The local chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist program has scheduled volunteer training orientation sessions for those interested in helping protect the state's natural resources.

Orientation will be offered by the Chert Glades chapter from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, and Monday, Jan. 6, at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center, 201 W. Riviera Drive in Joplin's Wildcat Park. Register by calling 417-629-3423.

Attendance at one of these sessions is necessary to take part in the Master Naturalist volunteer training, which begins Jan. 27. Training classes will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays through April 20, as well as three Saturday field sessions.

Registration for the spring training closes Wednesday, Jan. 8. The enrollment fee is $110; scholarships are available.

The Missouri Master Naturalist program engages residents in stewardship of the state's natural resources through science-based education and volunteer community service. The program is a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri Extension.

“The intent of the Master Naturalist program is to better connect people to the environment and to nature,” Syd Hime, the department's volunteer coordinator, said in a statement. “There are a lot of people with an interest in nature who are looking for opportunities to develop their skills as a naturalist and use those skills in volunteer service.”

To become certified, participants must complete an initial training course and eight hours of advanced training. They must also contribute 40 hours of natural resource-related volunteer service through a local chapter.

The Chert Glades chapter assists with a variety of activities throughout the year, including the Festival of Eagles in Stella, Joplin's Earth Day observance, George Washington Carver Day and Prairie Day at George Washington Carver National Monument, as well as the Shoal Creek Water Festival. Members also assist in controlled burning of area prairies, provide educational events and conduct "down in the dirt" work, said Bonnie Hinman, who has belonged to the chapter since 2014.

"We work with other organizations restoring habitats for monarchs and other native species," she said in an email to the Globe. "Several members of the chapter work year-round to restore a part of the chert glade by the old Redings Mill bridge over Shoal Creek. They remove invasive (species) by spraying, digging, burning and cutting. They replant and care for dozens of new native plants that will thrive in the area."

More info

For more information about the Chert Glades chapter’s training, contact Jeff Cantrell at jeff.cantrell@mdc.mo.gov or 417-629-3423. For information about the Master Naturalist program, go to extension.missouri.edu/masternaturalist.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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