Coastal stewardship training increases knowledge, facilitates environmentally focused volunteer service
Many environmentally conscious individuals are eager to learn more about their local flora and fauna and would like to participate in environment-based volunteer service opportunities, but these opportunities are often difficult to find.
The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program was formed with the mission of developing an organization of knowledgeable volunteers to help promote conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources through education, outreach and service within their communities.
In 2016, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program held a basic training course for the program’s coastal chapter and certified 13 individuals. According to pre- and post-test assessments, the participants’ environmental knowledge improved an average of 10 percent. Post-course evaluations showed that 100 percent of the students gained knowledge, 100 percent of the students intended to apply their newly gained knowledge and 100 percent of the students gained knowledge about collaborating with resource professionals. Total cost of the Master Naturalist course (with CEUs) is $240 and completion of the course qualifies participants for 4 CEU credits ($60 per CEU). A similar plant ID course offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service costs $1,195 and is worth 3 CEUs ($398.33 per CEU). Based on the comparison between the two programs on a per CEU basis, the Mississippi Master Naturalist program offered $17,593.16 in comparable savings. In 2016, program participants documented 2,090 volunteer service hours valued at $40,776 and reached or educated more than 28,000 people. One student learned about conservation easements during the training and conserved 20 acres of her property for future generations.
The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program has increased the awareness of environmental issues in Mississippi and Alabama while providing volunteer service to environmental activities. (2016)