Northern Neck Master Naturalists


Northern Neck Master Naturalists Basic Training Program

As a community-based Natural Resources Volunteer Program, the Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists are volunteer educators, citizen scientists, and stewards helping Virginia conserve and manage natural resources and public lands. The Virginia Master Naturalist Program is a statewide corps of volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities. Interested Virginians become Master Naturalists through training and volunteer service.

Rigorous. Fun. Meaningful: It's What We Do. All over the state, Virginia Master Naturalists train for certification, then maintain that certification by launching or participating in local projects as they trek through forests and fields, collect data in streams, beaches, and backyards  - All while continuing to learn and sharing their enthusiasm for Virginia's natural world.

Looking for insects but found a frog!

The process for becoming a certified Virginia Master Naturalist typically takes 6 to 12 months. The process begins with a 40-hour basic training course offered by our local chapter of the program. An additional 8 hours of advanced training are also required. An important part of the certification process is the required 40 hours of volunteer service which is performed within the community. In a year or less, you will: Collect a firm understanding of natural sciences in the context of Virginia’s ecological systems, deepen strong, foundational knowledge through advanced training and experience, then extend that knowledge to the community through volunteer service. 

The basic training course covers the background knowledge and skills that every naturalist needs to have. The course is tailored to fit our local Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula environment and community.   In fact, many trainees feel that the highlight of the course is the weekly field exercises that take place at various locations throughout the area.  We visit our renowned State Parks but also some of our lesser-known Natural  Area Preserves and State Forests.

Field trip to Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve  

Our instructors include experts from state agencies and environmental organizations as well as Master Naturalists who enjoy sharing their acquired knowledge and experience.

Trainees learn water quality testing with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Monthly webinars and chapter programs support continuing education opportunities following completion of your basic training course.

A Virginia Master Naturalist will know…

  1. All aspects of their role as a Virginia Master Naturalist, the mission and objectives of the program, and the guidelines for participation

  2. What a naturalist is and does and the significance of naturalists and natural history

  3. The biogeography of Virginia, including the physiographic regions and the geological and ecological aspects that make them distinct

  4. Basic concepts of ecology

  5. Basic concepts of geology

  6. Basic resource management principles

  7. Some native flora and fauna in the region

  8. The general process of science

  9. The roles of Virginia state agencies in the management and conservation of natural resources

Tree coring during field trip to Chilton Woods State Forest to observe forest management practices.

A Virginia Master Naturalist will be able to…

  1. Use a key to identify organisms

  2. Use a field guide

  3. Share knowledge with others (verbally and/or in writing)

  4. Make and record observations in nature

  5. Recognize when he or she does not know the answer to a question, but be able to seek out answers from people, books, or other reliable resources

Every Virginia Master Naturalist training will include…

  1. Both field and classroom experiences, with a minimum of 25% of the course time spent in the field

  2. Information from unbiased, research-based sources

  3. Material on the following topics:

    1. oIntroduction to the Virginia Master Naturalist program

    2. oAmerican Naturalists

    3. oBasic Ecology

    4. oBiogeography

    5. oGeology

    6. oNature of Naming

    7. oEducation and Interpretation Skills

    8. oCitizen Science and Research Skills

    9. oEcology and Management of the systems occurring in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula

    10. oOverview of vertebrates, invertebrates, trees and other plants (biology, ecology, identification, conservation and management)

  4. Recent Northern Neck Master Naturalist Basic Training graduates obviously enjoyed the class, learned a lot and were inspired to do more.  Just a few of the positive comments from the 2016 class:

On fossils and field trip to Fossil Beach in Westmoreland State Park:

“Enjoyed Cindy's Presentaion. Liked the fact she brought her fossils for us to view. Could tell she finds joy in finding, identifying her finds and sharing her knowledge with others.”

On Aquatic Ecology Class:

“The challenge to our rivers' health is still a large one today.  Is there hope for our children and grandchildren-At times I'm very discouraged .  Today's speaker lifted me out of this apathy.”

On Coastal Ecosystems Class at Virginia Institute of Marine Science:

“This is why I took this course! This presentation was so helpful and informative. Excellent job answering questions and explaining things so that everyone can understand.”

On Wetlands Ecology Class:

“Excellent and informative presentation with great visuals.  I know a great deal more about wetlands after today.”

Also check out “Adventures with Arlene” in our Summer2016newsletter.pdf.  Arlene is a recent graduate who was able to use her observation skills and contacts from the Basic Training Class to identify dead wildlife and report it to the proper state agencies.  Through those contacts she discovered additional volunteer opportunities at her favorite natural area.

Watch the web page for more information on the next class to be held this fall.  We hope you’ll join our group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers!

For More information on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Master Naturalist Program go to