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 45 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
2023 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 offer the course in two formats to fit your schedule:
- An 8-month long course meeting two evenings a month from April – November with two 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. 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 June. Dates to be announced in April. To accommodate the compressed nature of the course we will focus on four main topics (identification of birds, insects, mammals and plants).
Overview of the 8-month Course
- Twice-monthly meetings at 5:30 – 8 pm on the first and third Thursdays:
- April 20
- May 4 and 18
- June 1 and 15
- July 6 and 20
- August 3 and 17
- September 7 and 21
- October 5 and 19
- November 2
- Plus two Saturday field trips (full-day): June 17th and September 9th
- Course fee is $390 ($350 for Center members). Enrollment will not be guaranteed without full payment, which can be made by cash, check or credit card. Cancellation policy: The course fee (minus a $50 administrative fee) is refundable ONLY if a cancellation is made at least 14 days before the first day of class. No refunds will be issued for cancellations made after this deadline.
- Scholarships are available– Click here to apply. Please email Heather with questions.
- REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN! click here to sign up
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.
Overview of the 5-Day Course
- Dates TBD 2024
- Course Fee is $390 ($350 for Center members). Enrollment will not be guaranteed without full payment, which can be made by cash, check or credit card.
- Cancellation Policy: The course fee (minus a $25 administrative fee) is refundable ONLY if a cancellation is made at least 14 days before the first day of the course. Refunds of 50% will be issued if notice of cancellation is received 8 – 13 days from the first day of the course. No refund will be issued if notice of cancellation is received 7 or less days before the course begins.
The course is taught by the MAC’s Community Programs Coordinator and certified Montana Master Naturalist Becca Mathias. Guest instructors from Rocky Mountain College, Northern Rockies Research and Educational Services and local biologists lend their expertise on several of the subjects. The classes include lectures, journaling, and hands-on field experiences. View the course syllabus here: Course Syllabus 2023(some elements are subject to change). Please email Becca 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