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Sherry Thomas
Extension Program Coordinator, Ag and Natural Resources
University of Illinois Extension
1615 Commerce Parkway
Bloomington, IL 61704
Phone: 309-663-8306
FAX: 309-663-8270

Reid Young
Extension Program Coordinator, Ag and Natural Resources
University of Illinois Extension
1615 Commerce Parkway
Bloomington, IL 61704
Phone: 309-663-8306
FAX: 309-663-8270

Bill Davison
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
University of Illinois Extension
1615 Commerce Parkway
Bloomington, IL 61704
Phone: 309-663-8306
FAX: 309-663-8270

Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists

Illinois Grand Prairie Master Naturalists


Ongoing, or time-limited, or project-limited volunteer service (stewardship, citizen scientist efforts, and educational efforts) with groups or agencies that further the mission of the Illinois Master Naturalist program.

Additional volunteer service is eligible upon approval.

Bird Count (Christmas and Spring)

County: Livingston, McLean, Woodford
Angelo Caparella, Project Leader

Project Description: Individuals or groups spend the day counting all birds seen at a specific area (coordinated by Project Leader) during daylight hours. Count areas can be backyards, parks, and done while hiking and/or driving. Count lists and instructions are provided to participants. If you wish to get involved with either count, please contact Project Leader for specific dates.

IGPMN Liaisons:

Mary Jo Adams (Woodford)

Illinois State University Horticulture Center

Raab Road
County: McLean
Jessica Chambers, Director
(309) 438-3496

Project Description:

IGPMN Liaisons:

Kathy Clessen

Illinois River Watch

5800 Godfrey Rd
Matthew Young, Coordinator

Project Description: Illinois RiverWatch safeguards the future of Illinois rivers and streams through stewardship, education and sound science. RiverWatch utilizes trained volunteers to collect quality assured data on wadeable streams.. Master Naturalists work in groups collecting macroinvertebrates and identifying them for a statewide data base.

John Wesley Powell Audubon Garden

Constitution Trail near intersection of E Vernon and Towanda Ave
County: McLean

IGPMN Liaisons:

Gretchen Monti
Ellen Dietz

MJ Rhymer Family Nature Preserve

3210 W Northtown Rd
County: McLean
Mary Campbell

ISU Herbarium/Comlara Park Inventory

13001 Recreation Area Dr
County: McLean
Dr. Joe Armstrong, Curator

Project Description: Walking trails at Comlara Park during growing season to Identify plants and flora; utilizing the iNaturalist tool (available for smart phones or computer) to log findings in a database. Volunteers may also be asked to collect , preserve, and mount botanical specimens for ISU's herbarium.

IGPMN Liaisons:

Sherrie Snyder

Citizen Scientist Opportunities for Volunteers

Why Citizen Scientists?

  • Existing organized (user friendly) infrastructure
  • Avenue to learning and discovering (#1 reason people volunteer)
  • Successful due to easier access to internet and technology (everybody with a phone has a camera)
  • Feeling of accomplishment by adding to scientific data
  • Tips for using Citizen Scientist projects as Master Naturalist (MN) projects
  • Locally designed is best but may not be possible depending on researchers and local areas. Check with local university or Prairie Research Institute. Home of the Illinois State Scientific Surveys They have researchers in many subject areas and locations.
  • If project not local in origin may want to cap the number of hours volunteers may report for that activity. They can do more but just can’t report all hours to that activity. For example East Central Illinois MNs are allowed to count 2 volunteer hours a month for the CoCoRaHS (Rain spotters) precipitation data collection.

Local Efforts

Ash Tree Inventory – Modeled after Boone County Master Gardener project. Emerald ash borer (EAB) found in Champaign County in 2010. As of 2011 East Central Illinois Master Naturalists completed nine ash tree inventory reports detailing the number, location, state of health and size of ash trees (genus Fraxinus) in selected Champaign County communities. The Ash Tree Inventory project is an effort to discover the potential financial burden that will result as the emerald ash borer (EAB) makes its way to east central Illinois and kills ash trees. Villages often do not have tree inventories as to species; therefore, they have no way of quantifying the ultimate cost of removal and replacement of ash trees. The inventory consists of volunteers observing ash trees that are on public land or are observable from public land. Using a GPS system the information is tabulated and the locations are shown on a map. This information is compiled into a report and communicated to public officials responsible for maintaining the public land so they can begin a budget process for removal and replacements over the next few years.

