In 2010, Anoka-Ramsey Community College Biology faculty, Jennifer Braido and Kristen Genet, re-designed a Field Biology course to incorporate the Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer Certification program and opened it to community members.
Since then, more than 50 students and community members have become certified as Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers and completed various service learning projects that have provided innovative learning experiences for students and tangible benefits to the community.
Projects have included:
- conducting a sugar maple tree inventory at Wargo Nature Center;
- designing six interpretive signs for the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve;
- generating 11 interpretive signs for the Windswept Prairie Environmental Education Area;
- constructing bluebird houses and wood duck nest boxes for Linwood Township;
- developing pre-K–12 curricular materials about Minnesota’s gray wolf, porcupine and fox;
- assembling enrichment materials for black bear, gray wolf and cougar enclosures;
- producing artifact containers for lynx and fox, den boxes for coyote, bobcat, skunk and fox; and
- investigating potential explanations for susceptibility of disease in captive gray wolves for the Wildlife Science Center as an undergraduate research project.
The program allows six spots for community members besides the 18 spots for Anoka-Ramsey students. That means community members can experience a college-level field biology course while earning the certification without paying college tuition.
“By incorporating this Master Naturalist Certification into our Field Biology course, we have expanded the age and socioeconomic range of volunteers for the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program to include a younger collegiate audience enthusiastic about conserving the state’s natural resources and attracted community members who are not necessarily biology majors, but who may choose to continue taking additional courses here because of their positive experience in this course,” Braido said.
One student, Brittany Pedersen, described her experience in capturing and banding birds.
“Mist netting is one of the safest ways to capture and band birds without harming the animal,” she said. “Once they are banded, their migration patterns can be tracked. On campus, we captured chickadees, robins and nuthatches. I really enjoyed watching how the different birds reacted to being handled by humans; some of them were reasonably calm while others were really aggressive. My favorite part was getting to release one of the robins, and it was kind of funny that it wouldn't go anywhere when it was turned upside down!”
Designed to develop a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service in their communities, the Minnesota Master Naturalist program, (www.minnesotamasternaturalist.org/) is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and University of Minnesota Extension. Any adult who is curious and enjoys learning about the natural world, shares that knowledge with others, and supports conservation can be a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.
Four Anoka-Ramsey faculty members―Braido, Genet, Joan McKearnan and Peggy Guiney―are certified to teach Master Naturalist courses. Anoka-Ramsey’s next Master Naturalist course starts May 27. For more information, contact Braido at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brittany Pedersen releases an American Robin as others watch (from left to right): Geri Mortenson, Casey Moriarity, Lacey Prescott, Nick Davids, Chad Ziegler and Mikayla Xiong. Pedersen is releasing a bird that actually was a recapture, something extremely rare. That means it had been previously captured and banded and now it had been captured a second time. This gives researchers clues to where it had been captured originally and information about flight and migration patterns. The students are laughing and smiling because many birds, such as this one, when placed on their backs don't know what to do so they just lay there and don't take off until you turn them right side up.