Training Info


IF YOU LOVE to feed, photograph, or just observe wildlife, this computer-based e-learning course is for you. You can do it at your own pace, place and time. And, you will acquire a better appreciation of nature, plus discover how you can provide a “helping hand” in your wildlife habitat.

The “Wildlife Habitat Naturalist” course was created by WindStar Wildlife Institute, a national, non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to help individuals and families improve the wildlife habitat on their properties.

After introducing WindStar’s highly acclaimed Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist certification pilot program in Maryland in the Spring of 1997, the Institute began receiving numerous inquiries from people all across the country who wanted to know when the Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist Program was coming to their state.

To satisfy the need in the interim, the staff came up with the idea of an Internet home study course called the
“Wildlife Habitat Naturalist”, which is a prerequisite to the new “Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist” Program that will be available in December 2006.

Involved in the creation of the Course were:

  • Thomas D. Patrick, President, WindStar Wildlife Institute
  • Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, Extension Wildlife Specialist & Associate Professor of Forestry, University of Kentucky
  • Jonathan Kays, Principal Agent & Regional Extension Specialist, Natural Resources, University of Maryland
  • Edith Thompson, Wild Acres Coordinator, MD Dept. of Natural Resources
  • Dr. Kinsey Green, Dean, Education and Home Economics, OR State University
  • Donald Rohrback, Western Region Land Mgr., MD Dept.of Natural Resources
  • Dr. Richard Wilson, Education Consultant, Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalists

Who Should Take This Course?

The Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist course is written to the level of the average consumer. There are no
prerequisites, other than an interest in wildlife and wildlife habitat, and the desire to learn more.

Here’s who we believe might be interested in the course:
Gardeners, including Master Gardeners
Educators, especially science teachers High school students
Birders of all ages and skill levels
Residential property owners
Rural property owners
Wildlife enthusiasts
Home schoolers
Retired people
Zoning officials
Nature Center staff
Farmers and ranchers
People who love to feed, photograph, or watch birds
Natural resource professionals
Landscape architects
4-H and Scout leaders
High School students
Wild Bird store owners and employees

What Are The Course Objectives?

WindStar’s Wildlife Habitat Naturalist Internet e-Learning Course will help you learn how to better manage wildlife
on your property, plus develop a sense of stewardship toward wildlife and a land conservation ethic.
this course will allow you to:

  • Learn the benefits of landscaping for wildlife–for you, your family,and your community.
  • Learn how to identify and attract common backyard wildlife species.
  • Learn why native plants are often the best choice when landscaping for wildlife.
  • Learn backyard wildlife histories, habitat, and food requirements, and how to better understand wildlife behavior.
  • Learn how to deal with wildlife problems, plus invasive and exotic plant species
  • Learn how to create a wildlife habitat enhancement plan for your property.
  • Learn how to reach out to others in your community with information on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

How Does It Work?

  • Units consist of an online video presentation, reading assignments, and wildlife habitat plan assignments.
  • WindStar urges participants to communicate with others taking the course and WindStar staff by posting comments and questions on the course bulletin board.
  • After completing Units 1-7and 8-14 participants will take tests.
  • After completing all units, participants will have finished a wildlife habitat enhancement plan for their property (or other approved site) – which they will mail to WindStar Wildlife Institute for final evaluation.

What Participants Will Receive

  • A three-ring notebook with dividers to organize course materials
  • Comprehensive resource materials with graphics, photos, and illustrations
  • Regional lists of recommended plants for wildlife
  • Access to Institute staff via phone or e-mail
  • Graduation certificate signed by WindStar Wildlife Institute President
  • One-year membership to WindStar Wildlife Institute with numerous member benefits
  • Business cards identifying participant as a Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist upon successful completion of the course
  • A wildlife habitat enhancement plan for their residential property (or other approved site) which they will develop during the course.
  • References
  • State Bird Checklist
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Suggested Readings
  • Nesting Box and Feeder Plans

About the Topics & Instructors…

Why Landscape for Wildlife
Zolna Russell, ASLA, Associate, Hord Coplan Macht, Baltimore, MD

