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

Do you love nature? Do you care about protecting what’s special about Vermont? Are you curious? Do you like being part of a community of learners? If your answers are “Yes!” you now have a chance to become a Vermont Master Naturalist.

Here is a link to a recent article about VMN:  https://www.valleyreporter.com/index.php/news/local-news/15251-half-way-through-vermont-master-naturalist-s-inaugural-offering-in-the-valley

IMG_7073The Vermont Master Naturalist Program (VMN) began in Burlington in 2016 and has since expanded into 18 towns in Vermont. VMN is led by Alicia Daniel who, after 30 years of teaching in the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Master of Science Program, adapted the landscape-level approach to understanding ecosystems developed at UVM to help Vermont residents gain new insights into of the nature around them and encourage use of their learning in conservation efforts in their communities.  Vermont is rich with cultural heritage and natural habitat ranging from montane forests to dry oak hilltops & floodplain forests. Vermont Master Naturalist “classrooms” are special locations with stories to tell, like wildlife corridors, woodlands of wildflowers, stone walls and cellar holes, and the ever-meandering banks of our rivers.

Vermont Master Naturalist (VMN) starts with a team of 10-15 people passionate about natural history and willing to share knowledge of a related discipline.

With this team, VMN staff, and the help of guest experts, we will tell the story of the area’s unique natural history in 5 field days, with each day building on the others. Topics may include geology, glacial history, wildlife ecology, human settlement history, botany, natural communities, and more, all emphasizing “reading” the landscape of the Champlain Valley and lower slopes of the Green Mountains.

As the team gains knowledge, they begin to give back. VMN will work with local groups to identify projects that fill community needs. We partner with conservation commissions, land trusts, river conservancies, schools, and diverse other groups. Past VMN projects have included
o School programs
o Public nature walks
o Riparian restoration
o Wildlife monitoring
…and many others!

Projects are generally designed by partner entities with guidance from VMN, to be further honed by candidates. Small teams of participants work together, with each individual contributing at least 20 hours to the project. VMN will make every effort to assign candidates to projects based on their experience, interest, and personal preference.

Because participants share knowledge and passion for our local place, they often become a close-knit team of naturalists, with connections that extend well beyond the 5 field days. This community can then act as a brain trust for solving on-going local ecological issues and serving as resources for conservation education in our communities. Upon completion of the program, Vermont Master Naturalists can also opt to receive ongoing advice and support from VMN for their naturalist practices and activities. Here is a 2021 storymap showing the layer cake approach to teaching:  https://arcg.is/11bu8u.

Developing and sharing 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.

     “The Vermont Master Naturalist Program builds community and connects Vermonters to their home through professional training & local volunteer projects,” said Alicia Daniel. “VMN engages more people in planning and conservation of their special wild places.”

The fee for the year-long training is $625, collected after a candidate is accepted into the program. VMN candidates may qualify for a grant from Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) through their Advancement Grant to cover program costs.

For more information or an application, email Alicia Daniel at: alicia@vermontmasternaturalist.org

Banner photo by Monica Erhart; winter photo by Mary Letourneau.