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Contact Us

Ryan Pankau
Extension Educator, Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683

East Central Illinois Master Naturalists

East Central Illinois Master Naturalists

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4. Our Partners

East-Central Illinois Master Naturalists (ECIMN) partner with area agencies and organizations whose mission is consistent with ECIMN.  Together they develop appropriate master naturalist projects with the partners providing resources in exchange for volunteer service.  

If your group would like to become a ECIMN partner, please contact Sandy Mason at 217-333-7672,

ECIMN partners may change on a regular basis depending on the project needs of the community and the resource needs of the organization. Some of our current partners are highlighted below.

Click here for a list with detailed contact information.

Allerton Park and Recreation Center

Allerton Allies assist park staff in the protection and restoration of natural lands in Allerton Park near Monticello, Illinois. Allerton Park has National Natural Landmark designation and encompasses the Sangamon River, floodplains, lowland and upland forests, a meadow, and a 30-acre demonstration prairie along with 14 miles of interpretive hiking trails. Volunteers may remove non-native plants, plant native plants, clear and mark trails, or help with other maintenance of the natural areas.

Scheduled workdays are typically the 1st Saturday of the month.

Contact: Mindy Brand, (Visitor Center) or Sandy Mason (Allerton Allies)

Champaign County Audubon Society

The Champaign County Audubon Society (CCAS) began as a bird watching club in 1940 and became affiliated with the National Audubon Society in 1945. Today the group includes more than 500 members. Our emphasis mirrors that of the national society which includes conservation of all natural resources. Membership in CCAS means being part of a thriving local group that is actively involved in the study, enjoyment, and conservation of our native habitats.

Volunteer opportunities include serving on the board, participating in bird counts, leading field trips, and offering educational programs.


Champaign Park District

The mission of the Champaign Park District is to enhance the quality of life through positive experiences in parks and recreation in the Champaign, Illinois community.  They currently have 60 parks, 11 trails, and 14 facilities totaling 654 acres.  Four parks currently have sections of natural areas: Heritage, Porter Family, Scott, and Sunset Ridge.   They hope to expand these areas in the future.  Volunteers may remove non-native plants, plant native plants, or help with other maintenance of the natural areas.


Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District (St. Joseph Wetland & Barnhart Prairie)

The St. Joseph Wetland project is located on both sides of US 150 on the west edge of St. Joseph. It was purchased from landowners by the CCSWC in 2005.  The CCSWCD Board wanted the project to be a place where residents could enjoy the wetland and students could learn wetland ecology.   The Barnhart Prairie is a restoration prairie of approximately 80 acres.



CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.  CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow).   By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.


Embarras Volunteer Stewards

The Embarras Volunteer Stewards began in 1994 to help public and private land owners in their efforts to preserve and restore native prairie and woodland sites. They are affiliated with The Nature Conservancy's Volunteer Stewardship Network and support an area that includes seven couties: Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Douglas, Edgar, Moultrie, and Shelby

Volunteers do monitoring, seed collecting, exotic species control, controlled burning, tree planting, seeding, trail maintenance, tours, talks and slide presentations, and butterfly monitoring. Workdays and tours last about two hours, and are announced in their Fall and Spring newsletters.


Grand Prairie Friends

Grand Prairie Friends is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit, conservation organization committed to preserving and restoring tallgrass prairie and woodlands in east-central Illinois. GPF acquires and helps manages prairie and woodland remnants, conducts prescribed burns, propagates and plants native prairie and woodland species in restorations and generates interest in natural areas through a variety of educational programs. GPF helps to maintain thirty-seven natural areas in east-central Illinois. They own six sites that range in size from 1.4 acres to 14 acres.

Volunteers are needed to steward sites, remove invasive species, collect seed, plant native species, and participate in education and community outreach. Opportunities to serve on the GPF Board of Directors or lead committees are also available.


Heartland Pathways

Heartland Pathways, a 33-mile ribbon of trails and wildlife habitat, is a natural and cultural treasure in the making in East Central Illinois. These lands were formerly Railway corridors containing valuable prairie remnants and three magnificent truss bridges -- two across heavily wooded sections of the Sangamon River and one at the western end of Heartland Pathways, across Salt Creek near Clinton. Heartland Pathways all tie in with Monticello and the 7-mile corridor managed by the Railway Museum.