Objectives: To give participants an understanding of the term “wildlife” and benefits of landscaping for wildlife–for themselves, their families, and their communities. To understand the difference between conservation and preservation and develop a sense of stewardship toward wildlife and a land conservation ethic. To understand the four essential elements of a wildlife habitat. To learn the compelling reasons to landscape such as economic, energy conservation, soil conservation, natural beauty, family nature center, natural insect control, ecosystem, lawn maintenance, water, wildlife watching, food production, pollution control, climate moderation, biodiversity, development issues and realistic expectations. Ms. Russell received a B.A. degree in Landscape Architecture from Penn State and M.A. in Geography/Environmental Planning from Towson State. She has built a successful track record of diverse experience in the field of landscape architecture.

Mr. Russell believes a garden is a source of relaxation and pleasure – a place to reconnect with the basic element of earth. Examples of her theme gardens include: edible landscapes, herb gardens, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, healing gardens, perennial gardens, permaculture systems, native plant communities, and historic gardens. She says that plants which provide the basic food, water, and cover requirements for wildlife can be integrated into any planting design. Plantings which attract wildlife emphasize the use of native plants, berry producing plants, and evergreens. Landscaping for wildlife includes the integration of wildlife feeders and nesting structures which enrich the landscape with the sound, color, and movement of wildlife interacting in the landscape.

Principles and Concepts
of Forest and Wildlife Management
Jonathan S. Kays, Principal Agent & Regional
Extension Specialist-Natural Resources,
Maryland Cooperative Extension, Keedysville, MD

Objectives: To provide participants with an understanding of the concepts of succession and its effect on wildlife; featured species, shade tolerance, stratification, vertical structure (layering), arrangement and interspersion; plant function, carrying capacity, food chains and webs; niche, edge and contrast; population dynamics, predator-prey relationships, fragmentation and travel corridors; wildlife sign, basic forest and wildlife management practices used to manipulate habitat, species richness, morbidity and migration.

Mr. Kays received a B.S. degree in Natural Resources Management from Cook College at Rutgers University and M.S. in Forest Biology from Virginia Tech. He worked as a county forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry; research assistant at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY; high school earth science teacher in Montville, NJ; and forestry technician with the U.S. Forest Service in northern Idaho. He now works with county extension agents, public agencies, private forestry organizations, and national organizations to develop programs in forest stewardship; woodland owner volunteer programs; deer management; alternative income opportunities utilizing natural resources; utilizing biosolids to grow trees; and 4-H Natural Resources.

What Are the Components of A Wildlife Habitat?

Thomas D. Patrick, President
WindStar Wildlife Institute, Fort Worth, TX

Objectives: To provide participants with an understanding that there is more to attracting wildlife than just providing food. They will learn the 16 components of a wildlife habitat–eight living and eight structural–and which ones attract specific wildlife species. They will be able to identify which they already have on their property and which they want to add.

Mr. Patrick is the founder and CEO of WindStar Wildlife Institute, an international, non-profit conservation organization, whose mission and solution to the loss of native plants and wildlife habitat due to commercial and residential development, focuses on effectively teaching wildlife habitat improvement through proven methods such as “neighbor helping neighbor” and “education through demonstration.” He grew up on a farm in Iowa and received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Drake University. He was a writer, photographer, and editor for the Des Moines Register; Farm Editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger; photographer for the Carroll Daily Times Herald, Associated Press, and United Press International; and editor of Big Farmer, Farm Profit, Archery World, Farmer’s Digest, Woman Golfer magazines; Director of Education and Communications for a large, national trade association in Washington, DC; editor of WindStar Wildlife Institute’s award winning web site, WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-Magazine; American Wildlife Blog; and is a frequent speaker at forest and wildlife management and conservation conferences throughout the U.S.

How To Select The Best Plants For Your Habitat
Joe Barley, Owner,
Clear Ridge Nursery, Union Bridge, MD

Objectives: To provide participants with an understanding of the factors that should be considered when selecting trees, shrubs, ground covers, and vines that produce food, cover, and nesting areas for wildlife. They will learn the importance of size and other criteria such as deciduous or conifers, native and/or beneficial, full sun or shade, and wet soil or well drained. Participants will also learn the best ways to build back the understory, why wildlife prefer native plants, how to deal with “disturbed ” soils, and why it is important to learn the common and scientific names of plants.

