The mission of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm
is to train interested people in the fundamentals of natural history,
nature interpretation and teaching, and to instill in them an appreciation
of the importance of responsible environmental stewardship. The program
will also provide a corps of highly qualified volunteers to assist
government agencies, schools, and non-government organizations with
research, outdoor recreation development, and environmental education
The development of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Programtm
began in 2003 and grew out of a partnership among the West Virginia
Division of Natural Resources (including the Wildlife Resources Section’s
Wildlife Diversity Program and the Parks and Recreation Section),
West Virginia University Cooperative Extension Service, Canaan Valley
Institute, and Davis and Elkins College. The Canaan Valley Institute
was unable to continue it's support and withdrew in 2006. These
programs somewhat mirror the Master Gardener Programs that have been
so popular across the United States. The goal of the Master
Naturalist Program state advisory committee was to develop a program
tailored to the unique circumstances of West Virginia. The first session
of Master Naturalist training was held over the weekend of April 30
– May 2, 2004 at Hawks Nest State Park in Fayette County, with
a class of 20 students.
Virginia Master Naturalist Certification
To become a Certified West Virginia Master Naturalist, the program
requires completing 64 hours of classroom and field training (48 hours
of core classes and 16 hours of electives), plus 30 hours of volunteer
work. Classes were initially presented at State Parks on four weekends
a year, spring, summer, fall, and winter, but current emphasis is
on supporting local Master Naturalist chapters in their efforts to
provide training. Training from other sources (college classes,
various workshops, etc.) may qualify for credit. In order to
get credit these outside classes need to be approved by the
Master Naturalist Program Coordinator. Master Naturalist volunteers
must sign a volunteer agreement and liability waiver.
To maintain status as a Master Naturalist, 8 additional hours of training
and 16 additional hours of volunteer work are needed each year after
of a West Virginia Master Naturalist
Certified West Virginia Master Naturalists promote responsible stewardship
of West Virginia’s natural resources. They look for opportunities
to educate the people of this state in an appreciation of how natural
systems work and how we all depend on them. They recognize that
one person cannot be expert in every field. Master Naturalists
are resource people; if they do not have answers, they know where
to find them.
West Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers subscribe to the following
Standards of Conduct and Ethics when representing the program:
- Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, service, and
- Know and follow established program guidelines and policies.
- Be courteous and respectful of others and their views.
- Promote a spirit of cooperation in all activities.
- Act as trustworthy and ethical stewards of the environment.
- Encourage the use of sound biological information in education
and in management decisions.
- Do not use the program for personal financial gain.
How the Program Works
The West Virginia program is directed by the WV Master Naturalist
State Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from each of
the partner agencies as well as representatives from the cadre of
Master Naturalist volunteers. The State Advisory Committee provides
training guidelines, develops curriculum resources, and is responsible
for program marketing and promotion. In addition, the State Advisory
Committee assists local chapters in identifying qualified instructors
and in locating needed resources.
The West Virginia Master Naturalist programtm was run
entirely through the State Advisory Committee during its first year,
but is now in the process of expanding to local Master Naturalist
chapters, usually county-based. Currently, several county groups
are established and active and several more are in the process of
The program expands each year so if there isn't a chapter near
you, contact the West Virginia
Master Naturalist Programtm Coordinator .
It is anticipated that West Virginia's communities and citizens
organizations will benefit in many ways from the knowledgeable and
enthusiastic volunteers trained by this program. Around the
country, Master Naturalist volunteers are staffing youth and
adult nature education programs, serving as guides and naturalists
in local, state and national parks, and providing leadership
in local and state natural resource conservation efforts.
Funding for the Master Naturalist
Program is provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Wildlife Resources Section.