With the help of volunteers, prairie remnants have become more diverse and vibrant and trestle bridges have been rebuilt and signs posted. As resources permit, Heartland Pathways hopes to refine and carry out major projects to improve the trail and enhance its many benefits.


Illinois Natural History Survey

Since 1858, the Illinois Natural History Survey has been the guardian and recorder of the biological resources of Illinois. With a staff of over 200 scientists and technicians, it is recognized as the premier natural history survey in the nation. Its mission is to investigate the diversity, life histories, and ecology of the plants and animals of the state; to publish research results so that those resources can be managed wisely; and to provide information to the public in order to foster an understanding and appreciation of our natural heritage. This organization provides many instructors for ECIMN.

Volunteers can help with various plant and animal surveys. The Herbarium uses volunteers to assist with plant sample preparation and recording.


Kickapoo Krew

The Kickapoo Krew assist park staff in the restoration of natural lands in the Kickapoo State Park near Danville, Illinois. The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, a federal and state designated Scenic River, runs through the park. Kickapoo encompasses bottomland and upland forests, a prairie at the Middle Fork State Wildlife Area, and miles of hiking trails as well as a mountain bike trail. Volunteers may remove non-native plants, collect, clean and broadcast prairie seeds, clear and maintain trails, or help with other maintenance of the natural areas.Scheduled workdays are typically the 3rd Saturday of the month.

Contact: Gay Cullum,

Land Conservation Foundation

The Land Conservation Foundation is a not-for-profit land trust founded in 2003. LCF’s mission is to preserve and restore natural communities, to create interconnected corridors, to provide wildlife habitat, and connect people and nature for future generations.  The current focus is on protecting the Sangamon River. LCF owns three properties located in Piatt, DeWitt, and Champaign counties.

LCF has a wide range of volunteer opportunities for Master Naturalists or other interested members of the public. There are three general categories of these activities: Stewardship, Outdoor Education, and Social Media/Graphic Arts. Contact for details.


Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Everything they do is rooted in good science. The Nature Conservancy pursues non-confrontational, pragmatic solutions to conservation challenges and operates openly and transparently.

Many of the partners from Central Illinois listed on this page are part of the Nature Conservancy's Volunteer Stewardship Network.


UI Pollinatarium

The University of Illinois Pollinatarium is the first free-standing science center in the nation devoted to flowering plants and their pollinators. It serves as a campus resource for research and teaching and a major regional attraction for the community and its visitors. Multiple exhibits acquaint visitors with a broad range of disciplines involved in the study of pollination. The Pollinatarium is the physical home of Beespotter, a UI web-based citizen science effort to engage the public in monitoring the distribution and abundance of Illinois honey bees and bumble bees. The Pollinatarium is located in the midst of the UI Arboretum and is adjacent to a prairie with walking paths.

Volunteers can assist science center staff in their educational and outreach mission and help with prairie maintenance.


Prairie Rivers Network

Prairie Rivers Network is Illinois' leader in river conservation. We strive to protect the rivers and streams of Illinois and to promote the lasting health and beauty of watershed communities. By providing information, sound science, and hands-on assistance, Prairie Rivers Network helps individuals and community groups become effective river conservation leaders.

Volunteers help with media research, events, mailings, river-cleanup, rain garden planting, program research needs and other ongoing projects. By participating with organizations like Prairie Rivers Network, you are exercising your rights as a citizen to express your own values and priorities about clean water, rivers, wildlife, and the protection of these resources for future generations.


Upper Sangamon River Conservancy

The Upper Sangamon River Conservancy (USRC) was established in the Spring of 2009, growing out of a grassroots effort by community members who are concerned about the Sangamon River.

USRC activities include river clean-ups, river monitoring, information and education displays at community events, and mussel surveys. Most importantly, perhaps, the group provides free access to canoes for members and it helps people get out on the river wiht regular paddling events. The USRC provides resources for anyone interested in finding out more about our Sangamon River.


Vermilion County Conservation District

The Vermilion County Conservation District (VCCD) administers four county parks which include Forest Glen Preserve, Kennekuk, Lake Vermilion, and Heron County Parks. All are unique in what they offer. The VCCD specializes not only in offering an array of recreational opportunities but also conservation education, special events, historical interpretation, and forestry research. Our parks contain six Illinois nature preserves and a state historical site.