Meet the 21 Newest Wisconsin Master Naturalists

You may meet some of them – the newly certified WIMNs – in Door County during the next year in the state parks, or assisting at the county’s other nature-oriented program centers and resources – mapping invasive species at The Clearing, maybe, or conducting oral history interviews for the Land Trust. Or maybe you ‘ll admire the efforts of these special volunteers in the improved bird display at Peninsula State Park nature center, or appreciate the geocaching linked to the new kiosks belonging to Door County Coastal Byways.

Jan Mills, a student in the Master Naturalist class, leads the other students along a trail at Shivering Sands, a Nature Conservancy area near Sturgeon Bay.

Jan Mills, a student in the Master Naturalist class, leads the other students along a trail at Shivering Sands, a Nature Conservancy area near Sturgeon Bay.

Wisconsin’s newest 21 Master Naturalists jumped into 2014 by making a real investment of their own dollars and considerable time in the stewardship of our natural resources.  They devoted 7 Fridays in January and February to the Wisconsin Master Naturalist course  – taking classes, doing homework, and heading out on a variety of field trips during one of the snowiest, coldest winters ever.

All the photos in this post are used courtesy of Master Naturalist course instructors Kathleen Harris and Karen Newbern.

These students earned the special certification they came for, but to keep it, they’ll spend the rest of 2014 accumulating 40 hours of volunteer service. Every year after – in order to remain a certified Master Naturalist – they’ll devote another 40 hours to service, and also add 8 additional hours of advanced training in protecting and teaching about the natural world.

The Wisconsin Master Naturalist program is a great example of ‘citizen science’ at work. Similar to the Wisconsin Master Gardner course, and to master naturalist courses in other states, WIMN is administered under the University of Wisconsin Extension’s Environmental Resources Center. The just-completed Door County class was a joint project of WIMN and The Clearing in Ellison Bay.

The Master Naturalist class in Door County, Winter 2014, pause during a field trip for a group photo.

The Master Naturalist class in Door County, Winter 2014, pause during a field trip for a group photo.

Here’s a brief snapshot – in statistics – of the class members:   as you might suspect some – 11 of them – are retired;  9 others are employed part-time or seasonally or at home, and 1 is full-time employed. All have had some college education; over half have graduate degrees. Five of them are in their 30’s, 4 in the 50’s, and 11 are over 60.

Conservation Warden Mike Neal shares “A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden” talk. He also covered confiscation of items related to rare and endangered species.

Conservation Warden Mike Neal shares “A Day in the Life of a Conservation Warden” talk. He also covered confiscation of items related to rare and endangered species.

“Be prepared to share and build on what you already know.” Those words were at the top of the syllabus the MN students used throughout the course, and I asked one of the course instructors, Kathleen Harris, for examples of what kind of experience her students brought with them. “The knowledge base was impressive,” she told me. “Class members included a professional horticulturist, DNR Customer Service supervisor, a Chinese herbalist (medicinal), raptor rehabilitator, organic gardener, pediatric gastroenterologist, reading and science specialist, school principal . .”

As part of the "lead a hike" learning exercise Vinni Chomeau shows the group a vole hole, and ice crystals in the tunnel.

As part of the “lead a hike” learning exercise Vinni Chomeau shows the group a vole hole, and ice crystals in the tunnel.

Class members also reported in a pre-class survey some of their own life experiences that inspired them to seek the MN certification. These included hiking, hunting, camping, and sailing all over Wisconsin; backpacking in the Kettle Moraine, doing prairie restoration with Wild Ones, helping with the Ice Age Trail, reading widely about  Wisconsin, and visiting the International Crane Foundation.

Kathleen Harris, who has been the naturalist at Peninsula State Park since 1998, lead the class along with Karen Newbern, another Door County naturalist. In addition to Kathleen and Karen, the class learned about wildlife, land and water issues, and plant identification from more than a dozen other experts.

Class member Cricket Lea “searches” for “food” as a “blind bear” in a classic Project WILD activity that helps students learn about carrying capacity - the largest number of a species that can exist long-term in a particular environment.

Class member Cricket Lea “searches” for “food” as a “blind bear” in a classic Project WILD activity that helps students learn about carrying capacity – the largest number of a species that can exist long-term in a particular environment.

Other experts included professionals from the WI Department of Natural Resources, from The Clearing and The Ridges, and the Door County Land Trust. They also learned from volunteer naturalists, a poet, and a photographer, and studied the very particular geology of Door County – the rocky Niagara Escarpment – with geologists Nick Peltier and Roger Kuhns.

Class members in a group activity demonstrate a particular species which the rest of the class must guess, based on only 5 clues provided by this group.

Class members in a group activity demonstrate a particular species which the rest of the class must guess, based on only 5 clues provided by this group.

The WIMN program began in the spring of 2013. The Badger and the Whooping Crane posted about it in November,  noting there were then 72 certified WI Master Naturalists across the state. Now there are 93. The program will grow fast in 2014. Courses are underway right now at Hartman Creek State Park near Waupaca, and Wehr Nature Center in Milwaukee County, and four more are already scheduled at various other locations around the state.

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2 thoughts on “Meet the 21 Newest Wisconsin Master Naturalists

  1. They do, don’t they? And it’s such a great program. So nice of you to stop here and leave a comment, Mary! And that reminds me, “Before I Forget” . . . I need to come visit, soon!

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