Potomac Valley Master Naturalist Program

Our Potomac Valley Master Naturalist Program has proven to be one of our most popular programs. The chapter is celebrating 10 years!     
                  Results of 2015 Volunteer Interest Survey                   

What is the Master Naturalist Program?

Relatively new on the scene, Master Naturalist programs are patterned after the Master Gardener Program that has been offered in many states for many years by local extension agents. The basic approach for both programs is to combine education with public service.

West Virginia's Master Naturalist Program is one of the first in the nation. It was established in 2003 by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and it is administered by that agency.  It is open to persons age 16 years and older.

We partnered with WVDNR in 2006 to establish our Master Naturalist program, which is the official Master Naturalist Chapter for the Eastern Panhandle.

Learn more about our Potomac Valley Chapter, including dates and places for 2015 classes, and find volunteer projects by clicking on the blue links at the bottom of this page.   We're also on Facebook

                                            2011 Master Naturalist Class

How it works:

Those who complete our program are certified by the state as West Virginia Master Naturalists. This qualifies them to assist with natural resource activities in various ways, such as volunteering in state parks, assisting educators with instruction, participating in wildlife surveys, and other citizen science activities.

Enrollment is limited to 20 persons a year. Participants receive 64 hours of classroom and field instruction in a broad range of natural history and environmental education topics. Instructional sessions are held weekends from March through October in areas around the WV Eastern Panhandle, often at the National Conservation Training Center just outside Shepherdstown and Cacapon State Park near Berkeley Springs.

Program participants must also complete a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer service to become fully certified. To remain certified, they must participate in 8 hours of training and 16 hours of volunteer service every year.  Here is a list of citizen science projects (although there are others!)

The cost to enroll is $300, which covers all classes and instruction for you to complete the program. Partial scholarships available.

Upcoming Classes:

Our 2016 classes will begin in April.  Application forms for the class and for scholarships are found at the bottom of this page. Click here to view the 2016 class schedule. Please note that the schedule is subject to change after being posted.

Learn More About Our Founding Chapter Members - Celebrating 10 years of Service!

Cheryl Jennings: "It has all been fun. I look forward to learning more each year. Clark and I were the first co-chairs and my task was to set the schedule and instructors, which gave me opportunities to meet lots of interesting people. Later, I taught classes on butterflies, dragonflies, ferns, and recording/preserving. all the projects I have participated in has given me friends throughout the state as well as opportunities to travel to state parks and wildlife areas. My first was the frog call survey, followed by collecting mushrooms for the DNR. Then the dragonfly atlas and a crayfish study. These past few years I documented over 500 butterflies and a number of land snails for those state atlas projects. But truly, what gives me the most pleasure are the people I have met and become friends with as well as the knowledge that what I have done has lasting effects for our environment. I am honored and blessed to receive this recognition from fellow Master Naturalists."


Clark A. Dixon, Jr.:  After completing the West Virginia Master Naturalist course in 2006, Clark joined classmates Ora Dixon and Cheryl Dixon in helping to establish the Potomac Valley Master Naturalist Chapter. Clark served as one of the co-chairs of the newly formed chapter. Over the years, Clark has continued to serve on the chapter coordinating committee and currently serves as its chairman. Clark has served two stints on the WV Master Naturalist State Advisory Committee and has taught Natural History workshops in campfire cooking, flint and steel, and vernal pools . He states: "It is my pleasure to continue learning and sharing my knowledge and skills about the natural world with others, and I look forward to giving back over the next 10 years."


Ora DixonThe experience of completing the initial required 60 hours class and field work plus the 30 hours approved volunteer service hours for certification was the start of this incredible journey with her renewed connection to nature, citizen science, youth engagement, environmental stewardship, and community service. With a zest for learning, Ora has continued the requirements for recertification over the years, contributed to the formation of the Potomac Valley Master Naturalist (PVMN) Chapter, and assisted with numerous Master Naturalists training courses. One of her Master Naturalist Program favorite projects in which she had the opportunity to participate was the organizing and hosting of the “Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP)” national conference held at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) with PVMN was a sponsor. The ANROSP mission is to promote awareness and citizen stewardship of natural resources through science-based education and service programs. What Ora loves most about the Master Naturalist Program is that it has provided awesome networking opportunities to connect with other likeminded individuals with similar interests, to provide adult leadership, and mentoring opportunities to connect youth and young adult audiences to the great outdoors. These examples have afforded Ora with many chances that she have said ‘yes’ to the needs of the out-of-doors adventures in which she as a Master Naturalist have been able to ‘pay it forward.’


Class Dates:

Dates and Locations of 2016 Master Naturalist classes: All day classes are generally held from 8:00am - 5:00pm.  

April 2 & 3:  Hospice of the Panhandle Educational Center, Kearneysville, WV

April 16: National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) Shepherdstown, WV

May 14: National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) Shepherdstown, WV

June 18: Leetown Conference Room, Kearneysville, WV

July 9: Cacapon State Park, Berkeley Springs WV

August 13: NCTC, Shepherdstown WV

September 17 & 18: NCTC, Shepherdstown WV

October: Extra Instruction Day (if needed)

October 29:  PVMN Chapter Annual Meeting, Shepherdstown WV

Download a copy of the schedule here. (schedule is subject to change)

How to Apply:

PVAS typically makes program applications available on this website in late October or early November, and applications must be submitted by January 31st. Applications are competitive. Those selected for enrollment are notified in early February.

For more information about the program, or to request notification when applications are available, contact Krista Hawley at AdultPrograms@PotomacAudubon.org or call 703-303-1026. 

Forms and Documents For Master Naturalists

Annual Recertification Form

Annual Volunteer Release For Master Naturalists (WVDNR)

Annual Liability Release For Master Naturalists (PVAS)

Potomac Valley Master Naturalist Chapter Policy Manual

          © 2014 Potomac Valley Audubon Society

              P.O. Box 578 • Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443
              phone // 304-676-3397

Kristin Alexander, Executive Director
phone // 304-676-3397 

Ellen Murphy, Program Director
phone // 304-676-8739 

Krista Hawley, Adult Program Coordinator
phone // 703-303-1026
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