New York Master Naturalist Training: Arrival

This post is the first in a series about the classes and field walks I participated in as a student of New York’s Master Naturalist Training, September 23-25, 2011. Future posts will cover specifics of our classes on NY State’s flora and fauna.

The New York Master Naturalist Program is a high-quality, science-based training program designed to teach adults about New York’s natural resources, empowering them to educate others and participate in on-the-ground conservation management projects.

I don’t know how I first heard about state-run Master Naturalist programs.  It was around a year ago, and the source may have been the nature blog of Philadelphia naturalist Donna Long.  I liked the idea, so I did some serious Google sleuthing (the program’s web presence still leaves something to be desired), and determined that New York does indeed have a Master Naturalist Program.  Unlike some states (Texas, for example) with long-established programs and multiple chapters, New York is new at the Master Naturalist game. Run by the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, the program has been in existence only three years and is still making changes, based on feedback from participants.

The heart of the program is an intensive weekend of classroom and field training at Cornell’s beautiful 4,000-acre Arnot Teaching and Research Forest.

Heading out for some field study

The weekend provides 16 credit hours, after which participants receive a certificate, making them “Certified Naturalists.”

Yup, that's me.

To become a Master Naturalist, students must continue their training over the coming year with an additional 14 hours of approved coursework and 30 hours of volunteer work.

It all sounded good to me.  And besides, what Manhattanite couldn’t use an autumn weekend in the woods?

So it was that last Friday morning, I hitched a ride to the Arnot Forest with fellow student Kimberly Eierman, a Bronxville-based landscape designer and state-certified Master Gardener with a passion for native plants.  We headed north in sometimes heavy rain for a 4 1/2-hour drive, passing through some sadly flood-damaged communities on our way.

The largest pumpkin known to man appeared and disappeared in the fog.

Giant pumpkin on the lam

After arriving at the forest in the late afternoon, I snagged a bunk in a cabin and unrolled my sleeping bag.


Then students gathered in the Main Lodge for the official welcome and introduction by Kristi Sullivan, Director of the Master Naturalist Program and a biologist with Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources.  The lodge would serve as our indoor classroom, dining hall and social area.

Feed body and mind in the lodge

I was impressed with the turn-out. There were 26 of us from around the state: men and women, young and old, with a wide variety of backgrounds and knowledge of natural history.  There were trained foresters, elementary school teachers, nature center staff members, landscapers, backyard gardeners, a wildife rehabber with a particular interest in turtles, a recent college grad with an impressive knowledge of mushrooms as well as a couple of recent retirees and a few people considering a career change.

Kristi distributed fat binders full of information

Just a small sampling of study info & hand-outs

and a schedule of classes, some with an outdoor field study component:

Bats and Bat Conservation
Forest Ecology
Threats to Forest Ecosystems
Amphibians and Reptiles
Wetland Ecology
Wetland Restoration
Deer and Biodiversity
Mushrooms and Fungi
Invasive Species
Insect Biology

Check back soon for more on our classes in New York natural history.  First up: bats and white-nose syndrome.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2011, Fall, Flora, In the City, In the Country, Master Naturalist Training, Seasons, September, Wildlife/Natural History

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8 Comments on “New York Master Naturalist Training: Arrival”

  1. Michelle Says:

    so glad to find your site
    I’ve been trying to contact someone in the NY program but received no answers
    would you mind letting me know if there are any meetings or how I can record my work toward certification, right now I am just taking or have taken courses but don’t know where to go from here
    thanks so much

    • Michelle, I am so sorry I haven;t replied sooner. I, too, had difficulty when I first tried to get in touch. I will send you an email with the address of Kristi Sullivan, who runs the program. I’m sure she can answer your questions. I believe you must take the annual course offered by Cornell U. Extension up in the ARnot Forest. After that, you can start accruing hours to fulfill your volunteer hours and ongoing education credits. Hope you’ll keep us posted on your progress.

  2. Melissa, Thanks for mentioning me in your post. I am so very glad I went through the course. I learned so much.

    Being a master naturalist has made a great difference in my life. I look forward to sharing a journey of knowledge with you.


  3. Susie Says:

    I was there too- but I did not get the certificate. How did you get yours. I left as soon as the insect lecture was over.

  4. Sounds like a great course. Looking forward to hearing more on how it went

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