Missouri Master Naturalists: volunteers applying ecologial concepts and approaches in community-based conservation programs.
Caroline, Buenger*,1, Nilon, Charles*,1, Pierce, Robert*,1, Wallace, Ginny*,2, 1 University of Missouri, Columbia, MO2 Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, Mo
ABSTRACT- One challenge facing Missouri communities in both rural and urban environments is sustaining the natural resource base and the quality of life those resources provide. The Missouri Master Naturalist Program has been developed as an educational program directed at developing a corps of master volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service that promotes the integration of science-based ecological concepts into the management of natural resources within their respective community. The program combines education and volunteer service at the community level to empower citizens to become involved in natural resource management and education. Sponsors of the program include the Missouri Department of Conservation, University of Missouri Extension and the MU School of Natural Resources. For an individual to gain the designation of a Missouri Master Naturalist they participate in an approved training program that combines field and classroom learning experiences. In addition, participants must participate in an advanced training program that emphasizes ecological applications and natural history and conduct volunteer service projects within their community through the organization of a local Master Naturalist Chapter. The Master Naturalist Program has been successfully piloted in 3 locations in the state and is now being implemented statewide. Initial survey results indicate that participants described themselves as more knowledgeable about basic ecological concepts and conservation issues and are better prepared to organize and lead conservation education programs within their respective community. Initial survey results from 2005 and 2006 indicate that participants also retain knowledge gained and are likely to apply that knowledge towards the beneficial management of natural resources within their community.
Key words: ecological concepts, education, volunteers
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