Florida Master Naturalist Courses Provide Unique Perspective into Natural World

Do you love the outdoors? Wish you knew more about the plants and animals native to our area?

Master Naturalist Jerry Patee leads classmates along his project: a wetland boardwalk in Perdido Key. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Master Naturalist Jerry Patee leads classmates along his project: a wetland boardwalk in Perdido Key. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

The Florida Master Naturalist Program is a course offered by Extension agents throughout the state, including the northwestern counties. Three different modules—Freshwater Wetlands, Coastal, and Uplands—are offered. They include 40 hours of instruction time on ecosystems, plant identification, animal ecology, and how humans live within the environment. Each class includes 2-3 field trips which may entail hikes, paddling, or tours of local museums and parks. Adult students are expected to produce an educational project at the end of the course, which may vary from a display or presentation to a skit or full-blown nature trail.

Proud Master Naturalist students at their graduation. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Proud Master Naturalist students at their graduation. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Several  Master Naturalists have recently brought their projects to life. Several years ago, Charlie Lurton created a plan to build living shorelines in Bayou Grande behind homes in his neighborhood. The project was approved by state and federal environmental regulatory agencies and oyster reefs and planting have recently begun. Jerry Patee, also an Escambia County Master Gardener, worked with his church to create a boardwalk trail through wetlands to a pristine view of Bayou Garcon in Perdido Key.

Master Naturalist students vary in backgrounds from retired military and teachers to new residents and college students. Many Master Gardeners find the courses a helpful addition to their training, and utilize their newly gained knowledge when working with clientele. At completion, students receive an official Florida Master Naturalist certificate, pin, and patch. Several Panhandle courses will be offered this spring—check out the FMNP website to see when a class will be offered near you!

 

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