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Become a Master Naturalist

The role of Master Naturalist falls in line with those who have an interest in beekeeping. Those who want to do their part to support the environment, to make extra strides on a personal level, can benefit from this course. The classes are geared for those with an interest in understanding ecosystems, helping with projects, and interacting with others of like mind.

Studies have shown that students who participated in the Master Naturalist classes came away feeling empowered to take action in benefiting their community and the local environment. Students reported that they could locate information and resources about:

  • Their local watershed.

  • Native plants.

  • Dominant local ecosystems.

Students felt they had skills necessary to help with local conservation efforts, including:

  • Local national resources decisions.

  • Community projects.

  • Discussing ecological planning processes.

They felt they could become leaders of local youth groups, hiking organizations, and could help with outreach programs such as signage and brochures. They also felt comfortable with the identification and removal of invasive species, to identify and help protect sensitive species, and to monitor land areas for recreational purposes.

Benefits of the course seem varied and worthwhile. Much as the survival of honeybees depends a great deal on beekeepers, the environment may come to depend on backyard naturalists.

The Master Naturalist course is sponsored by MSU. It is established through a series of six classes, typically held on Saturday mornings, beginning in April and running into September.

The classes are held in both Kent and Ottawa counties. Instructors are certified conservation professionals. The classes are conducted both indoors, and outdoors on foot through forest and sometimes boggy settings. Terrain can be rough on occasion.

According to the MSU brochure, “Students will be provided with a training notebook, books including Douglas Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home”, and resources appropriate for study. Students should wear appropriate clothing such as boots, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, long pants, etc. A camera, hand lens, field guides and binoculars may also prove helpful on lab walks. All classes will go on rain or shine.”

Kent County Master Naturalist Program:

  1. Overview of Conservation Theory and Practice

  1. Native Plants and Woodland Wildflowers

  1. Native Trees and Shrubs

  1. Michigan Wetland Habitats

  1. Prairie Environments

  1. Invasive Plant Species

Class locations vary. But all are centered around Grand Rapids, and will be conducted on foot through forest and sometimes boggy settings.

Ottawa County Master Naturalist Program:

  1. Overview of Conservation Theory and Practice

  1. Native Plants and Woodland Wildflowers

  1. Native Trees and Shrubs

  1. Lakes and Rivers

  1. Invasive Plant Species

  1. Dunes

All classes are located in Ottawa County Parks and Open Space properties.

Master Naturalist classes are similar to what is covered when one becomes a Master Gardener. Requirements are as follows:

  • Complete 25 hours of education

  • Complete 30 hours of volunteering in an approved conservation setting. These hours may be extended over a two-year period.

  • Pass a take home final exam with a score of 70% or higher.

The 2017 class is full, and a waiting list for the 2018 class is beginning already. Expect to pay around $215.00, which is the current year’s fee. Those with questions regarding the Master Naturalist program should contact Ginny Wanty at 616-632-7873 or

MSU offers some volunteer opportunities. For more information, contact Daniel Davis (616) 813-5659


Events MSU

MSU Kent County Waiting List

MSU: Kent County Gardening

Journal of Extension

Ecosystem Gardening

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