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


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 will be offering the course in two formats in 2022:

  • A 5-day intensive course in June (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).
  • A 10-month long course meeting one evening a month from February – November with two full-day Saturday field trips. 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.

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 the 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.

Submit Your Hours Here>>

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 and 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

Examples include:

  • 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

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