Humanity for Habitat
the state. Their efforts contributed to a checklist for area visitors.
Value of Volunteering
As these examples illustrate, volunteer service projects provide educational opportunities as well as benefit many agencies and organizations in the members’ communities. Local partnerships are an important part of the program. Organizations and agencies that share a resource conservation mission support local chapters in a variety of ways. In return, they receive volunteer service.
Camp Brim Shire, a non-profit camp that serves disabled and disadvantaged youth, receives help from the Meramec Hills Chapter of Master Naturalists. Camp Director and Master Naturalist Richard Hashagen said chapter members assist clients during weekly fishing outings, and they have helped create a Braille trail for visually impaired campers.
The Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center is the beneficiary of a wide variety of volunteer activities provided by the Chert Glades Naturalists Chapter in Joplin.
The Conservation Department also benefits because volunteers help combat invasive species, assist with prairie restoration, conduct wildlife surveys and get involved with conservation education.
Being a Missouri Master Naturalist requires a real commitment of time and effort. Not everyone can fit such a commitment into their already busy lives, but for those who stick with it, the rewards are many.
Connie McCormack of the St. Charles Confluence Chapter said, “This is the first program I’ve been part of that has the potential to leave something of what I value behind when I am gone.”
Although a full-time working mother, Wrandi Thomas looks forward to the monthly meetings and projects. “The wonder of children has to be the best part,” she said. “They really listen and have a curiosity that some adults miss out on.”
Celeste Mazzacano of Columbia stays involved because it gives her the chance to keep learning new things, and it fits well with her personal values.
“And, it’s proactive,” she added. “The rain forests are disappearing, the glaciers are melting…What can one person do? A lot of people use that as an excuse to stay apathetic or uninformed, but if everyone out there planted a few native plants, yanked out a few invasives, created a few square feet of habitat, educated a few more people about the effect of impervious surfaces on urban streams, put up a few bat houses, cleaned up a few hundred yards of streams, dumped their unused crayfish bait back into the same creek they took them out of, things would be a whole lot better than they are.”
For Leslie Limberg of the St. Charles Confluence Chapter being a Master Naturalist is a way to preserve the future by carrying on a legacy of the past.
“Starting when I was 12 or so,” she said, “I regularly went bird hunting with my dad. The out-of-doors became my refuge. Walking in the tall grass I could ‘vanish’ in the face of something much greater than myself. The Master Naturalist program is a continuation of Dad’s legacy.”
Become a Master Naturalist
Master Naturalists are organized into local chapters. Visit www.monaturalist.org for more information and to find a chapter near you. The first step to becoming a Master Naturalist is to enroll in the 40-hour course. Courses are usually offered once a year by chapters, and course fees range from $75 to $100. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis and usually fill quickly.
Missouri Master Naturalist is a new program, and chapters are added each year. New chapters are started by members of a community who want to play an active role in making a difference in their local natural resources. Contact your local MDC or MU Extension office for more information on the chapter application process, or visit www.monaturalist.org to download the application for chapter charter.