Connecting with Nature through the Master Naturalist Program

Have you ever found yourself in one of Edmonton’s natural areas and stopped to wonder about all the trees, flowers and weeds that you see? And how you can get involved to ensure that the beauty that surrounds you is around for generations to come?

That’s what Carol Hurst, senior communications advisor with the City, thought one day. She decided she wanted to learn more about the places where she spends so much of her time, including Mill Creek Ravine, the River Valley and many more parks around Edmonton. She had to look no further than the City’s own Master Naturalist program. The program teaches interested Edmontonians more about the ecology of our city and how they can help preserve and steward natural areas.

“The program is a tremendous opportunity for Edmontonians. You get a chance to learn from so many people with so much knowledge about Edmonton’s natural areas,” says Carol. “These individuals are passionate about protecting Edmonton’s natural areas and for making it possible for people like me to get involved.”

The Master Naturalist Program, now going into its seventh year, provides 35 hours of free training and field trips to those who have an interest in our natural world.

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“I was amazed by how many people and organizations in Edmonton are dedicated to the stewardship of natural areas. In addition to the City of Edmonton itself, there are groups that take part in many important activities such as rescuing and protecting Edmonton native plants and acquiring ecologically significant lands. The speakers in the program were phenomenal.”

Upon completion of the training, the new Master Naturalists will do 35 hours of volunteer work, helping to steward a natural area in their neighbourhood or perhaps create an educational project about Edmonton’s natural areas.

Carol has yet to complete her full 35 hours of volunteer work, but has put many hours towards rewarding experiences, including thistle-pulls in Mill Creek Ravine, picking up litter in various natural areas and taking part in the work bees with the Edmonton Native Plant Group. She hopes to become involved in “PlantWatch” this year, which is related to phenology (tracking bloom times) and can help improve decision-making in agriculture, forestry, biodiversity conservation, climatology and more.

“The program helps people who care about natural areas find out how they can make a difference,” says Carol. “Some are like me and don’t have background in areas like biology, ecology or science. Others do, whether it’s through their paid job or as their passion outside of work.”

Regardless of anyone’s background or experience, everyone with a passion for protecting Edmonton’s natural areas is encourage to apply for the Master Naturalist program. The program only runs once a year and space is limited. If you are interested in becoming a Master Naturalist, please visit www.edmonton.ca/masternaturalistprogram. Deadline for applications is on April 24 and training takes place during the first three weeks in June for the 30 successful applicants.

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About the Author
Maya Filipovic
Maya Filipovic is a Communications Advisor for the City's Sustainable Development branch.
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