AUBURN UNIVERSITY — The perfect opportunity to begin an educational journey in nature is here. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Alabama Master Naturalist (AMN) program serves as a …
AUBURN UNIVERSITY — The perfect opportunity to begin an educational journey in nature is here. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System's Alabama Master Naturalist (AMN) program serves as a premier environmental education opportunity. The AMN team develops stewards of nature and a corps of volunteers who spread a wealth of knowledge about Alabama's environment.
Becoming a Master
Any full-time or part-time Alabama residents who live or work in the state are eligible to become a Master Naturalist. Alabama Extension Wildlife Specialist Wesley Anderson said AMN is much more than only learning about the natural wonders of the state.
"Anyone who has interest in nature, enjoys the outdoors and has a desire to help with natural resource management and conservation is a perfect candidate to become an Alabama Master Naturalist," Anderson said. "AMN strives to promote awareness, understanding and respect of Alabama's natural world to the state's residents and visitors through science-based information and research."
In 2022, AMN reached approximately 18,000 people through outreach efforts. Participants of the program manage more than 2,300 of privately-owned land in Alabama. According to Anderson, the interest in learning more about wildlife and natural resources is growing among many other states. Some outdoor enthusiasts choose to drive to other states for the opportunity to participate in similar programs. By molding the content for Alabama residents, enrollees in AMN receive customized lessons and contribute directly to their home state.
The road to AMN certification is a three-step process. The first step is completing a training course. AMN training is online, where participants may enroll and complete certification information. The course encourages self-pacing, and enrollees should take as much time as they need to achieve completion.
"AMN course content covers everything from ecological concepts and herpetology to citizen science and research skills," Anderson said. "Across the 22-module online course, participants will learn about many facets of Alabama's natural history and what it means to be a naturalist."
The second component of the AMN curriculum is participating in a two-day field trip in designated locations. Many of these trips are conducted in coordination with Alabama State Parks at tailored locations that include plenty of geographical variation and opportunities.
Similar to the Extension Master Gardener program, achieving AMN status requires a total of 30 volunteer hours annually. These hours include performing important conservation and outdoor work around the state. Volunteerism is a vital part of the program and Anderson said this requirement reinforces this component.
Aspiring Master Naturalists may register for the AMN course online starting Oct. 27. Additionally, upcoming events, volunteer information and current resources can be found on the Alabama Master Naturalist Facebook page.
There is a $135 registration fee for enrollment. Also, the program requires two texts for course material that should be purchased prior to starting the course.
These books are the following:
1. Southern Wonder: Alabama's Surprising Biodiversity by R. Scot Duncan (ISBN-13 978-0817357504)
2. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There by Aldo Leopold (ISBN-13 978-0197500262)
As an incentive for participating in the program, a limited number of scholarships are available for application and reviewed within two weeks of receipt.
The AMN program provides the perfect outlet for exploring Alabama's natural world. Begin your personal environmental education by enrolling in AMN. Read more about the Alabama Master Naturalist program on Alabama Extension's website, www.aces.edu.