Northern Neck Master Naturalist Chapter celebrates 15 years

During a birding walk in 2006, US fish and wildlife biologist Sandy Spencer noted the participants’ lack of knowledge about nature. It was mentioned that there is a new Virginia program that could provide education and training for citizens to become better informed about their natural environment. A call was made to Michelle Prysby, who was and still is the director of the Master Naturalist Program in Virginia. A committee was formed, and a diligent group of volunteers drew up the necessary requirements for chapter approval. In 2007, the Northern Neck Master Naturalist Chapter became official as one of the early Virginia chapters.

The Northern Neck Master Naturalists are volunteers who provide education, stewardship, and citizen science to help natural areas and resources in the community. The first Northern Neck Master Naturalist class graduated in 2007, 19 members, some still active, including Temple Moore who took part in this bird walk in 2006. Paula Boundy was elected as the first President and was recently re-elected as President for the coming year. Current chapter advisers are Tara Brent and Wendy Herdman of the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

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In 2021, Northern Neck Master Naturalist volunteers logged 7,861 hours of stewardship activities such as monitoring water quality, guiding “Walk on the Wild Side” hikes at Belle Isle State Park, and presenting programs for youth performed. Volunteers contributed to at least 17 natural resource inventories, surveillance and research studies, collecting data on pollinators, birds, invasive species and more. At the state level, the program is sponsored by seven state agencies, and at the local level, chapters work with dozens of conservation and educational organizations such as Girl Scouts, Native Plant Society, Audubon Society and local schools.

Virginians become new Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers through training and service. The process to become a certified Master Naturalist typically takes six to 12 months. A volunteer begins by completing a 40-hour basic training course offered by one of the local Master Naturalist chapters. An additional eight hours of continuing education and 40 hours of volunteer service are required to become certified or recertified. Karen Williams, born in 2019, states that “one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Master Naturalist is fellowship with like-minded people who enjoy the great outdoors.”

The Northern Neck Chapter is running a new volunteer training course starting January 2023. Virginians who are curious about the outdoors, enjoy the outdoors, and want to be a part of Virginia’s management and conservation of natural resources are perfect candidates to become Virginia Master Naturalists. Paula Boundy adds, “Believe me, you’re going to have a lot of fun during the field trip class.” For more information, visit