Do you enjoy learning about the plants, animals, ecology, and traditions of the Barnegat Bay and its watershed? Do you like sharing what you’ve learned with others? Then consider becoming a Barnegat Bay Volunteer Master Naturalist!
The Barnegat Bay Partnership, through the Ocean County College Continuing Professional Education Department, offers a program to train Barnegat Bay Volunteer Master Naturalists (BBVMNs). Participants learn not only about the wildlife and natural resources of the estuary, but also about the latest scientific research and the challenges ahead. The program includes training in the skills volunteers need to help educate others about the bay and about good stewardship of its valuable resources.
This program is based on a national model. The BBVMN training course, offered through Ocean County College, consists of both classroom and field-based learning experiences about a wide range of natural resource and wildlife topics specific to the Barnegat Bay and its watershed.
Volunteer Master Naturalist Course
The Master Naturalist course is offered annually through the Ocean County College Continuing and Professional Education Department. Due to the COVID-19 virus, the course was cancelled in 2020. We currently plan to offer it in the fall of 2021, depending on the status of the public health response to the virus by that time.
The course focuses on the wildlife and natural resources of the Barnegat Bay watershed and include training in interpretive techniques. Topics include Barnegat Bay fishes, shellfishes, and crustaceans; salt marshes and seagrasses; water monitoring; birds and other animals of the watershed; native plant identification; forest resources; soil health; Pine Barrens ecology; and Barnegat Bay history, culture, and traditions. The instructor is Ms. Becky Laboy, an experienced naturalist and educator who has a BS in Biology and a Masters degree in Education.
The course includes four evening classroom sessions and five Saturday field trips. During field trips, participants explore the forests, marshes, streams, and shorelines of state and county parks throughout Ocean County — hiking, kayaking, seining, photographing, and learning from experienced master naturalists, environmental educators, and field ecologists. After registering, participants receive a detailed schedule of session topics and locations for the field trips.
Registration through the Ocean County College Continuing and Professional Education department is easy. You can register by phone at 732-255-0409, in person at the Ocean County College Continuing Learning Center in Building #4, or by mail at Continuing & Professional Education CPE, Ocean County College, PO Box 2001, Toms River, NJ 08754-2001. If you have taken courses at OCC in the past, you can register online.
Earning the Barnegat Bay Volunteer Master Naturalist Certificate
Completing the BBVMN course is the first step toward certification. To receive the BBVMN certificate, participants need to complete 40 hours of approved environmental service at sites within the Barnegat Bay watershed within a year of finishing the initial training course. To maintain certification, BBVMNs must complete 40 service hours plus 8 hours of advanced environmental training each calendar year.
The Master Naturalists share information and stay connected on the BBP Master Naturalist Facebook page. The group is open to anyone interested in the ecology and wildlife of the Barnegat Bay watershed.
The Master Naturalists produce a quarterly newsletter, The Naturalist. Engage your interest in and passion for the natural world, read about the experiences of the Master Naturalists, and get inspired to volunteer. If you would like to be added to the email list to receive The Naturalist, contact Karen at [email protected].
Past Issues of The Naturalist
Visit the BBP Master Naturalist Facebook page for volunteer opportunities shared by the Barnegat Bay Volunteer Master Naturalists.
ASSIST WITH SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: BBVMNs do not hesitate to get their feet wet and their hands dirty. They have assisted with seining and recording data during Barnegat Bay Partnership sea nettle research, assembling American eel collectors, and planting dune grass and maintaining trails at Island Beach State Park.
GIVE BACK THROUGH STEWARDSHIP: BBVMNs help with stewardship projects, such as dune grass plantings and trail maintenance at Island Beach State Park.
PRESENT EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS: BBVMNs want to share what they have learned. They have led birding by kayak tours at Island Beach State Park and assisted with interpretive programs at both state and county parks and nature centers
ASSIST WITH PUBLIC OUTREACH: BBVMNs have staffed exhibits at environmental festivals and events around the watershed, such as Ocean Fun Days and Cattus Island Nature Day.
DESIGN DISPLAYS: BBVMNs have flexed their creative muscles and designed displays to educate others about the natural resources of the estuary.