Adult Opportunities

Illinois Master Naturalist Training (online and in person)

Gain the knowledge and skills you need to share the natural world with others.

Content Detail

Develop a well-rounded understanding of Illinois’ natural landscapes and the skills to share this understanding with others through this intensive Illinois Master Naturalist training workshop hosted by The Morton Arboretum.

Through a combination of online coursework and field time, you will:

  • Gain an understanding of Illinois natural history (geology, plants, and wildlife) and its cultural history (Native American history and how humans have shaped the landscape).
  • Learn the fundamentals of botany, ecology, and conservation.
  • Enhance your love of nature by spending time on the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres, including its prairie, woodland, and wetland habitats.
  • Participate in guided hikes to learn about native trees, birds, wildflowers, and more.
  • Develop interpretive skills so you can educate and inspire others.
  • Learn from expert instructors and build your network in the naturalist community.

Who is this training for?

This program is great for teachers, natural areas stewards, students (age 18 and older) who are interested in pursuing a career in the outdoors, and those working in informal nature education. There are two ways to benefit from this program:

  • Grow your skills as a naturalist by simply completing this training.
  • Pursue the Master Naturalist Certification by completing this training and fulfilling additional requirements (see Additional Requirements for Certification).

What is a naturalist?

A naturalist is an expert in or student of natural history. Naturalists are continuous learners, studying the natural world and learning about the different interconnections between wildlife and their habitats. Naturalists strive to connect people with nature by sharing their knowledge with others.

What is the Illinois Master Naturalist Program?

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program provides science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards. The program educates and trains adult volunteers to help disseminate natural resource information to the public and to assist with conservation and restoration activities in their community. Learn more about the Illinois Master Naturalist Program.

What topics are covered?

The 20 hours of online coursework and 20 hours of in-person learning will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to the Illinois Master Naturalist Program
  • Indigenous History of Northeast Illinois
  • Basic Plant ID
  • Basic Tree ID
  • Native Plant ID
  • Bird ID
  • Illinois Amphibians and Reptiles
  • Illinois Mammals
  • Ecosystem Concepts
  • Environmental Ethics and Philosophy
  • Tallgrass Prairie Habitat
  • Woodlands Habitat
  • Wetlands Habitat
  • Interpretive Techniques

This program includes self-paced modules online, Zoom sessions, and in-person sessions.

Age: 18 and older

Course number: N309


Sarah Fellerer, horticulture program coordinator, University of Illinois Extension

Spencer Campbell, Plant Clinic manager, The Morton Arboretum

Katrina Lewin, plant records specialist, The Morton Arboretum

Jessica Turner-Skoff, PhD, science communication leader, The Morton Arboretum

Brendon Reidy, research coordinator, The Morton Arboretum

Christy Rollinson, PhD, forest ecologist, The Morton Arboretum

Gina Roxas, interim executive director, Trickster Cultural Center

Cindy Crosby, master naturalist and author

Pam Otto, outreach ambassador, St. Charles Park District

Denis Kania, birding expert

Greg Rajsky, ecologist, True Nature Consulting

Susan Lawrence, ecologist

What to Know

Registration Deadlines

If you are interested in pursuing the Illinois Master Naturalist certificate, you must register by Monday, July 17 and purchase the manual during checkout.

Noncertificate registration closes Friday, July 28. If you do not wish to pursue certification, you may still purchase the manual, though it is not required.

Online Sessions

Some coursework is online; access to a computer is required. Online coursework includes a combination of live Zoom sessions and self-paced modules online. Instructions for accessing these modules will be provided upon registration.

In-Person Sessions

In-person field sessions are held mostly outdoors. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Bring water, snacks, and a lunch each day.

If you would like to take notes, bring a notebook and pen.

A camp stool and sun and insect protection are recommended.

Required Text

Illinois Master Naturalist Manual ($125) is required for those pursuing certification. It is optional for all other participants. Place your order for this manual during checkout.

Recommended Text

All participants, whether pursuing the certificate or not, may wish to purchase a copy of Kane County Wild Plants and Natural Areas by Dick Young, available at the Kane County Forest Preserve main office or online and Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask by Mary Siisup Geniusz, available online or in person at The Arboretum Store.

Additional Requirements for Certification

For those who wish to become a Certified Illinois Master Naturalist Volunteer through the University of Illinois Extension, please read these requirements carefully. To pursue certification, you must:

  • Register by Monday, July 17.
  • Choose “Master Naturalist Certification” at checkout ($50 administrative fee).
  • Purchase the Illinois Master Naturalist manual ($125) during the checkout process. You may pick up your manual at the DuPage, Kane, and Kendall County Extension offices on or after July 20.
  • Complete an application process, which includes a criminal background check. The application will be sent by email from the Extension office in late July.
  • Complete this training course, which satisfies the 40-hour training requirement.
  • Complete reading assignments and deliver a final project entailing a script or video of a three-minute talk on a naturalist topic of your choosing. Details will be provided on the first day of class.
  • Complete 40 hours of volunteer work within two years of enrollment, which must be coordinated through the Extension office.

Program Schedule

Access to TreeLearning

Tuesday, August 1, 2023, noon

Zoom Sessions

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Monday, August 14, 2023

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

In-Person Sessions

9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Friday, August 11, 2023. The Morton Arboretum

Saturday, August 12, 2023. The Morton Arboretum

Friday, August 18, 2023, St. Charles Park District

Saturday, August 19, 2023, The Morton Arboretum


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