W.Va. Master Naturalists chapter offers spring courses

PARKERSBURG – Nature lovers of all kinds are encouraged to join the Nature Nuts chapter of the West Virginia Master Naturalists as it begins a new round of classes this spring.

“We are looking for people who are passionate about nature and like to observe and study all aspects of the world around them,” said chapter coordinator Emily Grafton at Thursday’s informational meeting for new members at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library. “Naturalists look at the ecological perspective because no species exists by itself.”

The classes, which take place at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge at 3982 Waverly Road in Williamstown, will be the second Saturday of each month beginning March 9. This first meeting will be at Sam Bethune’s farm in Ritchie County, as many field trips are included in the course of study.

“Field work is one of the most important parts of this class,” Grafton said.

The major objective of the program is to teach people about all aspects of the natural world of West Virginia, including birds, geology, mammals, insects, wildflowers, wetlands and forests.

“The great part of this program is that there are things you are interested in and like from the beginning and things you could care less about, but once you get in the class about it realize you find very interesting,” said member Russ Flowers of Williamstown.

Flowers and his wife, Sue Flowers, became certified in the two-year course last year and are continuing to work with this next round.

“Everyone comes in with different skill sets and base of knowledge that help out everyone else,” said Russ Flowers. “In today’s fast-paced world, it is nice to sit back and reassess nature.”

Not only does the course require 48 hours of core classes, but also 16 hours of electives, 30 hours of completed work on pre-approved projects and two years to compete the program and become a certified master naturalist.

The course costs $125 for the full year to cover the manual, stipends for speakers and copying.

The classes are taught by some of West Virginia and Ohio’s most knowledgeable wildlife biologists, Grafton said.

“One of the things I love about these classes is that we discuss and debate issues, which makes it interesting and personable,” Grafton said. “Really, we have a wonderful time while learning how the world around us works.”

Russ Flowers said the fact that everyone in the classes has different areas of interest and strengths while being encouraged to talk helps the program.

“It’s an ongoing process, being a naturalist,” he said. “I’m very privileged and honored to be a part of this program.”

For more information on the Nature Nuts and the classes, contact Grafton at emily.grafton@gmail.com.