What’s a Naturalist?

When I first told my wife that I wanted to sign up for a Master Naturalist class, she said, “Okay…what’s a naturalist?” I’m pretty sure she envisioned something akin to being a nudist in the wilderness. A master nudist, at that. Naturally, I assured her that nudity was strictly optional.

When it came right down to it, I wasn’t absolutely clear on the definition myself. Googling the definition returned: An expert in or student of natural history. History? For a lot of people that one word could turn them away, probably myself included. Nature, yes. History, not so much. But that’s not what I read that hooked me.

Unhappy with that definition, I went back to the Florida Master Naturalist Program website. What caught my eye was reading that this program was developed by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences “to promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida’s natural world among Florida’s citizens and visitors.” Much more palatable than natural history to this nature enthusiast.

Indian River Lagoon viewed from Turtle Mound

There are 3 primary modules to this program: Freshwater Wetlands, Coastal Systems and Uplands. Each is a 40 hour course and they are very inexpensive, too — just $225 per module (Spring of 2014 cost). You can take just one module or all 3. Experts provide outstanding presentations, both in the field and in the classroom. And I was happy to find that every presenter used layman’s terms, so it’s not overly scientific…although those with more scientifically-oriented questions always got their answers.

Did I mention the awesome field trips? Check out the Photo Gallery, videos (below) and the WonderMaps (below) from my Freshwater Wetlands and Coastal Systems field trips for a little taste of my experience. I think you’ll see what I mean. To me it would have been worth the $225 for the field trips alone. If you have the opportunity to attend one of these classes, I highly recommend you do. In fact, bring a friend or two. But keep your clothes on, please.


More Information:

Florida Master Naturalist Program Home

Heather L. Ferrand, FMNP Program Assistant
Phone: 352-392-1837
Fax: 352-392-5113
PO Box 110405
Building 803 McCarty Drive
Gainesville, FL 32611-0405


Video & Photo slideshow from an FMNP field trip on the St. Johns River from Blue Spring Landing in Blue Spring State Park:


An Introduction to Florida’s Wetlands (Final Project):

Field Trip WonderMaps:

Indian River Lagoon:


Hontoon Island State Park:


Longleaf Pine Preserve:


Blue Spring State Park:


St. Johns River from Blue Spring Landing:


Indian River Lagoon:


Indian River Lagoon:


Indian River Lagoon:


Kayaking the Indian River Lagoon:


Canaveral National Seashore:


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