Mr. Barley is a professional forester since 1977 and an arborist since 1984. He worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a project forester, advising on the management of private woodlots, then as a utility forester for Baltimore Gas & Electric doing substation landscaping, wetland and forest conservation projects. He started his own business–Clear Ridge Nursery–in 1994. The nursery specializes in the production of container established native trees and shrubs for conservation purposes.

How To Maintain Trees & Shrubs in Your Habitat
Ray Bosmans, Horticulture Specialist,
Maryland Cooperative Extension, College Park, MD

Objectives: To provide participants with the knowledge to properly care for their plants. They will learn how to prune and when to cut trees and shrubs down. And, they will learn the answers to the following questions: Why should you leave dead trees and not remove them if they are not threatening to fall on the house or garage? When you finally have a good stand of mature trees, how do you know when and how many to thin? What is mast and why is it so important to wildlife? How do you mange trees and shrubs for wildlife?

Mr. Bosmans has been employed with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension since 1973. Since the Home & Garden Center’s inception in 1989, he has served as a Regional Specialist operating out of the Center. The popular Center disseminates research-based horticultural information to homeowners via publications, the media, an 800 phone line and a web site. His Extension program area is horticulture, specifically, woody and herbaceous landscape plants, turf, and aquatic gardening.

Managing the Habitat For Specific Wildlife Species
Thomas G. Barnes , PhD , Extension Professor
& Wildlife Specialist, Department of Forestry,
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

Objectives: To provide participants with the understanding of which species of wildlife they might expect in their habitat and what to do to attract more species. They will learn how the habitat needs of wildlife vary considerably from species to species, and season to season. For example, Whitetail deer are able to live in a wide range of habitat conditions. On the other hand, some species, such as Baltimore orioles, have very specific habitat requirements for some or all phases of their lives. They will learn about the limiting factors and why it is important to leave the “wild” in wildlife.

Dr. Barnes is an award-winning writer and photographer in addition to being Kentucky’s Extension Wildlife Specialist. He holds his doctorate in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University, a master of science from South Dakota State University, and a bachelor of arts, magna cum laude, from Huron College, South Dakota. Dr. Barnes’ area of expertise include urban wildlife conservation; biodiversity; ecosystems approach to natural resources management, and wildlife damage management. He is the author of the popular book, Gardening For the Birds.

How To Handle Wildlife Problems

Leslie E. Terry, former State Director,
Animal Damage Control Program,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Annapolis, MD

Objectives: Participants will learn why deer damage is no longer just a rural problem and what can be done to limit damage to trees and shrubs. They will learn how raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, hawks, and others can come in conflict with humans. Participants will learn how to handle overabundant numbers of wildlife, deter undesirable behavior, plus several ways to control access to property, and proven ways to keep them from eating favorite plants, shrubs, and trees. Plus, they will learn what kills millions of songbirds in each state every year.

Mr. Terry received a B.S. degree in General Biology from Eastern Oregon College and B.S. degree in Wildlife Management from Oregon State University. He has more than 29 years experience in the nuisance wildlife control field. Mr. Terry received training at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Amherst, MA; and Elkins, WV, assisting landowners with nuisance wildlife problems such as pine voles, blackbirds, woodchuck, bats, etc. Mr. Terry is responsible for the Federal wildlife damage control program in Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia and provides technical assistance to residents who have problems with nuisance wildlife. He is a Certified Public Agency Applicator in Maryland in Category 7, for industrial, instructional, structural, and health related, birds and rodents.

What Biodiversity Means
To People and Their Communities
Edith R. Thompson, former Coordinator,
Wild Acres Program, MD Department of
Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD

Objectives: Participants will learn about the benefits and challenges of landscaping for wildlife in the urban residential setting. They will learn how to develop an ecological perspective toward wildlife habitat enhancement. And, they will discover how backyard habitats can make an environmental difference using specific examples from people in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wild Acres Program.

