Ruth Mead has been so encouraged by the response to the area’s first Georgia Master Naturalist Program that she is putting people on a waiting list for the next class.
“We tried to offer the program last year, but it took more work than I thought and I didn’t get enough interest from field-trip leaders in time to get a class together,” said Mead, senior education specialist at the Southeastern Natural Science Academy at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park and a Georgia master naturalist. “So I began planning this year’s program back in September.”
As soon as Mead lined up the field trips for the 10-week program, she set out to fill the class. “There is a 25-person limit to be fair to everybody,” she said, noting that because the program is centered around field trips, she wanted to make sure everyone who participated had an opportunity to see what was being shared on the trips.
Mead now has a waiting list for the next offering of the program, which she says will either be in the fall or next spring.
“This is the first Georgia Master Naturalist class offered in this area, so the response has been high,” said Mead.
The program costs $260 for Southeastern Natural Science Academy members and $300 for nonmembers. The program includes eight six-hour field trips to various locales, including Phinizy Swamp, Heggie’s Rock, Clarks Hill Lake, the Augusta Canal and the Silver Bluff Audubon Society.
“A lot of states have a master naturalist program, but each state gets to run their own program the way they want,” said Mead. “At the end of the program, everyone becomes a certified master naturalist.”
To become certified, participants must complete 48 hours of field trips.
“These programs were created to make citizens aware of the volunteer opportunities for our natural resources, to make them aware of what the natural resources of Georgia are and how mankind has impacted them.” said Mead. “It’s an intro into ecology, if you will.”
Mead attended a meeting at the University of Georgia to see what other master naturalists had developed and tailored the local program to fit the area. “It’s not going to make you an expert, but it will make people more aware of mankind’s impact on our natural resources,” explained Mead.
For information about the Georgia Master Naturalist Program, call Mead at (706) 796-7707.