Look, Learn, Teach, Conserve
American Naturalist John Burroughs once wrote, “The best place to study nature is at one’s own home – on the farm, in the mountains, by the sea – wherever that may be.”
It is in this vein that several Milam County leaders offer a Texas Master Naturalist course. It is a training and volunteer program, similar yet different from the very successful Master Gardener course.
“Instead of learning about turf, plants, and gardening, you would learn about ecology, fish, and habitats,” explains Game Warden Mike Mitchell.
The program is a combination of instruction and volunteerism. After completing the class, which brings in experts on nature topics, volunteers would then be able to better manage their own properties from a Wildlife and Natural Resource conservation perspective, and serve as outreach educators to their neighbors, friends, family and local community.
“You provide the community with volunteer service in the form of educational activities, projects, or demonstrations,” summarized Milam County Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agent Jon Gersbach. Many volunteers become real experts in several areas of natural resources.
The Master Naturalist program covers a wide range of topics, including: plants, grasses, fauna, forests, wetlands, geology, soils, archeology, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, mammals, and ecological habitat management of everything natural. What areas are you interested in?
Our Chapter program started in the Fall of 2007 and graduated its first class in May 2008, a second class in May 2009, a third class in November 2010, a fourth in September 2012 and a fifth in February 2014. Classes involve either morning or evening classes for a total of about 40 hours, as well as numerous field trips. Upon completion of the course, volunteers are expected to provide 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of Advanced Training annually to become and maintain their “Certification” as Texas Master Naturalists.
“What better way to learn about nature, especially with superb-quality instruction, and then return that knowledge to the community,” remarked Assistant State Coordinator Sonny Arnold. There are presently 2,750 volunteers serving in 41 chapters around Texas.
The nonprofit program costs $150, primarily directed towards curriculum expenses.
Since its establishment in 1998 Texas Master Naturalist volunteer efforts have provided over 450,000 hours of service valued at more than $8 Million. This service has resulted in enhancing 75,000 acres of wildlife and native plant habitats; reaching more than 1.2 million youth, adults and private landowners. One member discovered a new plant species.
The program has gained international state and local recognition with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Presidents’ 2000 Award, the National Audubon Society’s 2001 Habitat Hero’s Award, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s 2001 Environmental Excellence Award and Texas A&M University’s 2001 Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Partnership and in 2005 the U. S. Department of Interior’s “Take Pride in America” award. Funding for the Texas Master Naturalist program is provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and Texas AgriLife Extension.
Those with further questions may contact the Texas AgriLife Extension Office in Cameron at 254-697-7045. The class size is limited in size to the first 20 paid completed applications (below); a criminal background check is required for volunteers.
Presentations and suggested readings.
Program Overview presentation, by Sonny Arnold, Class presentation Jan 13, 2009 – History and Overview of Master Naturalist Program. See Program Orientation Jan 2009
For Early Naturalists in Texas presentation, see
Suggested books by Sonny Arnold
1. Science on the Texas Frontier, by Dr. Gideon Lincecum. Also see A&M Bookstore summary on this book.
2. Roemer’s Texas, by Ferdinand Roemer, on Amazon.
3. Land of Bears and Honey, by Joe C. Truett and Daniel W. Lay. On Amazon.
4. The Handbook of Texas, by Ferdinand Lindheimer (the father of Texas Botany), and it’s sequel
5. The New Handbook of Texas (6 volume encyclopedia, 7000 pages, $395)
2013 Class Orientation presentation, by Jon Gersbach. Includes embedded voice and too large to upload. Stored on chapter PC.
Also, take a look at our Chapter Brochures here.