Ms. Thompson received her B.S. degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Maryland. She started her career as a state urban wildlife biologist. She co-created and coordinated “Natural Design in Development,” a series of conferences and workshops to teach biologists, foresters, land planners, engineers, and other related professionals to work together to create environmentally sensitive residential development designs. Also, she worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field office to design and implement regional workshops to help teachers create and use schoolyard wildlife habitats. Ms. Thompson created and coordinated Maryland’s Wild Acres Program and became the State Teaming With Wildlife Coordinator. She received the “Governors Salute to Excellence” honor in 1991 and “Distinguished Conservationist” award in 1993 from the National Institute for Urban Wildlife.

Best Ways To Watch and Photograph Wildlife
Timothy C. Flanigan
Nature Exposure, Bedford, PA

Objectives: Participants will learn how good techniques for viewing wildlife can also work well for photographing wildlife. These include: looking in the right place; looking at the right time; developing wildlife viewing skills and techniques; and understanding the species and its habits. They will learn how to select the proper equipment (binoculars, field guides, cameras, lenses, and film); how to select a subject; how to stalk wildlife effectively; how to decide on a perspective and isolate the subject; how to read the lighting; how to compose the photograph; how to seek the decisive moment; and how to decide what to do with the prize-winning photographs.

Mr. Flanigan is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer/photographer and public speaker and has 25 years of experience as a Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation Officer. His photography and writing credits include such publications as: Field & Stream, Turkey Call, Pennsylvania Wildlife, Keystone Conservationist, Grouse Point Almanac, Deer and Deer Hunting, Pennsylvania Game News, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan Sportsman, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York Outdoor Times, Pennsylvania Game and Fish, Pennsylvania Angler, American Bee Journal, Bird Watcher’s Digest, as well as calendars, travel brochures, and outdoor books. He has written and co-produced hunting and shooting safety videos and public service announcements.

How To Build Backyard Ponds,
Bogs & Other Water Features
Howard R. Crum, Vice President
KOI Unlimited, Frederick, MD

Objectives: Participants will learn how a water feature such as a pond or wetland (bog) in a backyard can be an instant focal point for wildlife. They will learn how to select a site, choose a pond style, and excavate. Also they will become familiar with lining options, installation, edging ideas, pumps, fountains, waterfalls, fish and scavengers, filters, baskets, and types of aquatic plants to use. They will learn how to create a bog for pond overflow, do maintenance, learn safety tips and explore other water features that are less costly and take less time to establish.

Mr. Crum graduated from Western Maryland College, majoring in philosophy and history. He managed sales, production, fulfillment, advertising, and overall operations at Lilypons during his 17-year tenure. He is on the board of directors of the Maryland Aquaculture Association and has been on the steering committee of the Aquaculture Commission of Maryland. Mr. Crum lectures frequently to garden clubs, colleges and often is the featured public speaker at large public gatherings. He has provided consulting to Time Warner, Ortho Press, The Baltimore Sun, Meredith Corporation, Hearst Publications, The Washington Post, and other publishers. Plus, he has written numerous articles and books on water gardening and has appeared on MTV, Good Morning America, PBS, and other television programs.

How To Build A Bluebird Trail
Connie Toops, Freelance Photojournalist, Marshall, NC

Objectives: Participants will learn why nearly every description of bluebirds includes the words “gentle,” “sweet,” or “delightful.” They will discover what it is that invokes such a feeling of love from human admirers. And, they will learn the natural history of these rare and magical birds, as well as the human champions whose love for the bluebird have helped it survive. Participants will find out how others like themselves, all across the country are establishing trails for nesting boxes and are having terrific success at boosting bluebird populations.

Ms. Toops is an accomplished nature writer and photographer. Since 1978 her work has appeared in more than two dozen outdoor, travel and conservation magazines, and has been featured by more than a dozen major book publishers. Her own titles include: Great Smoky Mountains, Everglades, National Seashores, Bluebirds Forever, The Enchanting Owl, Hummingbirds: Jewels in Flight, Birds of South Florida, The Alligator, Crater Lake Trails, and the Let’s Explore series of activity books for children. Her photographs have appeared in calendars including Audubon, Sierra Club, and her own Hummingbird and Bluebird calendars. She previously worked for the National Park Service at Colonial, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Everglades, and Crater Lake national parks and currently is a Contributing Editor for Birder’s World magazine.

