Thoughtful Thursdays: Becoming a "Master Naturalist"

Published February 28, 2013

On February 2, the National Aquarium and Living Classrooms Foundation welcomed 18 new trainees into the Maryland Master Naturalist Program. Volunteers from the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) and the Friends of Masonville Cove will work collaboratively to sharpen their outdoor skills and boost their knowledge of Maryland’s natural environment. The program's mission is to engage citizens as stewards of Maryland's natural ecosystems and resources through science-based education and volunteer service in their communities.

Throughout the program, Master Naturalist trainees will learn about various environmental topics in Maryland, specifically tailored to our coastal plains region and the Chesapeake Bay. Topics include ecology, flora and fauna, natural history, interpretation, and many more.

Master naturalists students learning how to properly identify local species of fish.

Master naturalist students learning how to properly identify local species of fish.

Upon completion of their training, Master Naturalists pledge to complete 40 hours of conservation-related volunteer work per year! The extensive training will give them the skills and knowledge to interpret natural settings for members of the public and hopefully inspire our community to conserve our natural resources.

Thus far, our volunteers have learned about interpretation, ecology, botany, science, and fish. Instructors range from nonprofit professionals, to Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologists, to biology professors from local universities. During the botany training, students learned about common plants in Maryland and how to identify them, and why all of the different Maryland species of plants are important. Perhaps most importantly, they discussed the common invasive plant species in Maryland, and how to help manage them. Trainees closely examined flowers to learn about plant parts, which can be useful when following a field guide to identify flora in the field.

The Aquarium’s first class of Master Naturalists will graduate in May and plans are in the works to host another training session in 2014! For more updates on our many conservation initiatives, click here to sign up for our Aquamail newsletter!

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