Registration is now open!
Have you ever wondered what lives beneath the sand at the beach or what those small silver fish in the surf are? Or why cypress trees have knees, why fiddler crabs wave at you, where you can find carnivorous plants, or what a swamp sounds like at night? Do you want to learn how you can help to conserve our coastal environment?
The Winyah Master Naturalist Program provides field-based training for community members to develop the skills necessary to become active stewards of our coastal habitats. Participants gain skills in nature interpretation, research methods, and resource protection through 12 day-long classes occurring on Fridays from March 20 to June 12. The course involves field trips with expert interpreters to the forests, swamps and marshes that make South Carolina a unique and beautiful classroom for the nature enthusiast. Students learn to ‘read’ the landscape through developing an understanding of the geology, ecology and human impacts on natural habitats.
No formal background in the sciences is necessary. Participants completing the course and 30 hours of approved volunteer work will receive a Master Naturalist certification and will be eligible to join a local chapter and participate in advanced volunteer training courses. Graduates of the course monitor sea turtle nests, study painted buntings, explore the salt marsh with school groups, and lead community efforts to protect our coastline. They volunteer for stewardship activities such as beach sweep and river sweep. They are on hand to help the Reserve when we need assistance with education events or sampling for research projects. Since the first class was offered in 2007, 113 participants have completed the 12-week course facilitated by the NI-WB Reserve. The Reserve is one of six host sites of the South Carolina Master Naturalist Program.
Having a corps of trained stewardship volunteers is becoming increasingly important in meeting the conservation challenges of our coast. Volunteer researchers and educators are providing critical services at a time when funding for these activities can be sparse. Additionally, participants in stewardship programs gain a deeper experience in understanding the issues and can become the best advocates for conservation actions in our community.