How To Create A Wildflower Meadow For Butterflies and Birds
Neil Diboll, Consulting Ecologist & CEO, Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI

Objectives: Participants will learn the benefits of a wildflower meadow for butterflies and birds in a wildlife habitat, how to choose a site, determine which wildflowers and native grasses to buy, clear the ground, prepare the seedbed, sow the seed, determine how the meadow will look the first year, how it will look the second year and beyond, and what maintenance is required.

Mr. Diboll received his degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1978. He has since worked for the U.S. Park Service in Virginia, the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado, and the University of Wisconsin. In 1982 he began his involvement with Prairie Nursery, producing native plants and seeds, and designing native landscapes. He has since devoted his efforts to championing the use of prairie plants, as well as native trees, shrubs and wetland plants, in contemporary American landscapes. Mr. Diboll has been a speaker at: Kew Gardens, London, England; Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University; New York Botanic Garden; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Chicago Botanic Garden; U.S. National Arboretum; Longwood Gardens; Kansas City Botanical Garden; Morris Arboretum, Pennsylvania; WindStar Wildlife Institute; American Horticultural Society; and National Wildlife Federation.

Feeding Birds
Paulette Enfante, Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist, WindStar Wildlife Institute, Frederick, MD

Objectives: To provide participants with the information they need to increase the number of birds they now feed. They will learn how bird feeding probably got started and how it has changed over the years. And, they will learn about feeder birds’ habits, songs, and habitat needs. Participants also will learn how the feeder can become an outdoor classroom where family members can learn about nature, ecology, predation, natural selection, territorial phenomena, camouflage, coloration, pecking orders, and about those pesky squirrels and raccoons. Also, they will discover the favorite foods of different bird species and how to build feeders.

Ms. Enfante was selected and trained as a Maryland Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist in 1997. She is an accomplished speaker for the Master Naturalist program and has made numerous presentations at flower and garden shows, to garden clubs and other groups. In addition, she has written articles on enhancing wildlife habitat for employee newsletters, lead discussions on wildlife and wildlife habitat at brown bag lunches, helped co-workers select native plants for their yards, promoted the use of beneficial insects to control garden pests, and counseled neighbors on damage to wildlife caused by cats. She has enhanced her own wildlife habitat by installing several ponds, feeding stations, nesting boxes, native plants and wildflower gardens.

Creating A Wildlife Habitat Plan For Your Property
Thomas D. Patrick, President, WindStar Wildlife Institute, Fort Worth, TX

Objectives: Participants will learn how to create a wildlife habitat plan for their property that they can follow for years to come. They will determine what they want to accomplish in their habitat, plus do an inventory of habitat elements, components, and species of wildlife they currently have. Participants will learn how to create a rough map of their property which contains these items and convert it to a to-scale map. Next they will decide which new components they want to add and draw these on their map, sketch out an action plan with dates and budget, and implement their plan.

Mr. Patrick is the founder and CEO of WindStar Wildlife Institute, an international, non-profit conservation organization, whose mission and solution to the loss of native plants and wildlife habitat due to commercial and residential development, focuses on effectively teaching wildlife habitat improvement through proven methods such as “neighbor helping neighbor” and “education through demonstration.” He grew up on a farm in Iowa and received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Drake University. He was a writer, photographer, and editor for the Des Moines Register; Farm Editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger; photographer for the Carroll Daily Times Herald, Associated Press, and United Press International; and editor of Big Farmer, Farm Profit, Archery World, Farmer’s Digest, Woman Golfer magazines; Director of Education and Communications for a large, national trade association in Washington, DC; editor of WindStar Wildlife Institute’s award winning web site, WindStar Wildlife eNews; and is a frequent speaker at forest and wildlife management and conservation conferences throughout the U.S.

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Register by calling 301-788-3422

p National Master Naturalist Course

IF YOU LOVE to feed, photograph or observe wildlife and want to know more about them, you can do so with the new, advanced WindStar Wildlife Institute homestudy course.

Upon completion, you will become a Certified WindStar National Master Naturalist.

“The overall mission of the program is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources, including wildlife and wildlife habitat, on their properties and within their communities,” says Tom Patrick, President.

“We want students to inventory the elements and components of their wildlife habitat, learn more about forest and wildlife management, decide what to add and create a plan for making it happen,” says Patrick. “They can then replicate this effort for others such as friends, relatives and neighbors.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 71 million people 16 years old and older—31 percent of all Americans—fed, photographed and observed wildlife in 2001 and spent $40 billion on these activities. Nearly 95 percent—63 million—enjoyed their activity around their homes.

Millions of people now live in urban and urbanized areas. Many of these residents and landowners are two to three generations removed from direct land management (farming, ranching or forestry) and they rarely seek traditional forms of outreach and extension prior to making their land management decisions.

This training can benefit everyone–from professionals wanting to increase the scope of their knowledge, to individuals in the general public who have an interest in conserving our natural resources.

“This course can help people develop their personal and professional environmental skills in order to creatively tackle natural resource challenges,” says Patrick. “And, they can do it at their own pace and times.”

The course is divided into two parts—The Woods In Your Backyard and The Wildlife In Your Backyard. Two of the DVD videos used in the course—How Birds Eat and Insect Defense—were created by Dr. Ron Goor, creator of the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo, the first live insect zoo in the U.S.

Special sections are devoted to: Plants, Ornithology, Entomology, Herpetology, Mammalogy and Teaching Others About Nature. Individuals will learn how to manage your land, map it, and assess why you bought the land and what you hope to get out of it.

Plus, subjects like tree identification, forest and wildlife management, water resources, best plants for wildlife, creating wildflower meadows, lists of native plant nurseries and contractors, recreation, aesthetic appeal and ways to improve each will be covered. Cost is $265.

This is the second e-learning program offered by WindStar. The first certifies individuals as “Wildlife Habitat Naturalists.”

Wildlife recreation is not a fad that came and went, but instead calls to people no matter what else is going on in their lives. Whether noticing the v-shaped flock of geese flying south, the splash of a well-cast lure in a mountain lake, or the early morning pleasures of a deer stand, enjoying wildlife still has an important place in modern life.

There are local natural resource and conservation organizations–with education, outreach and service missions–who depend upon well-trained adult volunteers to conduct youth education programs; for operating parks, nature centers, and natural areas; and for providing leadership for local natural resource conservation efforts.

But, these agencies are clearly overwhelmed by broadening and complex natural resource challenges that require an understanding of complex ecological dynamics at a local level.

You can help fulfill these needs.

Taking care of our environment is everyone’s business. Conservation and Stewardship are not spectator sports. This country needs an involved and educated citizenry, willing to demonstrate their commitment to conserving and managing our natural resources. Individuals–as in National Master Naturalist volunteers–are essential to the conservation and management of a better nation.

We need more volunteers like you bringing together your diverse set of personal and professional skills in order to creatively tackle our natural resource challenges. This cannot be done alone.

Through outreach, education, interpretation, and recreation you can help lead us to a better understanding of the responsibilities of stewardship, resource management, and conservation.

This program is a natural resource-based, national, volunteer training and development program sponsored by WindStar Wildlife Institute and The Communicators, Inc., a professional certification consultancy, along with the assistance of Maryland Cooperative Extension, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Penn State Cooperative Extension.

In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources participated in the creation of the National Master Naturalist Pilot Program. The sponsors and cooperators have come together in partnership to make this educational volunteer program available to you.

The overall Mission of the program is:

To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources, including wildlife and wildlife habitat, within their communities.”

Our program goals and objectives are to:

  • Improve public understanding of natural resource ecology and management by developing a body of knowledge that can be used to enhance land management and education efforts within local communities;
  • Enhance existing natural resources education and outreach activities by providing natural resources training, thereby developing a supply of dedicated and informed volunteers; and
  • Develop a self-sufficient national WindStar volunteer network in every state.

The program is guided by a National Advisory Committee made up of Certified WindStar National Master Naturalists, forest and wildlife management and education representatives from universities, state and federal natural resource agencies, and certification consultants. The advisory committee sets the program standards, policies and procedures, and curriculum requirements.

