Yesterday I finished the course I’ve been taking with the UW Extension. I am now a Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer. This means I have completed 40 hours of class time and worked on a final project (seed collecting and a presentation about it). Going forward, this means I need to complete 40 hours of service and 8 hours of further learning a year in order to retain the certification.
The volunteer categories are education, stewardship, and citizen science. I have led nature walks before, but I gravitate more toward stewardship because I like working with my hands and citizen science because the Christmas Bird Count, one of the most famous examples of citizen science, is a tradition in my family. For stewardship I would like to do more work with prairies, both with seed collecting and removal of invasive species. I’m also curious to see what some of the more outside-the-box opportunities there would be for me. As far as citizen science goes, I’m a big fan of species counts. I might even move beyond bird counts.
The love of nature in all my classmates, instructors, and guest lecturers was infectious. None of us were masters of all things natural. I’m a bird and snake guy. I know very little about plants and insects, but some people in the group knew a lot. Other people’s knowledge makes me want to up my own. I am suddenly way more interested in flowers and butterflies than I ever have been in my whole life. Who knows, maybe in a year or less I’ll make a post with several properly-identified butterfly species.
I’m thrilled to be a part of a program where I will volunteer frequently and get notifications about volunteer opportunities I would not otherwise be aware of. I love birding and hiking and all that, but when you’re working in nature you’re more of an active participant. This might sound cheesy, but I felt like I got to know the plants better when I was picking their seeds. It’s very similar to the feeling I get on the rare instances I go foraging or fishing.
I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to become a Master Naturalist volunteer and I’m excited to see where my skills and interests will lead. I should go out and buy some plant identification books and get started on new adventures.