FLORIDA MASTER NATURALIST PROGRAM
The Florida Master Naturalist Program (www.MasterNaturalist.org), is a conservation education and natural history extension program that I created and lead. The FMNP is taught by a statewide instructor network of approximately 140 certified FMNP Instructors that include Cooperative Extension Service and Sea Grant faculty and partners from other agencies and organizations that share an environmental education mission.
The FMNP serves both lay and professional audiences and has a detailed curriculum that includes core, 40-hr courses (Coastal Systems, Freshwater Systems, Upland Habitats) and 24-hr special topics courses (Wildlife Monitoring, Habitat Evaluation, Conservation Science, Environmental Interpretation, Coastal Shoreline Restoration, Marine Habitat Restoration). For more information on courses or to review courses currently available for registration: https://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/fmnp/.
FMNP courses were first released in 2001 and the FMNP has since issued nearly 20,000 graduate certificates and currently issues approximately 1,000-1,500 FMNP graduate certificates each year. Graduates of the FMNP have contributed thousands of hours and millions of dollars to the state of Florida. Graduates of the FMNP have also improved their professional skills, changed careers, and taken FMNP information into classrooms.
The FMNP is not simply successful in terms of graduates and impacts, it is also a revenue generating, revenue-sharing, and self-sustaining extension program. The FMNP is recognized as a national model of excellence in extension education and is being emulated in states throughout the country. I have worked directly with extension education professionals from numerous states to assist them in the development of master naturalist programs, including being a co-PI on a successful NSF grant to the University of Minnesota. The success and impacts of the FMNP have been notable and resulted in many awards, including the 2014 Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education from the Ecological Society of America. Although I’ve been the recipient of most of these awards the success of the FMNP is largely due to the dedication and the excellence in education that is provided by the FMNP Instructors with whom I work. Without their skill and commitment to education and to this program specifically, the FMNP could never have become the success it is today. Most importantly, the FMNP is a success because of the contributions that FMNP graduates provide to their local communities, students, professions, visitors, and family and friends by sharing their passion for and knowledge about Florida’s natural resources.