Classes offer information on nature, community

It’s been a long, challenging winter, compounded by scary events related to our water supply and other natural resources. We read about increasing challenges to our wildlife, forests, beautiful wildflowers and essential pollinators from pollution, overdevelopment and invasive species. The good news is there are people and organizations working to solve these challenges, and there are still places to enjoy and learn about nature. If you want to seriously explore nature and gain a deeper understanding of how our ecosystems function, a local organization called the Mid-Ohio Valley Master Naturalist Program is for you.

Anyone 16 years and older may participate to become a certified Master Naturalist. Nature experts teach the courses including mammals, birds, insects, ecology, geology, reptiles/amphibians, and more. Many classes involve a classroom and a field trip component. The classes are interactive with time for discussions. The ultimate goal of the program is to promote environmental stewardship through a greater knowledge of our natural world.

The program’s home base is the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center in Williamstown. We meet in the conference room for classes and leave for field trips from there. Classes are held one Saturday per month with a few evening field trips over a nine-month period. The tuition to take the course is $125. This includes a $45 fee for the WV Division of Natural Resources workbook and speaker stipends. The tuition may be paid in monthly installments of $25, and the fee covers participation until one completes the program.

To become certified, one must complete 64 hours of coursework and 15 hours of volunteer work in the community. The kinds of volunteer projects are wide ranging. It is possible to finish the program in a year however folks may take two years to complete the program.

To see some faces of past participants and classes go to Mid Ohio Valley Master Naturalist Program on For more specific information regarding the program and how to apply contact program coordinator, Emily Grafton at (304) 906-7846, or email at Applications are available at the ORINWR Visitors Center as well.

Emily Grafton

Vienna, W.Va.