Become a Naturalist
What is a Naturalist?
Naturalists are ambassadors for Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve and our regional natural environment. At the Preserve, Naturalists inform our visitors about the rich diversity of native plants that support native fauna and the unique qualities of the Preserve’s site. They lead tours, teach classes, assist with curatorial needs, and participate in special events. They help in the Native Plant Nursery and during the special native plant sales. Opportunities abound for Naturalists to share their knowledge at the Preserve - and throughout the region. Ultimately, they are invaluable and lead us all to an understanding of our natural world.
How to Become a Naturalist
The Preserve offers a series of classes over a 14-month period that provides participants with the foundation for becoming a Naturalist. Classes consist of core topics on natural and cultural history, geology, botany, and native fauna (including birds), and our signature seasonal series, Knowing Native Plants. Once participants complete the classes, we request that they provide a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service to the Preserve. Additional learning is available with our Lunch and Learn programs, where more specific topics are covered. Other opportunities to supplement learning are available through a wide array of classes, lectures, and workshops.
Naturalist Training Program Overview
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve’s Naturalists lead or assist with a wide range of activities that spark our visitors’ interest. They share their knowledge of native plants by leading public and private tours, leading programs, or being available as a resource to our visitors.
Sharing a common bond of intense curiosity about the plant world, our Volunteer Naturalists bring their unique talents and interests to the education programs offered at the Preserve. Whether your special interest is gardening, botany, pollinators, birds, ecology, or all of these topics, there are Naturalists at the Preserve who share your passion.
Naturalists lead our 2 pm interpretive tours and other educational programs. In addition to educational programming, Naturalists participate in various curatorial activities at the Preserve, which include plant inventories, plant surveys, and propagation. They also help during special plant sales and in the Twinleaf Book & Gift Shop.
Participants are required to attend all classes to be fully vetted as a Volunteer Naturalist. We realize that last minute situations arise that cannot be avoided. If you must miss a class we will work with you so that you can attend that class the following year. No more than three classes can be missed/made up.
Core Training 2018
New Naturalist trainees will attend a series of introductory classes every other week from September 20 through November 15, 2018. These classes familiarize trainees with the duties of Naturalists, history and natural history of the Preserve, plant ecology, basic botany, and communication and interpretive skills.
- September 20: Orientation/Cultural and Natural History of Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve
- October 4: Botany Basics
- October 18: Animal & Plant Ecology
- November 1: Interpretation & Theme Development
- November 15: Preserve Trails & Geology
Advanced training includes our Knowing Native Plants series. This is an integral part of the training; classes in the series are free to Naturalists. They are designed to acquaint Naturalists with plants of seasonal interest, their ecological significance, identification characteristics, and garden-worthiness. Many of these classes are popular, so we ask that you attend the Thursday “Naturalist Only” sessions if at all possible; however, we understand that schedules dictate participation in a Saturday class. Exact dates for each class will be published in December 2018.
- January: Basics of Plant ID
- February: Trees in Winter
- March: Signs of Spring
- April: Spring Ephemerals
- May: Late Spring Lovelies
- May/June: Focus on Ferns
- May: Flowering Shrubs
- June: Invasive Species ID & Management
- July: Meadow Magic
- September: The Amazing Aster Family
- October: Trees of BHWP
- November: From Flowers to Seeds
We strive to offer continuing education by Naturalists, for Naturalists, on various topics of interest. This provides an opportunity for us to share knowledge and skills with each other; this often occurs in the form of field trips or “Lunch & Learn" programs. Upon completion of your training, all Naturalists who actively volunteer may attend future Knowing Native Plant classes free of charge.
Shadowing & Mentoring
In addition to attending these sessions, new Naturalists are expected to shadow experienced Naturalists or staff on guided walks or programs. This will help prepare you to lead walks and tours on your own. New Naturalists will be encouraged to lead walks during each season of bloom to put their newly gained knowledge to work! (No one, however, will be expected to lead a tour before they feel comfortable in doing so). More info about our mentoring program will be available in early 2019.
The goal of our Naturalist Training is to secure dedicated, long-term volunteers who are willing and eager to support the mission of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Because of the time invested in training, we ask that Naturalists commit to lead a minimum of five educational tours or programs each year. This fulfillment is flexible depending on your availability, skills, and interests and may be achieved by leading one or more of the following:
- 2 pm Guided Wildflower Walk
- Roving Naturalist
- Group Tours for:
- School groups
- Adult groups
- Nature Play Days
There are many other opportunities to give back to the Preserve. These include, but are not limited to:
- Special event assistance (Spring Wildflower Gala, Earth Day)
- Native Plant Nursery/Spring and Fall Plant Sales
- Winter Lecture Series assistance
- Off-site educational exhibits
- Special interest programs for the public