Master naturalist series begins this Saturday

There’s only one qualification to take part in the upcoming master naturalist program at the Ohio River Islands refuge in Williamstown: Have an appreciation for nature.

“There’s no working knowledge necessary to get started,” said instructor Jason White. “You just have to have an appreciation for the things we’re going to be learning. If you have an appreciation for nature, you’ll be fine.”

It’s the sixth year for the Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalists offerings, which start this Saturday and extend through November, said organizer Emily Grafton. The program requires attendance at at least one Saturday workshop per month.

Master naturalists are trained to be stewards of the natural environments and to teach these skills to others. Many who complete the training come back to teach each year, said Grafton.

“It’s a great chance to get outside and go learn a little about the world around you,” said White. “You’ll learn about everything from geology to wildflowers to bird to trees.”

For those who aren’t sure they want to take the plunge, this Saturday’s workshop is for them.

“They can come for the first program just to see, for free,” said Grafton. “They can see what they think of it and get a feel for it.”

Saturday’s program will focus on Wildlife Habitat Improvement, with participants learning about gardening for wildlife with native plants in yards and public spaces. There will be a program from 8:30 a.m. to noon and another from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Ohio River Islands National Refuge Visitor Center in Williamstown.

Later workshops will focus on a variety of topics, including mammals, amphibians, birds, insects, geology, zoology, wildlife photography, forests and mushrooms.

There will even be a weekend excursion to North Bend State Park in late April.

“There’s a house adjacent to the park and people can stay if they want or drive back and forth,” said Grafton. “It’s nice to have a weekend immersed in nature.”

While there, one of the most popular activities is the moth survey, said Grafton.

“It’s really awesome,” she said. “Everybody loves those. We put the lights up and they land on the sheets and you can photograph them.”

Most of the programs are hands-on, said the instructors.

“We frequently have trips out into the field,” said White. “I’d say it’s about 60/40, with 40 percent outdoor time.”

But the lecture portions are also quite exciting, said Grafton, and depending on the topic will include examples of frog calls, mammal skins and bones and playing nature games.

The cost for the program is $125, which Grafton said can be paid in installments.

“This pays for them for however long it takes them to complete the program,” she said. “It goes to pay stipends for the speakers who aren’t federal employees and copying materials.”

Past participants have ranged from age 15 to 80, Grafton said, and they’ve learned to see the natural treasures and beauty in their own backyards.

“We just want people to start to look,” she said. “That’s what this program does.”

If you go

¯ What: Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalists 2018.

¯ Where: Ohio River Islands National Refuge Visitor Center, 3982 Waverly Road, Williamstown.

¯ When: First program Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m.; Continues through November.

¯ Who: Open to anyone 15 and older.

¯ Cost: First workshop is free; $125 for entire program, attendance required one Saturday per month for a certificate.

¯ For information: Emily Grafton, or 304-906-7846.