From performing water quality tests in area streams to leading school classes on nature hikes, Texas Master Naturalists are all around us, providing community-based nature and conservation efforts throughout Collin County.
Eleven years ago, a small group of people interested in nature and the environment formed the Blackland Prairie Texas Master Naturalist (BPTMN) chapter for Collin County. The Texas Master Naturalist program mission is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers that provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the state of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agency sponsor the program.
Since its inception, the BPTMN chapter has grown to nearly 150 active members (more than 350 trained) and provided more than 100,000 volunteer hours that are used by Texas Parks and Wildlife to receive funding and grants. Some Master Naturalists enjoy spending their volunteer hours digging in the dirt and restoring local prairie lands, while others get involved as trail guides, bird banders, animal caregivers and fossil preservationists. Many more volunteer opportunities are available.
The BPTMN chapter provides training yearly to those interested in learning about the Blackland Prairie region and becoming certified Master Naturalists, including a minimum of 40 hours of instruction via classroom sessions and field trips. Local experts from the natural resource community, university professors, state and federal agency biologists and specialists serve as instructors. Field trips are led by certified Master Naturalists.
Classes cover ecology, ornithology, herpetology, me- teorology and more. “Participants range in age from 19 to 80 and continually learn from each other,” says Deborah Canterbury, BPTMN president. “The training and our monthly meetings provide an inroad to the entities in Collin County that are focused on conservation and the preservation of our natural resources. Whatever your interest, whatever your skill or talent, there is a place for you to pursue what excites you most in nature.”
Registration is open for the BPTMN class of 2017, which begins on February 8 and meet from 6 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday until May 3. Students must complete 12 classes and three field trips, in addition to the minimum eight hours of approved advanced training and 40 hours of chapter-approved volunteer service to become certified Master Naturalists.
Location: The Heard Museum, 1 Science Place, McKinney, in the Science Center. For more information and applications, visit bptmn.org.