Julie A. Carson
IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The debut of the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) is on the horizon. Two orientation sessions scheduled for May will certify instructors, who will offer training opportunities beginning this summer.
“This is an exciting time for the program,” said Martin Main, wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee and creator of the new program. “The training begins a statewide effort to promote environmental education among citizens and visitors in Florida.”
Instructors will offer the Freshwater Wetlands Module of the master naturalist program. Two additional modules are being developed — Upland Habitats and Coastal Systems — that will be offered in the future. Each module includes classroom learning, field trips and practical experience. Students can be certified as master naturalists in any or all of the modules.
The first two instructor orientation sessions are scheduled for May 9-10 at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, and May 24-25 at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton.
More than 20 environmental and nature groups will be represented at the sessions. Southwest Florida participants include the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve and The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples. Southeast Florida participants include Audubon of Florida in Miami and PalmNet in Palm Beach County. Several agents with UF’s Cooperative Extension Services also will be certified as instructors.
Additional instructor orientation will be presented in north and central Florida next fall and in the Panhandle during winter 2002. Details and registration information are available on the following Web site: http://www.MasterNaturalist.org.
“The Florida Master Naturalist Program is going to build a new sense of collaboration in environmental education,” Main said. “We’ll have instructors working together to present a consistent level of training that will create a workforce of master naturalists to assist in environmental education efforts throughout the state.”
Media representatives are invited to attend the FMNP instructor orientation sessions. RSVP by contacting Julie Carson at (941) 658-3400. The Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, located two miles north of Immokalee on State Road 29, is part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.