Wisconsin Master Naturalist Courses

The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program offers three types of training opportunities:

1. Volunteer Training –

The Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Course is a 40-hour series of classes and field trips. The course curriculum is set by the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Statewide Office and covers these topics: geology, ecology, plant communities, wildlife, interpretation, water, water life, and human impacts. Course materials-provided by the Statewide Office-present a consistent, statewide perspective on Wisconsin's natural resources, ecological processes, and conservation issues. To get started, a WIMN volunteer must take the 40-hour training course. Then, each year, the naturalist volunteer must complete 40 hours of service and eight hours of advanced training to maintain the certification.

Course details:

  • Maximum course size is 20 and the minimum is 10 participants.
  • Course schedules (such as daily vs. weekly classes) vary to fit the needs of both instructors and students.
  • Training includes classroom learning, field trips, and opportunities to practice new skills through hands-on learning and capstone projects.
  • Participants must complete 40 hours of training during the course. Only one class/course (2.5 hours) may be missed. Participants and the instructor must agree on a strategy to make-up a missed class. The field trips are unique and, therefore, cannot be missed. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the instructor in case of an emergency.
  • The participant fee is $275. All class materials are provided and included in the participant fee.
  • There is no final exam.
  • Course registration is coordinated through the statewide office.

Find a Volunteer Training Course near you and register online. If there is not a course currently available nearby, please email us with your contact information to be added to our course notification list. We'll notify you when a course is being offered within a reasonable commute.

2. Instructor Training –

The Instructor Training Course is a two-day workshop, which provides step-by-step instructions on how to organize, teach, and administer the Volunteer Training Course. It also provides a tutorial on how to access and use the wimasternaturalist.org website tools to help administer the course.

The fee to attend the Instructor Course is $75. Your host organization must agree to provide your course fee, lodging and travel expenses for you to attend.

Teaching the Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Course is a large commitment. In addition to the 40-hour, in-class commitment, there are pre-course organizational tasks and post-course administrative tasks. We, therefore, encourage host organizations to train at least two staff people, or to partner with nearby host organizations, to provide volunteer courses. Having co-instructors keeps the course moving more smoothly if there is an unforseen or extenuating event, such as an illness, and makes the time commitment more manageable.

If you're interested in becoming an Instructor, find more information, including a description of responsibilities and application guidelines on the WIMN instructor page.  We will post Instructor Training Courses on this site as we schedule them.

3. Advanced Training Courses –

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers must participate in 8 hours of advanced training each year to remain certified. The goal of advanced training is to help Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers increase understanding of Wisconsin’s ecosystems and natural history. Learning new material helps volunteers grow and helps to keep them engaged over time.

Wisconsin Master Naturalist advanced trainings need to 1) focus on an aspect of Wisconsin’s natural or environmental cultural history and 2) be a formal training or class. Most training activities will occur in Wisconsin and will have an outdoor, experiential component.

Examples include:

  • Project WET, WILD or Learning Tree training
  • Class on plant/animal identification
  • Water quality monitoring training
  • Class on Wisconsin’s geology or climate
  • Volunteer orientation for a nature center
  • Class on forest management
  • Attending a lecture about environmental sustainability

Examples that are not Wisconsin Master Naturalist advanced training:

  • Watching TV (even if it is Wisconsin nature-related show)
  • Birding with friends
  • Identifying trees at your cabin with family
  • Reading a Wisconsin natural history book

Where do you find advanced training opportunities? See the WI Master Naturalist Advanced Training Courses.

The WIMN Volunteer Training Curriculum represents a very broad look at Wisconsin's natural resources in a text of over 300 pages. Some topics that warrant much more attention than we were able to dedicate in the curriculum will be covered in 8-hour Advanced Training Courses. The first, focused on Wisconsin's Great Lakes, will be piloted in 2014 in Milwaukee and Superior. Volunteers, however, don't have to limit themselves to WIMN advanced training opportunities. Here are some examples of places to find other courses or events that would qualify for advanced training: