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Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalists to begin ninth season

The Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalist program will offer a variety of wildlife-focused programs and seminars. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — The Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalists program is beginning its ninth season.

The program is aimed at people who enjoy learning about nature and exploring the plants, animals and landscapes in West Virginia through topics like mammals, geology, birds, nature sketching, trees, insects, mushrooms, fish and more.

Participants learn by taking field trips and classroom workshops. The program is available to anyone 16 and older. All ages and all levels of physical ability are welcome.

The cost for the program is $125 and can be paid in five monthly installments, or at one time. It covers the DNR manual, stipends for speakers and some administrative costs. Participation in the program may last indefinitely. Many people take two years to complete the program.

For more information, contact Emily Grafton for a copy of the schedule and a brochure. She can be reached at Emily.grafton@gmail.com or 304-906-7846. The 2021 year is being organized.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalist program will offer a variety of wildlife-focused programs and seminars. (Photo Provided)

Resource experts from the state Division of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Service and local experts teach the 64 hours of workshops. The workshop on fish is taught by Jason White, a local scientist/naturalist with years of experience interning and volunteering for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Sue Olcott, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, has taught the workshop on mammals for eight years. Jim Fregonara, another DNR instructor, teaches the class on reptiles and amphibians with lots of hands-on materials and live critters. Michael Schramm with the wildlife refuge teaches the unit on birds.

A favorite event of the naturalist program is a day at the farm of Jay and Cindy Burkhart. Participants spend the morning learning about 80 species of wildflowers with Cindy and then spend the afternoon exploring their ponds and creeks for aquatic life.

The naturalist program’s mission is to provide enough in-depth exposure to the natural history of the Appalachian Mountains that students have a basic knowledge of the ecology and wildlife of the region. By the time a person has completed the program they will be ready to lead nature walks and introductory classes for adults and children and be able to continue learning every year by attending new workshops, and any they wish to revisit. Students are required to complete 48 core credit hours and 16 hours of elective classes.

In addition to the course work, students must complete 30 hours of volunteer work in order to earn a certificate from the DNR. There are multiple opportunities to volunteer. Activities from monitoring bluebird boxes to planting and maintaining pollinator gardens and volunteering with environmental education programs are just a few. The program meets at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, North Bend State Park and natural preserves locally and around West Virginia.

The Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalist program will offer a variety of wildlife-focused programs and seminars. (Photo Provided)

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