Tennessee Naturalist Program
Inspiring the desire to learn and share Tennessee's nature
The Tennessee Naturalist Program (TNP) is an education training course designed to introduce the natural history of Tennessee to interested adults. Graduates join a critical corps of Tennessee Naturalist volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the appreciation, understanding, and beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.
The purpose of the TNP is to teach Tennesseans about our natural world, inspire the desire to learn more, instill an appreciation of responsible environmental stewardship, and channel volunteer efforts toward education of the general public and conservation of Tennessee's natural resources.
What is a Tennessee Naturalist?
Tennessee Naturalists are trained volunteers. They:
- Receive 40 hours of instruction on various aspects of the state's natural history -- geology, flora, wildlife, watersheds -- as well as exposure to ecological concepts and conservation issues
- Complete 40 hours of volunteer service to earn certification
- Help state and local government agencies monitor and maintain the quality of our native ecosystems in a variety of citizen science projects
- Work with nonprofit organizations in preserving and maintaining our natural heritage
- Assist with public interpretive programs reaching school children and others across the state
- Recertify annually to extend their knowledge and skills
What is the role of a Tennessee Naturalist?
Individuals who participate in the program combine their diverse interests, skills, and experiences with the TNP instruction to contribute time, energy, and ideas toward the understanding and preservation of native ecosystems throughout the state.
After training, Tennessee Naturalists may participate in many different types of volunteer activities, such as helping a nature outreach program at a park, museum, nature center or school, assisting the collection of scientific data for a bird census, water quality assessment, or rare plant monitoring, and working with trail maintenance or habitat restoration projects.
How Do I Become a Tennessee Naturalist?
To become a Tennessee Naturalist, a person must complete a minimum of 40 hours instruction through the TNP training course and perform a minimum of 40 hours volunteer service. Program costs may vary slightly by chapter but include all classes, a notebook, course handouts, and some field guides.
The inaugural TNP course was held at Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary in 2010-2011. Since then, four more chapters have opened across the state: Memphis Botanic Garden (2012), Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center (2012), Friends of South Cumberland in Monteagle (2012), and Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville (2013). Other chapter locations are under consideration. If you wish to learn more about the program or enroll in the course, please contact the chapter closest to you or email us at info@TNnaturalist.org.
The Tennessee Naturalist Program owes its initial development and continued growth to the guidance and support of Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Middle Tennessee State University's Center for Environmental Education, and Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary.