Montana Master Naturalist
The goal of the Montana Master Naturalist Program is to increase natural history knowledge and promote awareness, understanding, and stewardship of Montana’s natural environment by developing a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities. The core of this program is the Montana Master Naturalist Certification Course, which is approximately 40 hours of classroom and field time. The Montana Audubon Center is the home for this program in Billings and works with the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula to offer state-wide certification. Students who complete the course become certified as Montana Master Naturalists. To maintain their certification, Montana Master Naturalists are required to log 20 hours of volunteer service and participate in 8 hours of continuing education annually.
“The Master Naturalist class has truly enriched my life. I am more observant now than I ever was. How rewarding to know even more about the living things I share the environment with.” ~D.M., Billings Master Naturalist student 2018
“This was an excellent course. It left me wanting to learn even more, and gave me the resources to do so on my own.” ~M.H., Billings Master Naturalist student 2020
Upcoming Certification Courses
This course is designed for adults who want to deepen their knowledge of the natural world. We’ll explore everything from birds and insects to geology and plant ID. You’ll hone your naturalist skills as we practice journaling, animal tracking, and the art of observation.
We are offering the course in two formats in 2022:
- A 10-month long course meeting one evening a month from March – December with three Saturday field trips (2 full-day field trips and one morning field trip). This course structure will allow participants to learn about and observe the natural world across all the seasons with plenty of time for reflection and synthesis of new knowledge. We’ll cover a wide breadth of topics with the goal of giving you an essential foundation of skill and knowledge on which you can build.
- A 5-day intensive course in the summer (exact dates TBD). Class will meet from 9am – 4pm every day. To accommodate the compressed nature of the course we will focus on three main topics (identification of birds, insects and plants).
Registration for the 10-month course is now open!
- Tuesdays from 5:30 – 8:30pm on the following dates:
- March 22 (4th Tuesday of the month)
- April 12 (this and the rest of the classes meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month)
- May 10
- June 14
- July 12
- August 9
- September 13
- October 11
- November 8
- December 13
- Saturday field trips on the following dates:
- May 14 OR June 11 – join the Center’s monthly morning bird stroll from 8:30 – 10am
- June 25 (9am – 4pm to Red Lodge area)
- September 17 (9am – 4pm to Pompey’s Pillar area)
- Course Fee: $375/$340 for Center members
- Full payment due upon registration. The course fee (minus a $100 administrative fee) is refundable ONLY if a cancellation is made 20 days before the first day of class. No refunds will be issued for cancellations made after this deadline.
- A few scholarships are available–please contact us at 294-5099 for details
- Register here for the 2022 10-month course
The course is taught by the MAC’s Master Naturalist Coordinator and certified Montana Master Naturalist Heather Bilden. Guest instructors from Rocky Mountain College, MSU-Billings and local government agencies lend their expertise on several of the subjects. The classes include lectures, labs, and field trips. View a previous course syllabus here: Syllabus MAC S2020 (some elements are subject to change). Contact Heather with questions about the course.
Resources for Master Naturalist Graduates
To maintain their certification, Master Naturalists are required to complete 20 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of continuing education each calendar year.
If you need the password, contact Master Naturalist Coordinator Heather Bilden.
Recertification Deadline: January 1. For example, if you graduated in 2020, your deadline is Jan. 1st, 2022.
Stay in the loop for continuing education & volunteer opportunities in the Billings area. Join the Master Naturalist graduate Google Group by contacting Heather Bilden.
Criteria for volunteer service
The activity needs to:
- relate to Montana’s natural or environmental cultural history
- occur in Montana unless you live out of state
- be sponsored by an organization
- be unpaid
Each volunteer service activity may fit under one of these categories: Citizen Science, Stewardship, Education, Organizational Support, Other.
Citizen Science involves volunteers assisting with scientific research. These projects usually involve gathering data and returning it to researchers. Examples include:
- Assisting with any kind of natural history/biological survey (iNaturalist, eBird)
- Participating in a Christmas Bird Count
- Collecting monarch larval monitoring data
- Monitoring water quality or macroinvertebrates
- Collecting/interpreting biological data for any number of projects through SciStarter, Zooniverse, or other local or nationwide projects
Stewardship includes natural resource management activities. Examples include:
- Removing invasive weeds
- Helping develop a school forest management plan
- Assisting with restoration (collecting native seeds, planting native species)
- Improving trails to reduce erosion
- Helping maintain a community native plant garden
Education includes the presentation and/or development of educational materials. Examples include:
- Assisting in teaching visitors about wildflowers at a nature center
- Writing a Field Note or educational article for publication in a magazine or newsletter
- Creating a brochure for a natural area
- Assisting with an environmental education program for a school group (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, church group, etc.)
Organizational Support projects include working to ensure the functioning of any conservation/environmental organizations. Examples include:
- Preparing mailings
- Answering phones
- Computer work
- Organizing a digital library
- Serving as a board member
- Assisting with events, lectures, fundraising
Other projects should be described when you submit hours
Criteria for continuing education
Montana Master Naturalist continuing education needs to:
- focus on an aspect of Montana’s natural, environmental, or cultural history
- be a formal training or class
Most activities will:
- occur in Montana
- have an outdoor component
- Project WET, WILD, or Learning Tree training
- Plant or animal identification course or presentation
- Water quality monitoring training
- Montana geology or climate course or presentation
- Volunteer orientation for a nature center
- Forest management course or presentation
- Environmental sustainability lecture
- Naturalist Field Days through MNHC, MT Audubon, or other organizations
- Because we have some great documentary film festivals in the state, we will allow up to two continuing education hours from watching a natural history-focused documentary film at a film festival, ideally focused on Montana (or at least the West), and even better if there’s a discussion forum afterwards!
Where to find continuing education opportunities in the Billings’ area:
- Montana Audubon Center
- Montana State Parks
- Montana Native Plant Society
- MSU-B and Rocky Mountain College — classes and lectures in Biology, Environmental Studies, Wildlife Biology, etc.
- Pompey’s Pillar National Monument
- Western Heritage Center
- Wild Montana (formerly know as Montana Wilderness Association)
- Yellowstone Art Museum
- Yellowstone Forever Institute