Have you made a resolution to get outdoors and enjoy the natural world around you in 2015?  Consider becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist!

The Roanoke Valley Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists will hold its next basic training course beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 25. A general information session will be offered on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Salem Public Library located at 28 East Main Street. This informational session is free and open to the public. 

Now in its ninth year, the Virginia Master Naturalist program offers residents of the Commonwealth a chance to become actively engaged in helping to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and public lands. Depending on your area of interest, a Master Naturalist may serve as a steward, educator or citizen scientist by participating in a variety of volunteer projects. The Roanoke Valley Chapter is one of nearly 30 local groups across the state.

The 40-hour basic training is the first step in becoming a Master Naturalist. The upcoming course will take place Wednesday evenings from Feb. 25 through June 3 from 6-9 p.m., at the Salem Library. Topics will focus on a range of subjects such as geology, wetlands, forests, plants and animals, education skills, the history of the naturalist movement, and more. Sessions are led by professionals in each area of study. In addition to the weekly lectures, four weekend field trips are scheduled to give participants a chance to enhance their classroom learning. The course culminates in a written exam and a hands-on practical test on June 20.

The cost to take the Master Naturalist basic training course is $100. The deadline to submit your application is Wednesday, Feb. 11. You must be 18 years of age or older to enroll. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend the information session on Jan. 7, although this is not a prerequisite for applying to the program.

More information about the Virginia Master Naturalist program and its requirements may be found on the state organization’s website at www.virginiamasternaturalist.org.

An application form for the basic training course is available on the chapter web page at www.rvmasternaturalists.org. Applications should be emailed to chapter vice president Nancy Fabian at nfabian55@gmail.com. If you have any questions about the course, please contact Nancy Fabian or the chapter sponsor, Denny McCarthy, at Dennis.McCarthy@dof.virginia.gov.