By C.V. Moore
OAK HILL —
The West Virginia Master Naturalist program is forming a New River chapter that will train people in the fundamentals of natural history, nature interpretation and teaching, and instill in them an appreciation of responsible environmental stewardship.
“We look forward to this exciting program starting in our neighborhood,” says Jodi French-Burr, a park ranger at the New River Gorge National River.
The certification program allows individuals to increase their knowledge and appreciation of the natural world while helping their communities and the environment through course work, volunteer opportunities and networking.
The program was developed and facilitated by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, with specific courses coordinated by local chapters throughout the state, including this New River chapter.
The new chapter is being led by Mary Igo of New River Community and Technical College.
Certification requirements include 64 hours of classroom and field training (48 hours of core classes and 16 hours of elective classes) to be completed within four years.
Most courses are three to four hours in length, but some may run longer if conducted as part of regular New River Community and Technical College course work.
To maintain certification, participants must then complete an additional eight hours of training and 16 hours of volunteer time annually.
Core classes include Aquatic Habitats; Birds; General Ecology; Habitat Improvement; Terrestrial Habitats; Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines; Wetland Habitats; Wildflowers and Weeds; Names, Classifications, and Identification; Nature Interpretation and Teaching; Preserving and Sharing; Insects, Spiders, etc.; and Mammals.
A sample of elective classes includes Nature for Winter; Sketching for Naturalists; Rocks and Minerals; Humans and Environment; Mushrooms; Edible Plants; and Outdoor Survival.
The New River chapter will coordinate courses on or near multiple New River Community and Technical College campus sites in Summersville, Beckley, Lewisburg, and Bluefield.
Some courses may be taught on more than one campus, depending on the availability of instructors.
Igo plans to set up available course lists six months at a time. Participants must sign up for classes in advance.
First classes in the New River area will likely be available at the start of the new year.
Classes will likely be conducted on the weekends, but there may be some weekday evening class options.
Participants will also have to fill out a New River Community and Technical College application form as well as the state application form and volunteer liability waver forms.
Anyone 18 years or older with an interest in natural history is welcome to take part.
The cost of each course ranges from $10 to $25. The costs will depend on the expected expenses and the rate of pay for instructors. Participants may elect to take all or some of the courses offered. However, those seeking Master Naturalist certification must pay $40 for the program manual, pins, patches, certificates, and other materials.
If you would like to participate, send your contact information (e-mail and phone) to Mary Igo at migo@newriver. edu or 304-872-4520. She can also be reached for questions about the program.
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