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Become a Cook County Master Naturalist

A Master Naturalist shows a spider to a visitor at Insect Fest.
A Master Naturalist shows a spider to a visitor at Insect Fest.

Do you love learning about the natural areas, plants and animals of Cook County? Are you interested in educating family, friends and the general public about the many ecological wonders of Cook County? Do you enjoy performing nature-related volunteer work? If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, consider becoming a Cook County Master Naturalist!

According to Brigit Holt, University of Illinois Extension’s Master Naturalist program coordinator, Master Naturalists are people who want to give their time to improving nature and educating others about the natural world around us.

“Master Naturalists are a really great resource of any community that they are in because they have a lot of information about the natural world. They’re excited about extending that information to other people. They want to bring people out [into nature],” said Holt.

The Master Naturalist program is offered by University of Illinois Extension – Unit 6 (Cook County), in partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The program prepares adults to be highly skilled volunteers who have been trained with the curriculum of the Master Naturalist program from University of Illinois Extension, as well as been trained through volunteer work.

During the program, trainees can expect to visit numerous sites throughout Cook County, often within the Forest Preserves. Trainees will not only receive exposure to the many different landscapes of Cook County, they’ll also learn about the variety of flora and fauna found in these landscapes. Master Naturalist training sessions are taught by specialists and experts in their respective fields.

Upon completion of the program, trainees are asked to perform 60 hours of volunteer work within the next year to become certified. Once certified, Master Naturalists must continue their certification by doing 30 hours of volunteer work annually, as well as 10 hours of continuing education.

Interested? Visit the UIE website to learn more or to submit an application.