Master Naturalist program offered

Published 8:55 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

by Janet Spencer

Are you interested in native animals, plants and insects? Want to be a better steward of the land?

Then consider becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist. The 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. This program is perfect for people who are curious about nature, enjoy the outdoors and want to be a part of natural resource management and conservation in Virginia.

The Virginia Master Naturalist program is a partnership among Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Virginia Museum of Natural History.

The statewide program has 30 chapters with more than 1,000 volunteers. To date, these volunteers have reached more than 130,000 people through educational programs for parks, community groups and schools.

Recently, the program received the 2011 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. This annual award recognizes the significant contributions of environmental and conservation leaders across the state.

The process for becoming a certified Master Naturalist typically takes six to 12 months. One starts by completing a 40-hour basic training course offered by a local chapter. An additional eight hours of advanced training is also required. An important part of the certification process is the required 40 hours of volunteer service.

The Historic Southside Chapter is a newly formed chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program includes Isle of Wight, Surry, Sussex and Southampton counties, as well as the City of Franklin. Training for this chapter will begin in August and finish in October.

Classes will be held 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The course will be composed of seven classes for a total of 17 hours.

Several field trips also will be held to supplement course work. The cost of the course is $100 and includes all materials.

Possible service projects for the Historic Southside Chapter include establishment of a native-plant garden, assisting with interpretive signage at Windsor Castle Park, and assisting with the building of a nature trail behind the Isle of Wight Courthouse.

Registration for the upcoming certification training with the Historic Southside Chapter will be taking place through the end of June. Space is limited, so register soon. The Master Naturalist Program is open to all adults regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status.

For more information, contact me at 365-6256 or email Terri Cuthriell at

JANET SPENCER is the agricultural and natural resources extension agent in Isle of Wight County. She can be reached at