By Holly Abeels & Katherine Clements
Are you a graduate of a Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) course? If so, you’re eligible to join a local FMNP Friends Group. There are currently 10 Friends Groups across the state and you can find your local Friends Group here.
There are many benefits to being an engaged member of a Friends Group.
- You can continue the comradery and interactions that are a core component of taking FMNP classes.
- Belonging to a Friends Group is an opportunity to meet like-minded people.
- Friends Groups offer a variety of ways for you to interact with other members and the community.
- Each Friends group frequently hosts meetings throughout the year, often with guest speakers. Prior to 2020, these were in-person. They are now done virtually, but that may change when guidelines indicate it is safe to do so.
- Activities are planned for Friends Group members.
- Members can participate in many volunteer or service learning opportunities.
- It’s a great way to find out information about upcoming FMNP courses and other nature-focused events in your local area.
Statewide Monthly Webinars
With the current COVID situation, Friends Groups had to get creative in how to interact with members. This is a difficult time and FMNP Friends Group facilitators and leaders wanted to provide an opportunity for our members to continue to connect.
To do so, we launched a new program series to encourage FMNP Friends Groups’ continued engagement throughout the state. These virtual, statewide programs host guest speakers enable members to learn about a variety of topics. For example, recent presentations have discussed wildlife ecology and conservation for species such as manatees, dolphins and jaguars; another highlighted an archeological site in Titusville; and another shared how to use history to guide ecological restoration efforts.
There’s more to come for 2021!
The online FMNP Friends Group speaker series has been a huge success with the response of people who attended being overwhelmingly positive. For example, more than 300 people participated in the first five months and 99% of those who responded to the post-event survey indicated plans to attend future webinars.
We are planning some great presentations in the next few months. If you are an FMNP graduate and think you would enjoy attending our webinars we encourage you to join an FMNP Friends Group. And if you are not an FMNP graduate but are interested in learning more about the FMNP and perhaps taking an FMNP course, we encourage you to check out the FMNP website (MasterNaturalist.org) and FMNP current course offerings, available here. You’ll be glad you did!
Are you interested in organizing a local FMNP Friends Group in your area? Information on how to do so can be found here.
If you want to support the FMNP please consider donating to the FMNP endowment fund. This year is the FMNP 20-year anniversary and all donations receive a commemorative FMNP 20-year pin!
Holly Abeels, UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant agent in Brevard County, facilitates the Space Coast Regional Friends Group; and Katherine Clements, ecology and natural resources educator for UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, is the facilitator of the Suncoast Friends Chapter of the FMNP.