs for the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and the Kanawha County Schools,” she said.
For more information and to receive application forms, contact Rebecca Linger at email@example.com or 304-357-4998.
Additional information pertaining to the Master Naturalist program in West Virginia is posted online at mnofwv.org.