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Brigit Holt
Program Coordinator, Master Naturalist
University of Illinois Extension
4747 Lincoln Mall Drive
Suite 601
Matteson, IL 60443
Phone: 708-679-6889
FAX: 708-679-6855

Master Naturalists in Cook County

Master Naturalists in Cook County

1. What is a Master Naturalist?

Master Naturalists are now working throughout the county to provide nature based resources, education and stewardship for all residents. Keep an eye out for Master Naturalists in your neck of the woods!!

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.

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 effectivelyparticipate in local environmental education and stewardship. They will learn about and may participate in citizen scientist activities. They will be able toshare 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

What Is the Master Naturalist Program?

The Master Naturalist program educates and trains adult volunteers to help disseminate natural resource information to the public and to assist with conservation activities.

The Cook County program exists within the framework of the Illinois Master Naturalist program.

Why Become a Master Naturalist?

Nature surrounds us. Nature is in your neighborhood, in your backyard, and in your house. Becoming more educated about nature and the environment can increase your awareness and appreciation of it, enriching your everyday life and forming a connection to the natural world. In the tradition of John Muir, John James Audubon, and even Teddy Roosevelt, as a naturalist you can contribute to conservation and a greener world. You can also play an important role in sharing that world with others in your community.

What Qualifications Must I Meet?

Anyone can become a Master Naturalist - it does not require a degree or years of experience. You do, however, need to:

  • Have a sincere desire to learn and share natural resource information within your community
  • Be able to communicate effectively
  • Be willing to devote time to volunteering and continuing education

What Does the Training Involve?

Training sessions are typically offered one day a week over a two-month period and are led by expert educators in the region. Approximately 70 hours of classroom instruction and field study and a minimum of 60 hours of volunteer work (the first 60 of which must be completed within the Forest Preserve of Cook County) are required to complete the program and become certified. In order to remain a certified Master Naturalist, 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education or advanced training are required each year.

What Type of Volunteer Opportunities Exist?

Master Naturalists learn to be effective volunteers. There are many ways you can fulfill your commitment of at least 40 volunteer hours. Some examples are

  • Assisting with prairie restoration
  • Collecting, cleaning, and transplanting prairie plants
  • Maintaining nature trails in a county forest preserve
  • Assisting a nature center with a native plant garden
  • Collecting data on wildlife populations or water quality
  • Leading a school class on a nature hike
  • Assisting with field surveys of endangered species
  • Improving a wetland habitat along a river
  • Removing invasive species from our woodlands
  • Writing articles on conservation topics
  • Performing educational demonstrations at special events

What are the Mission and Goals of the Master Naturalist Program?


To develop an expanding corps of well-educated volunteers to provide service and support for partnering organizations in the conservation, restoration, management, and interpretation of natural resources and natural areas in Cook County.

Goal 1:

Offer Master Naturalist educational programs and materials that provide classroom and field based training on the environmental and cultural resources of Cook County.

Goal 2:

Cultivate volunteers to serve as educators and community ambassadors for environmental initiatives; as stewards in the management of natural resources in Cook County Illinois; and as stakeholders who will perpetuate the Master Naturalist Program.


  1. Perpetuate Master Naturalist Program development through web assistance, newsletter development, and Advisory Board service.
  2. Offer assistance in developing new and enhancing existing environmental education offerings to the community.
  3. Provide assistance with the stewardship of regional natural resources.
  4. Act as ambassadors who expand community awareness of environmental activities and initiatives.

Goal 3:

Facilitate cooperation and collaboration among partnering groups and agencies.