Florida Master Naturalist Program marks 20 years in weeklong celebration
The Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP), an adult education program that explores Florida’s environment and was developed by the University of Florida, celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2021.
To mark the occasion, the program is hosting a weeklong FMNP Festival on Nov. 1-7. Although all events are free of charge, registrants may choose to contribute to an endowment fund benefiting the program or enter a raffle to win one of 20 prizes donated by FMNP supporters.
“The festival is really a celebration to acknowledge the wonderful instructors and graduates of the program and all they’ve helped us to accomplish, but we welcome everyone interested in Florida’s environment to participate in the festival events and discover their own passion for Florida’s natural world,” said Martin Main, a UF/IFAS professor of wildlife ecology and conservation who developed and has led the program since its inception.
The festival’s activities will include online presentations from some of the many FMNP partners and supporters – Audubon Florida, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition, and Florida Wildflower Foundation – during the week. The weekend will conclude with in-person events around the state that have been organized by FMNP Friends Groups, which have been formed by FMNP graduates to continue engaging with the program and provide community service. These in-person opportunities include kayaking, biking and hiking tours, as well as hands-on projects like oyster bagging and a beach cleanup. There are even a few additional events scheduled outside of the official celebration week.
When the program’s first students enrolled in 2001, Main and a few colleagues taught the new classes on a trial basis. He said he never could have envisioned the program would grow to include 10 courses on a variety of topics taught by more than 160 certified instructors. To date, approximately 20,000 FMNP graduate certificates have been issued and more than 1,200 courses completed.
“Learning about the natural world from an FMNP course instructor is only the beginning,” Main said. “The FMNP is an empowerment program and we’re building a network of advocates for Florida’s wildlife and the habitats we share with them. We hope to continue this movement and support this program’s greatest assets – its instructors, students and graduates – for years to come.”
One way the program is seeking to maintain that momentum, Main shared, is through the creation of the FMNP endowment to secure funding in perpetuity for a program coordinator position. The fund is accepting donations now at uff.ufl.edu/FMNPendow.
Learn more about the events planned and register to participate at cvent.me/rvaVa1.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
ifas.ufl.edu | @UF_IFAS