It's not too late to decide whether or not to join the Missouri Master Naturalists (MMN) in their ninth training course program. Wednesday June 14, the Meramec Hills Chapter of the MMN will host their orientation for the 12 week program in the Mozarkite Conference Room in the Department of Natural Resources Land Survey building, here in Rolla, from 6 to 8 p.m.

It’s not too late to decide whether or not to join the Missouri Master Naturalists (MMN) in their ninth training course program. Wednesday June 14, the Meramec Hills Chapter of the MMN will host their orientation for the 12 week program.

The program is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and University of Missouri Extension. Each week, the courses cater to those who are passionate about conservation in their local area and want to engage with our natural resources.

According to Lorely Lather, the local organization’s co-chairman of core training, the training comes in two layers, teaching not only the material but how to apply it as they also educate others about the various conservation projects in the area. At the end of 12 weeks, graduates from the program will be able to walk into any of these projects and confidently begin volunteering.

“Most of the land in Missouri that needs conservation is privately owned,” said Lather. “So this is their (MDC’s) layman force. Lots of people that join the program own a little bit of land, so it helps them learn how to take care of their land and gets conservation out to the people.”

The training covers a vast area of conservation, including geology, grassland ecology, botany, wetlands and insects. Each class goes over a different type of conservation and welcomes local experts from the area. Lather herself will be teaching one of the first classes, teaching volunteers how to take proper notes on their work and how to journal their experiences on the job.

“After 12 weeks and over 20 speakers on local conservation, three field-trips and a project, you enter volunteering as a well-informed, enthusiastic person,” said Lather.

Graduates are issued an official Master Naturalist certificate by MDC and are ready to begin helping with the many projects around the area. Some of these projects that people will have the opportunity to learn about are the Audubon Trails Nature Center, the Outdoor Classroom & Forest Keepers, the Stream Team, and many more according to Lather.

The initial orientation will cover an overview of the program, led by Statewide Coordinator Syd Hime and Chapter President John Murphey. There will also be a social time where potential classmates can get to know each other. Representatives from the MDC Stream Team and the Audubon Trails Nature Center, as well as Camp Brim Shire and Citizen Science will be there as well. Each of these are possible volunteer areas for program graduates.

The class size is limited, but Lather said it’s still not too late to sign up and welcomes anyone interested in attending the orientation. The orientation and classes will each take place in the Mozarkite Conference Room in the Department of Natural Resources Land Survey building here in Rolla, from 6 to 8 p.m..
    
The orientation is free, and enrollment for the 12 course program is $100.

After leaving the program, Master Naturalists are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work and 8 hours of additional training each year to keep their certification. The training can be obtained through the regular meetings held by the Meramec Hills Chapter on the 4th Monday of each month. These meetings are held in the same room as the courses and draw in a wide range of people.

“It’s (the program) really stepping into a network of conservation,” said Lather.