Throughout the course, we’ll follow the case study of one family as they go through the course. Many color photographs are used to illustrate. You will be provided with a Activities and Test booklet that, upon completion, will be submitted for your grade.

WindStar created a pilot Certified Master Naturalist Program (CMN) in 1998. The program was created specifically to provide top-notch naturalist training and professional resources to capable leaders who are committed to acting as volunteer Master Naturalists through participation in outreach efforts to assist property owners, renters, and caretakers with the enhancement of their wildlife habitats.

The pilot program focused on Maryland. In the year following the program, through the outreach efforts of its 28 volunteers, the Program directly educated 18,863 individuals and families on improving their wildlife habitats. In addition, articles were published about the Program and the “Master Naturalists” in newspapers and newsletters with a combined circulation of more than 2,216,000!

Educational Priority
WindStar’s programs address community issues as an educational priority. The programs’ participants educate the public about the threat to wildlife habitat and natural ecosystems and what to do about it.

In addition to increasing awareness and knowledge about the threat to wildlife habitat and natural ecosystems caused by residential and commercial development, WindStar’s programs provide participants with the skills necessary to enhance wildlife habitats on their own properties and to assist others in enhancing wildlife habitats on their properties. The programs are computer-aided, home study certification courses.

WindStar expects to reach men and women of all ages interested in wildlife, wildlife habitat and natural landscaping. WindStar has extensive information on its website and expects to attract participants who are directed to the web site by their own research, web search engines, advertising in nature magazines and by word of mouth.

What is a Naturalist?
Naturalists are students of natural science or natural history. For most, becoming a naturalist can be a life-long goal. Learning never stops, as the natural world presents an infinite number of things to investigate. Yet, many would agree that natural history is an almost obsolete term for the study of things in nature–plants, animals, minerals.

In fact, the word “naturalist” brings to mind such historic figures as John Muir, John Burroughs and Aldo Leopold. So, are naturalists outdated, old-fashioned types of investigators, students, and teachers?


Although natural history may have begun as a somewhat unsystematic approach to investigating the environment and its inhabitants, modern naturalists are scientists in the truest sense.

They interact with the environment through careful observation, study, and analysis. Before the current trend towards specialization in which scientists tend to know more and more about less and less, professional scientists were naturalists in a broad sense.

In the past and today, naturalists are characterized by knowing something about the whole of nature. They are generalists. Although usually trained in one discipline, they delve into a variety of subjects including botany, entomology, ornithology, mammalogy, herpetology, and geology.

Naturalists emphasize field investigations as opposed to laboratory work. A naturalist can be defined as someone who possesses extensive knowledge of the natural world. More importantly, modern naturalists understand that in nature rarely anything stands alone.

The interconnectedness of all living things to each other and to their environment is the essence of the study of natural history. Therefore, naturalists also become ecologists, ethologists, and environmentalists. They are people who understand that the natural world is not separate from human existence–we are surrounded by nature and we act upon it.

But naturalists aren’t just trained scientists. They are people with a real appreciation and respect for nature. They are people equipped with the tools necessary to be a naturalist and not just a quirky hat and binoculars. A desire to ask questions and seek answers, resources for naming and identifying things, a concern for the environment, and an awareness of the threats to nature are a few of the naturalist’s tools.

Register by calling 301-788-3422


What is a WindStar National Master Naturalist?

The term as used in this program, describes the scope of your training and areas of your knowledge. The natural world comprises a variety of complicated, interrelated subjects and many questions still remain unanswered.

None of us have or can truly master all of the disciplines pertaining to the natural world. But, we can master the skills of those that came before us, including careful observation, asking questions, and evaluation. So wear the title as a representation of this program, but understand that becoming a true WindStar National Master Naturalist is a goal that can only be approached, never attained.

Naturalists work to gain the wisdom of those who came before them, to build on that knowledge, and teach those who will come after them. You are volunteers with the interest and desire to give back to your community and willingness to be trained and to train others.

During your first year of involvement in the WindStar National Master Naturalist program, you are expected to complete the course and begin your outreach efforts. The training program provides you with a broad-based curriculum that covers a wide variety of topics from forest and wildlife management, to conservation, communication and leadership skills.