BeeSpotters - BeeSpotter is a partnership between citizen scientists and the professional science community designed to educate the public about pollinators by engaging them in a data collection effort of importance to the nation. It is a web-based portal at the University of Illinois for learning about honey bees and bumble bees and for contributing data to a nationwide effort to baseline information on population status of these insects.

Participants are encouraged to get out there in gardens and parks with their camera and capture some good pictures of bees. The goal is to get a better idea of bee demographics in the state of Illinois, and scientists can't do it without help. In order to get bee pictures on their website, participants just create an account and then add your bee spotting pictures for identification. To demonstrate the importance of citizen scientists - First in 2008 and now subsequent years a BeeSpotter near Peoria submitted pictures of rusty-patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, a rare bee in Illinois.

Mussel inventory – Mussels are often considered an important indicator species when determining the health of streams and rivers. Mussel surveys have been conducted in the Sangamon River at Allerton Park for several years. The surveys are done annually or biannually. The actual search location varies each year. Volunteers are utilized for the search effort with Illinois Natural History Survey scientists. By following the mussel species community over many years, trends and changes can be identified. For now, the overall mussel diversity at Allerton and in the upper Sangamon River in general is positive.

Frog Call Survey - Since 2007 Champaign County Forest Preserve District has partnered with the Urbana Park District and the East Central Illinois Master Naturalist Chapter to monitor frogs and toads in Champaign County through calling surveys. Worldwide amphibians are in decline. Amphibians are an integral part of our ecosystem and are important indicators of environmental health. Frog call surveys provide scientific data on presence or absence of a species and general abundance of the population.

The goal is to establish Frog Calling Survey areas throughout Champaign County and east central Illinois, so that amphibian abundance and distribution data can be collected over many years. Data from the Frog Calling Survey will be used to guide conservation planning, local land management, and land protection.

A Frog Call Survey is a rather simple endeavor. Participants only need to learn the unique calls of the 12 species of frogs and toads that occur in the Champaign County area. Observers attend one late winter educational meeting, one early spring field training, and then listen for frogs on evenings in the spring. Each survey visit will last for about one to two hours. Participants are amazed by the vast richness of amphibian life at night. The Frog Call Surveys begin March 1 and go through July 31 in each year. We ask that information be reported by July 31. In order to become a Frog Call Survey Monitor participants must attend one winter and one spring training session in order to learn the frog and toad species of the area, their calls, and the monitoring procedures. Winter workshops are offered in February and spring trainings are offered in March. Returning monitors attend a workshop each year, in order to brush up on their skills and learn about other amphibian or reptile monitoring projects. Surveys and more info about Frog Call Survey monitoring can be found at

Forest Fungi Project Sampling – Collect, label, and send fungi collected from target tree species to researchers at University of Wisconsin (shipping paid by researchers). For further information, contact Cassandra Allsup at or (217) 418-3488.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Nest Watch, Project Feeder Watch, eBirds, lots of great ways to get involved and learn more about birds.

National Opportunities

CoCoRaHS – (locally known as Rain spotters) When a “zero” matters! 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, the aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. Now in all fifty states.

Firefly Watch – Museum of Science in Boston and Tufts University have partnered for this project. Firefly Watch combines an annual summer evening ritual with scientific research. The steps to get involved: join a network of volunteers; observe own backyard; track progress online and interact with fellow Citizen Scientists; help scientists map fireflies found in New England and beyond; and no specific scientific training required.

Monarch Watch – Lots of great information and activities for adults and youth

Lost Ladybug Project - The Lost Ladybug Project was set in motion in the year 2000 when Cornell researchers coordinated with 4-H Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners surveying ladybug populations across New York State. Great info and activities. Similar to Bee Spotters with uploading photos for identification.

Project BudBurst - Network of people across the United States who monitor plants as the seasons change. Designed to engage the public in the collection of important ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants (plant phenophases). Project BudBurst participants make careful observations of these plant phenophases. The data are being collected in a consistent manner across the country so that scientists can use the data to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally. Thousands of people from all 50 states have participated. Project BudBurst began in 2007 in response to requests from people who wanted to make a meaningful contribution to understanding changes in our environment.

Citizen Scientist opportunities compiled by Sandra L. Mason, UI Extension Educator – Horticulture

February 2012

Additions and revisions by Reid Young, 2015