Cooperatove Conservation Project

Indiana Master Naturalist Program

Indiana Master Naturalist Program - Nature Discovery and Service Learning for Adults

Location: Midwest/Northern High Plains Region: Indiana

Project Summary: Brings together specialists with adult learners to foster an understanding of Indiana's natural resources and promote volunteer service and conservation in local communities.
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Recent participants of an Indiana Master Naturalist Program.
Resource Challenge

Indiana has been ranked 48th of the states in environmental quality (Institute for Southern Studies, Gold and Green Report, 2000). The greatest threat to all types of wild species is reduction of habitats as people increasingly occupy or degrade wildlife habitats. In the lower 48 states of the United States, 98% of tall-grass prairies have been plowed, half of the wetlands have been drained, and 85-95% of the old growth forests cut. Overall forest cover has been reduced by 33%. At least 500 native species have been driven to extinction and others near-extinction, mostly because of habitat loss and fragmentation (Source: Conservation International and Nature Conservancy). A very large audience of private landowners and urban dwellers that desired educational information on implementing and maintaining a habitat for wildlife and learning about Indiana's natural resources.

The involved partners saw the need to develop a financially self-supprting program that provided participants with  an introduction to Hoosier natural resources through the eyes of resource professionals and experts in the field, and provide an opportunity for course participants to establish short or long-term partnerships through volunteer  service with a natural resources agencies or local organizations involved in natural resource management.  Partners serve as hosts, develop course outlines, select qualified instructors, and suggest ways for participants to meet their volunteer service.  To receive a certificate of completion, participants must commit a minimum of one hour of volunteer service in natural resources per hour of coursework (30 to 40 hours of volunteer service per participant depending on course program).

Examples of Key Partners

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Indiana Resource and Development Councils, Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Results and Accomplishments


Statewide we are now approaching 500 participants in the program.  We have also included other organizations and universities as program hosts such as Ball State University, Indiana University, Nature Conservancies, and City and County Parks Departments.

The following information was gathered and tallied from participant surveys from three recent programs in the West Central Indiana area. 

 1. As a result of this program, will you be implementing any of the following practices or programs?  a. Enhancement or development of educational nature trails - 538 acres total involved; b. Timber Stand Improvement – 1,552 acres total; c. Indiana Classified Forest Program – 527 acres total; d. Enhancement or development of a wetland or backyard wetland habitat -137 acres total; e. Enhancement or development of a wildlife habitat – 857 acres total, 27 sites to be certified by NWF; f. Volunteering in natural resource organizations.  40 yes  

2. As a result of this program, will you be utilizing any of the information gained from the Indiana Master Naturalist Program in the classroom, scouts or other youth groups?  Information shared with 15,481 youth  

3. What other ways has the Indiana Master Naturalist Program been beneficial to you?Inspiration to get started on projects long considered, it has helped to continue my interest in organic farming and self sufficiency, establishing a wildlife habitat at school or the whole school to use, this has been an awesome program. I would not have done it on my own, but it is something my son is very interested in. I don’t know how he’ll use information from the program in the future. But, judging from how much he liked all the sessions, I’m sure he’ll continue in some way, renewed my interest and enthusiasm,  notice more local species and interconnectivity, I have learned a lot about all of the subjects we covered and can share my knowledge with others, network and connections!, wonderful review of knowledge across broad range of topics. Increased desire to preserve natural resources, diversity of topics presented expanded my knowledge base, more aware of resources and diversity, broadened my understanding of my environment. Introduced me to other people with similar interest, motivated to do more environmental volunteer work, very beneficial and interesting and educational on trees and birds, I have enjoyed the verity of topics and the speakers, I plan on spreading what I have learned in my interaction with young and older folks whenever I can – work, leisure, etc., much deeper appreciation of the natural world. I definitely plan to do my 30 hrs of volunteer work somewhere, it has made me conscious of more areas of Indiana and the need to protect them, gained general knowledge on natural environment of Indiana. Information may be useful in my work as reference librarian at Indiana State University. I really enjoyed the class, personal growth, understand, enjoyment,  refresher for basic conservation and natural resources, excellent information, enjoyed meeting with others with similar interest, I really enjoyed it!, it has connected me to resources and information. My own personal knowledge --Good specific presentations, not enough overall focus. Most speakers were easy to listen to. Questions were welcomed. Made several contacts to use in the future. Coordinators were very enthusiastic and ready to help. I’d be very comfortable contacting them in the future. --- Taught me more than I could even imagine – resources, references, organizations, just a wealth of information. --Review of previous knowledge, Indiana geology information, Birds of Prey was great “real time” learning. - Speakers and contact information will help me create programs and events that focus on environmental education. --- Having a lot of WHY questions answered. Seeing the big picture makes a better “teacher.” - Provided information & training useful to pursue volunteer work in natural resources. --- My favorite is getting me more interested in insects. -- New knowledge --Broadened my knowledge of my natural surroundings. Strengthened my desire to preserve nature’s habitat.--- The knowledge I have gained through this program has given me greater insight in what is going on around me. I have already shared with my family, friends, and fellow workers information learned through the excellent presenters. --- In many ways. I have learned a great deal and had a wonderful time. The program has started me thinking about pursuing the field professionally. I will certainly be involved with naturalist activities and education. --- Being able to immediately implement the knowledge I have gained here is exciting. -- I have a friend that has 17 acres of natural habitat that is willing to allow wildlife to be released. --- Mostly it has been fun getting some info on areas that are relatively new to me – e.g. geology, wildlife rehab. But all sessions were very good.  And since volunteer hours are required for certification this class has “motivated” me to volunteer at Eagle Creek Park.


The major partners have formed a State Master Naturalist Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from the major partners and two past program participants to handle issues that develop with this popular growing natural resource education and volunteer development program. The state committee has appointed a state coordinator from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to handle initial program host and participant requests, website development, and volunteer recognition. The state committee has allowed program hosts outside the original partnership as long as they follow our state guidelines which has greatly expanded the program in the state. In the future, the state advisory committee would like to strenghten its current program and develop an Indiana Master Naturalist program specifically for youth.

Project Contact
Todd Hutson
Purdue Extension Educator, Chair State IMN Advisory Committee

255 S. Main, PO Box 250
Newport, IN 47966
(765) 492-3394
Ginger Murphy
State IMN Coordinator

Division of State Parks and Reservoirs 402 W. Washington, Room W298
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-4143

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