“Advancing conservation, building community, and connecting people to the wild heart of place.”

The Vermont Master Naturalist Program creates teams of naturalists with specific training in a town’s natural history across the earth, life and social sciences, who can understand and read the landscapes of the local conservation lands. The Vermont Master Naturalist Program began in Burlington in 2016 and is currently recruiting its fourth team of Burlington master naturalists.  In 2019, VMN is offering programing in eight towns across the Champlain Valley and central Vermont– Bristol 5 Towns, Burlington, Hinesburg, Richmond, South Burlington, South Hero, Williston and the Winooski Headwaters–with a total enrollment of over 130 people.  After teaching for thirty years in the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Master of Science Program, Alicia Daniel adapted her landscape-level ecological approach for use in communities. Alicia, the executive director of Vermont Master Naturalist, and other local experts provide training for the candidates.

Who: Ten to fifteen residents with a sustained interest and background in at least one natural history discipline are chosen to participate via application. VMN coordinators work with local conservation organizations and municipalities to build a base of local support and sponsorship for programs and projects.

What: Through a series of field trips to key natural areas, VMN candidates will explore the processes that shape a landscape and learn a timescale for the major events that created the landscapes seen in the region today. Candidates will spend time on each site exploring the geology, soils, plants and animals, human land use history, disturbance processes, and management concerns. In addition, each Vermont Master Naturalist candidate will have an outside practice designed to deepen his or her naturalist skills of observation and description.

Why: Developing ecological literacy isn’t just exciting and fun–it’s also an important community resource. A community of naturalists can help solve ecological issues facing our wild lands and serve as resources for conservation education in schools and communities.

When: Field trip dates are five weekend days from September to May usually from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Candidates will also attend 3 or more public walks or other natural history events during the year.

Volunteer Contract:  Upon completion of the 30 hours of training, VMN candidates will design team projects to engage with schools and/or community members totaling at least 20 hours per person. The volunteer projects will be created in collaboration with local organizations with the goal to address specific needs in conservation education and/or stewardship. Upon completing the program, Vermont Master Naturalists will continue to serve in an advisory capacity for as long as they choose and will receive ongoing advice and support for their naturalist practices and activities.

Cost and deadline to apply: The fee for the year-long training is $425, collected after a candidate is accepted into the program. VMN candidates may qualify for grants from VSAC through their non-degree grant program to assist with program costs.

For more information and application information, email Alicia Daniel at: adaniel@uvm.edu

Banner photo by Monica Erhart