Because the U.S. has such diversity in climate, population and land types, the natural resources (and their uses) in each area of the nation are unique. Therefore, you will customize your activities and plans by selecting appropriate native trees and plants from your own state and region provided for you in the Resource CD.

Roles, Responsibilities, and Benefits
You will come away from the course with an accurate baseline understanding of what is meant by some of the ecological concepts and ideas that need to be understood in order to manage natural resources. These include the functional definitions of ecosystems, landscapes, communities, species diversity, populations and biodiversity. Your training will also expose you to the dynamics of natural systems–including succession; natural and human disturbances; recovery and restoration.

Management of Natural Systems
You will be exposed to the management of natural systems, including forest, wetland, urban and aquatic ecology. Because not all parts of the nation have land types suitable for these managed systems, training will focus on those managed systems that are a dominant feature in the country.

Interpretation and Communications
As a WindStar National Master Naturalist you may, hopefully, often represent your efforts to the public. Through your training you will be given an opportunity to develop presentation skills and learning techniques.

WindStar Wildlife Institute will function as a source of resources and materials for your use. The availability and effective use of these resources will be reviewed as part of the initial training.

Don’t let the program name and title “National Master Naturalist” fool you or scare you. Through your initial training you will learn a little about a lot. Many say that after their training they really begin to realize just how little they actually know. In return for the training and in order to attain and/or maintain certification, National Master Naturalists are encouraged to provide service back to the community.

This service can be a short, one-time project, such as participating as a speaker providing valuable information to neighbors and communities, or the service can be a long-term project, such as overseeing a park or prairie restoration.

The nature and structure of the National Master Naturalist program is such that volunteer hours can be donated to many different projects involving natural resource agencies, schools, local governments, private landowners, parks and nature centers to name a few. Many projects and volunteer opportunities already exist and are in need of people. Although opportunities already exist, please don’t allow this to stifle your creativity. There are many new and exciting ideas for projects still out there to be discovered.

Some current and typical service projects include:

  • Development and maintenance of natural landscaping and demonstration areas at parks, nature centers and municipal areas
  • Construction and maintenance of interpretive nature trails
  • Stream bank, marsh, prairie, and rangeland restorations
  • Brush and exotic plant and wildlife control
  • Fish, wildlife, and plant inventories and surveys
  • Native plant seed collections and rescues
  • Outreach and education programs
  • Instructors or mentors for natural resource youth camps
  • Docents for nature centers and natural areas
  • Interpretive tour leaders
  • Write articles for local media

What Are The Benefits of Being a National Master Naturalist?
National Master Naturalist volunteers receive many benefits from being involved in the program.
Some of the most rewarding, as indicated by our volunteers, include:

  • Helping to make a difference for your area’s natural resources, both now and in the future.
  • Having the opportunity to learn from experts in the field through National Master Naturalist training.
  • Having the opportunity to provide important and valuable natural resource information to others.
  • Gaining an appreciation for and understanding of natural environments and their management.
  • Having the opportunity to build new friendships and working relationships with people sharing the same interests.

What Are The Responsibilities of a National Master Naturalist?
Upon beginning your natural resource training you have one year to complete your volunteer service to become Certified as a WindStar National Master Naturalist. The title “National Master Naturalist” shall only be used by individuals active in the WindStar National Master Naturalist program.

When an individual no longer actively participates in the program their designation as a National Master Naturalist and/or Certified National Master Naturalist becomes void.

Remember, as a Certified WindStar National Master Naturalist, you are a representative of WindStar Wildlife Institute. With that in mind, volunteers should consult with and follow the recommended management practices of the WindStar Wildlife Institute and your state’s forest and wildlife management agencies.

Attaining and maintaining National Master Naturalist Certification is your responsibility. An important part of that responsibility is record keeping. Documenting your observations, research, training, service and advanced training hours, and the number of people or amount of the resource you were able to reach or affect can help you document and maintain your certification as well as track your success and growth as a WindStar National Master Naturalist.

You may use the Outreach Forms included in the Teaching Others About Nature section of The Wildlife In Your Backyard for reporting your activities as they occur. Or, e-mail WindStar with the information.

Do you want to make a difference and help Mother Nature at the same time?

If you do:

Register by calling 301-788-3422