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Contact Us

Brigit Holt
Program Coordinator, Master Naturalist
University of Illinois Extension
One Prairie Office Center, Suite 208
4749 Lincoln Mall Drive
Matteson, IL 60443
Phone: 708-679-6889
FAX: 708-679-6855

Master Naturalists in Cook County

Master Naturalists in Cook County



The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist Program is to provide science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards.

The program educates and trains adult volunteers so they are better equipped to share natural resource information with others in their communities; and to assist with environmental conservation and restoration activities. We all have a responsibility to protect the natural resources in the places where we live in order to ensure our world is fit for the future. The University of Illinois Extension partners with local agencies to accomplish the Master Naturalist mission.


What qualifications do I need to become a Master Naturalist?

Anyone 18 or older can become a Master Naturalist. It does not require a degree or years of experience. You must be willing to devote time to volunteering and to continuing education.


Adult trainees in the Master Naturalist program will participate in at least 40 hours of training where they:


Learn basic principles about the natural world

Learn about the interdependent nature of the plants and animals in the various ecosystems of Illinois

Learn the animals specific to Illinois such as mammals, insects, reptiles and fish and birds

Learn how everyone is part of and impacts nature in rural or urban areas

Learn practical techniques for both teaching about and managing natural areas


The training will prepare volunteer Master Naturalists to more effectively participate in local environmental education and stewardship. They will learn about and may participate in citizen scientist activities. They will be able to share their knowledge, skills, and passion about the natural world with others so they also can become more engaged. Volunteer work includes, but is not limited to:


Assisting in the management of local natural areas

Completing natural resource related office work with special interest groups or not-for-profit agencies

Teaching adults or children about natural areas

Giving demonstrations and presentations to local groups

Serving as a liaison between natural resource agencies and the public

Serving as a resource person to groups in need of natural resource assistance

Participating in citizen scientist activities


Partners make it possible

Here's a list of our current partners and links to their websites:

University of Illinois Extension in Cook County. ILMN is a U of I Extension program with collaborative leadership at the state level.

Forest Preserve of Cook County. Live Healthy - Discover Nature!

Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens. Come visit and we'll show you why they call it the great outdoors!

Audubon Chicago Region Conserving and restoring nature

How to Become a Certified University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist


To become a certified Master Naturalist, participants must complete at least 40 hours of required and elective classroom training (TRAINEE STATUS) as well as 60 hours of approved volunteer time (INTERN STATUS). Engaging classes are led by regional scientists and educators who are experts in their field. Most topics have a classroom and a hands-on or field trip component.


Master Naturalist Training for Trainees Accepted into the program


You are required to attend at least 40 hours of University of Illinois Extension sponsored Master Naturalist training. Any missed classes should be attended in the next training cycle. Your basic training fee pays for up to 48 hours of classroom training.


Required foundational classes include:


Understanding the Natural World (Ecology)

Geology and Soils

Natural Divisions: The Biogeography of Illinois

Environmental Ethics and Philosophy


Required elective classes to include at least two ecosystems from this list:



Aquatic Systems (Lakes, Rivers, Streams)

Agricultural Systems

Urban Systems


Required elective classes to include at least two �ology� chapters from this list:

Ornithology (Birds)


Herpetology (Reptiles & Amphibians)




Additional electives classes may be used to meet the 40 hour requirement.

Anthropology and Archaeology

Weather and Climate

Art of Interpretation and Teaching

Nature Journaling

Inquiry Adventures Training


Master Naturalist Intern Volunteer Service

Sixty (60) hours of volunteer service are required for completion of Master Naturalist Certification. You will be engaged in a variety of activities to benefit your knowledge and skills, the environment and others. Some examples are:

Volunteering with a team at a Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC)

or local Nature Center

Guiding small groups of students or adults in understanding natural areas locations

Restoring natural areas or volunteering in educational gardens featuring native plants

Answering questions about ecological or garden topics


What are some requirements for MN volunteers?



Attendance is expected at required and elective classes necessary to become an intern.



It is up to each volunteer to self-report their hours using an online database. Sometimes partners require additional reporting on their database.

Although volunteers are encouraged to report hours monthly, or as they happen, all hours for the year should be reported by December 31 of each year.

Volunteers should report all hours even after they have reached their required hours. This is very important for funding of the program.


Volunteer Hours

Volunteer Hours needed to become certified = 60

Volunteer Hours needed each year to remain certified = 30

Trainees can start accumulating hours as soon as class starts.

Travel time can be included if it is within Cook County.

Hours can be accrued in many ways and through many avenues.

Interns have up to two years to accumulate volunteer hours


Continuing Education Hours

Continuing Education Hours are not needed the first year as a trainee.

Continuing Education Hours needed each year to maintain certification = 10.

Continuing Education hours can be accrued in many different programs including advanced trainings.

Repeating any Master Naturalist training class counts as continuing education.

Travel time to and from events outside of Cook County may not be included in continuing education hours.


Cost & Benefits

The $125 fee is currently subsidized by the Forest Preserve of Cook County. (Normally the fee is $250.) This fee defrays a fraction of the cost of the class. As a Master Naturalist, you will learn to appreciate and understand the natural world, how to protect and restore your local environments, and how to share your passion, knowledge and appreciation for nature. The $125 fee pays for your manual and state support of the program. A limited number of need based scholarships are available. Partners pay for the other costs of the program because they see skilled Master Naturalists making many positive impacts.

Applications are now closed!!   Seats for auditing the class may be available on a space available basis for Master Naturalists from previous classes wishing to complete Continuing education credits, or to make up a missed subject/class. Contact the Master Naturalist coordinator to be put on a waiting list. By paying the fee and entering the Master Naturalist program you are entitled to 48 hours of instruction. After that 48 hours, the cost to audit a class is $15 per class. 


You will be given the website for online registration once you receive acceptance notification.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this Extension program, please contact our office.

New Class Schedule Format


In Cook County, beginning in the summer of 2014, classes will be offered once or twice a month instead in the typical approach of concentrating the classes into one month or one day a week for 10 week format. It is hoped that this will give working people an opportunity to attend classes by taking a professional development days or vacation day to attend class, without excessively disrupting their work schedule.



Schedule 2014 -15:

First class scheduled: July 28, 2014  9:00-3:30 Location: Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland.

Introduction to the Master Naturalist program

Inquiry Adventures

Instructor: Sue Gasper, PhD University of Illinois Extension STEM Educator

 Summer 2014 dates to be determined:

Understanding the Natural World (Ecology)

Natural Divisions: The Biogeography of Illinois

Birds (September)



Fall 2014 dates to be determined


Geology and Soils

Grassland Prairie Ecosystem


Winter no classes anticipated between Thanksgiving and the end of February

Later Winter/Spring 2015 dates to be determined


Environmental Ethics and Philosophy

Forest Ecosystem

Aquatic Systems

Mammals & Herpetology


For more information e-mail our Master Naturalist Extension Program Coordinator, Brigit Anne Holt, at

University of Illinois * U.S. Department of Agriculture * Local Extension Councils Cooperating. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.