The program for adults develops a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide outreach, education, and service dedicated to natural resources conservation within their local communities.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) works to sustain healthy forests, fish, and wildlife. But the Department relies on citizen science, private landowners, and community engagement to further these efforts which benefit all Missourians. That’s the idea behind Missouri’s Master Naturalist program.

The program for adults develops a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide outreach, education, and service dedicated to natural resources conservation within their local communities.

The Lake of the Ozarks Master Naturalist Chapter will hold a Master Naturalist training orientation 6 - 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at the MDC office in Camdenton. To register for this orientation, call 573-346-2210.

Attendance at this orientation event is mandatory to take part in the Missouri Master Naturalist training, which begins Feb. 28. Training classes will take place 6 - 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Feb. 28 – May 23, at the MDC office in Camdenton. The training will also include three Saturday field sessions.

In addition to attending the orientation session, individuals must also register for the Feb. 28 – May 23 training. Registration closes Jan. 30, but class size is limited and early registration is encouraged. Enrollment costs $100.

The Missouri Master Naturalist program mixes science with service, engaging Missourians in stewardship of the state’s natural resources through science-based education and volunteer community service. The program is a partnership between MDC and the University of Missouri Extension.

“The intent of the Master Naturalist program is to better connect people to the environment and to nature,” said MDC Volunteer and Interpretive Coordinator Syd Hime. “There are a lot of people with an interest in nature who are looking for opportunities to develop their skills as naturalists and use those skills in volunteer service. We provide that through a community-based natural resource volunteer and education program.”

Master Naturalists receive specialized training regarding nature in the region where chapters are based. Members help MDC and conservation partners through citizen science, educational programs, and stewardship projects. To become a certified Master Naturalist, participants must complete an initial training course and eight hours of advanced training. They must also contribute 40-hours of natural resource-related volunteer service through a local chapter.

For more information about the Lake of the Ozarks Chapter’s training, contact MDC Private Land Conservationist Jodi Moulder at Jodi.Moulder@mdc.mo.gov, or 573-346-2210.

Information about the Missouri Master Naturalist program is available at extension.missouri.edu/masternaturalist/. For information about all MDC volunteer opportunities, visit mdc.mo.gov.