Twenty years ago, the Florida Master Naturalist was introduced, a statewide program designed to provide adults with an education in Florida’s natural wonders. Martin Mayne, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, has developed and led the program from day one.
“FMNP provides different things to different people, but I believe each course opens a potential door to new opportunities. Participants can learn new things, meet new people, develop skills and confidence to share information with others and participate in efforts to ensure our natural resources are used wisely.” In the broadest sense, I suppose the biggest benefit is that FMNP helps people become more interested in Florida’s amazing natural resources and drive that forward by sharing those interests with others.”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Florida Master Naturalist Program, a week-long series of events are currently running through November 7. Programs, both online and in person, include hiking, beach cleaning, kayaking, and virtual visits to facilities such as the Mote Marine Aquarium. All activities are related to the nature-focused UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Program, and many are joint efforts with partners including Audubon Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition and the Florida Wildflower Foundation .
Everyone is welcome to attend the festival events, whether FMNP alumni or not.
“The festival is truly a celebration of appreciation for the wonderful trainers and alumni of the program and all that they have helped us achieve, but we welcome all those interested in Florida’s environment to participate in the festival events and discover their passion for Florida’s natural world,” said Main, UF/IFAS Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.
All events are free, although registrants can choose to contribute to the endowment fund that benefits the program or enter a raffle to win one of 20 prizes donated by FMNP supporters. For information on a specific event, visit https://bit.ly/3blnM4B..
The Florida Master Naturalist program has grown since its early days, with classes now offered across the state focusing on everything from coastal systems and conservation science to habitat assessment and wildlife monitoring. Ten different courses are taught by over 160 certified instructors. To date, nearly 20,000 FMNP graduation certificates have been issued and more than 1,200 courses have been completed.
“FMNP training will benefit anyone interested in learning more about the Florida environment, seeking educational contact hours, or wishing to increase their knowledge for use in education programs as volunteers, staff, ecotourism guides and others,” says FMNP.
Programs are offered throughout Florida, and students can take courses locally or travel to learn about other areas of the state. Weekday, evening and weekend programs are available. Classes are usually a mixture of classroom work and field trips, allowing participants to explore a variety of natural areas and learn about ecosystems and people.
In Lake County, Patricia Larson of Eustis-based Trout Lake Nature Center is a leader in freshwater systems, upland systems, conservation science, and environmental translation courses. She can be reached at 352-630-2584.
In Sumter County, Jim Davis of the UF/IFAS Extension County Sumter in Bushnell is a pioneer of freshwater systems courses. He can be reached at 352-569-6867.
For more information about FMNP, visit https://masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu.