News

What does a Mississippi Master Naturalist do?

By: Eric Sparks / Published: Aug 23,  2018

It’s almost time for the next coastal Mississippi Master Naturalist cohort to start their certification class. This year’s class begins on September 6th and there are a couple spots left! To register or inquire about the class, visit the Mississippi Master Naturalist website or email me.

I often get questions about the duties and activities for Master Naturalists, so I thought now would be a good time to highlight a couple projects or programs that Master Naturalists are helping with.

One of the largest events that Mississippi Master Naturalists help run is the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup. Nearly half of the 30+ Coastal Cleanup sites are currently run by Master Naturalists and that number grows every year. It’s a fair assumption to say that without the Master Naturalist program, the Coastal Cleanup wouldn’t exist at its current capacity. You don’t have to be a Master Naturalist to help with Coastal Cleanup and registration is currently open for the October 20th cleanup at the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup website.

Master Naturalist Randy Hines, left, mans the registration table on Front Beach in Ocean Springs during the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup 2016.
Master Naturalist Randy Hines, left, mans the registration table on Front Beach in Ocean Springs during the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup 2016.

Another event that Master Naturalists are integral in is the My Two Boots Program from the Pascagoula-Gautier School District. This event is co-run by the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and the Pascagoula-Gautier School District and focuses on educating youth about the importance and function of local wetlands. For this event, Master Naturalists educate at booths, act as tour guides and help with setup and breakdown. Basically, they help with everything!

Master Naturalists after educating children about wetlands at the My Two Boots Program in Gautier, Mississippi.
Master Naturalists after educating children about wetlands at the My Two Boots Program in Gautier, Mississippi.

The Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippi, often utilizes Master Naturalists for their education and outreach events, too. Some of the annual events they host include, but are not limited to BugFest, native plant field walks, and native plant sales. Master Naturalists run the full gamut of duties for these events too, from education to logistics.

The event-based Master Naturalist support is great, but it makes up a small portion of the service contribution of Master Naturalists. Participants often create their own service opportunities, such as contributing as citizen scientists to various research projects, volunteering for coastal restoration projects (e.g., living shorelines), mapping out trails and blueways, creating their own education programs and publications, and serving as advocates for environmental stewardship.

As you can see, it’s very difficult to explain what a typical Master Naturalist does, but one thing is for sure, Master Naturalists are integral for promoting sustainability through learning, applying, and educating others about environmental stewardship.

Last year alone, Mississippi Master Naturalists documented 3,177 volunteer service hours. Through these volunteer hours, participants reached or educated more than 54,554 people and directly improved 415 acres through stewardship activities.

If you are interested in being placed on the Master Naturalist waiting list or learning more about the program, contact me, an assistant professor with the MSU Extension Service and coastal ecology specialist with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, at eric.sparks@msstate.edu or 228-546-1025.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus