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Spotlight on Nebraska Master Naturalists

Hear From a Volunteer!

Find out a more about the amazing work our Certified Nebraska Master Naturalists have done and program highlights!

Nebraska's Volunteer Conservation Force- Listen to our story on NET News

Board of Regents, University of Nebraska Receives Grant from Nebraska Environmental Trust

Lincoln, NE - April 5, 2018 - Board of Regents

University of Nebraska announced today that it will receive $68,073 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the "Nebraska Master Naturalist Program: Volunteers in Action" project. The Trust Board announced funding for the project at its meeting on April 5, 2018 in Lincoln. The project is one of the 105 projects receiving $18,301,819 in grant awards from the Nebraska Environmental Trust this year. Of these, 66 were new applications and 39 are carry-over projects.

The Nebraska Master Naturalist (MN) Program provides Nebraska citizens an opportunity to contribute to natural resource conservation through meaningful science-based volunteer experiences. The MN Program began in 2009 through a public and private partnership that recognized Nebraska's conservation agencies and organizations have limited resources and capacity for proactively managing natural resources. Over the last seven years, the MN Program has established a highly motivated workforce of 336 volunteers, or Certified Master Naturalists, that are actively contributing to at-risk species conservation, restoring native habitats, preventing degradation of waterways, and improving waste management. Their impact has been substantial. Master Naturalists have contributed 40,148 hours to conservation action on over 2800 projects in Nebraska which translates to a value of $945,886 in salary savings to natural resource agencies and organizations. The Master Naturalist Program's positive reputation and workforce is growing and Master Naturalist volunteers are experiencing increasing requests for their service. Currently the demand for volunteer services far exceeds current volunteer capacity.

The goals of this proposal are to increase number of new certified master naturalists by 90 over the next three years; support the established Master Naturalist Community through continuing education on advanced topics; empower local, coalesced workforces to conserve Nebraska's natural resources by providing at least 7,500 hours of volunteer service that support at least 20 conservation organizations or agencies, and reach over 15,000 individuals by informing and educating citizens about natural resource conservation; and increase program sustainability.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has provided over $289 million in grants to over 2,000 projects across the state. Anyone - citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses - can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The Nebraska Environmental Trust works to preserve, protect and restore our natural resources for future generations.

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of July 2018 - UNL Cedar Point Biological Station

Participants: Donna Gustafson, Kat Wendt, Laura Safarik, Travis Robbins, Kevin Barton, David Riggenbach, Lisa Cotter, Cadence Hernandez

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of June 2018 - Nature Conservancy Niobrara Valley Preserve

Participants: Patty Ozga, Rich Wehmeyer, Jason Adams, Carol Hinkle, Tim Hinkle, Cindy Lehosky, Julius Lehosky, Tricia Heger, Jan Cade, Marcia Blome, Dawn Bryant

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of April 2018 - Heron Haven and Prairie Pines

Participants: Marylin Bicak, Emily Ault, Andrew Pavel, Amy Metzger, John Chandler, Briana Kouma, Jan Handley-Alexander, Janet Voelker, Sam Bennett, Scott Hansen, Alie Mayes, Brianne Wolf, Sarah Johnson, Russ Banzhaf

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of September 2017 - Crane Trust Nature and Visitors Center

Participants: Mary Arends, Russanne Hoff, Rebecca Chandler, Theresa Pella, Christopher Hazard, Dee Ann Unruh, Tim Kettler, Sue Wilner, Terry Wilner, Patty Spitzer, Donald Bend, Dustin Schmidt

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of June 2017 - Cedar Point Biological Station

Participants: Destini Petitt, Kelsey Foster, Sarah Shaver, Adam Shaver, Schyler Sullivan, Vicky Cowan, Dan Kenkel, Rachel Kaup, Airicca Roddy, Dee Flynn

Mike and Laurie Zitterkopf - Class of 2015

Mike Zitterkopf with his Bear Den Cub Scouts and Laurie Zitterkopf with her Tiger Den Cub Scouts. Mike and Laurie were each able to get a grant for a tree from the Re-Tree Nebraska program. They then planted them at Northfield school in Gering Nebraska with help from Amy Seiler, a Nebraska Forest Service educator.

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of June 2017 - Nature Conservancy Niobrara Preserve

Participants: Barb Brimmerman, Sarah Disbrow, Kathleen Emry-Mefferd Strand, Justin Jones, Jonathan Nikkila, Charlene Paris, Karen Stelling, Heidi Swanson, Catherine Walker, Brandy Workman, Kristin Yates

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of May 2017 - Schramm Park State Recreation Area

Participants: Diane Morin, Heidi Beckwith, Thomas Jacobi, Gary Kuester, Joe Heatherly, Matt Raber, Phil Barton, Annie Perisol, Derek Zeller, Hollie Cotten, Anne McCormick, Kris Swanson, Jody Boyer, Tanna Dittmar

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of May 2016 - Halsey 4H Camp

Participants: Bennett Amdor, Troi Arnold, Elizabeth Baustert, Joanie Cradick, Owen George, Emma Georg, Taylor Jackson, Isaac Langan, Diana Lecher, Dan Leuenberger, Erin McCready, Anna Nelson, Abbe Richardson, Sheridan Swotek, Michael Vann

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of June 2016 - Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve

Participants: Ruth Bentzinger, Laura Connelly, Ashley Guzman, Matthew Guzman, Summer Jennings, Adam Jones, Jan Knight, Rick Lindeman Delan Lonowski, Patricia McGinty, Jay Sauer, Theresa Sidrow, Mike Sidrow, Carolyn Smith, Melody Stohlmann

Nebraska Master Naturalist Class of October 2016 - Aksarben Aquarium, Schramm Park

Particpants: Suzanne Hasiak, Jonene Lee, Jason Gabel, Ethan Anderson, Kelly Anderson, Barbara Bures, Melissa Berglund, Ellen Rainbolt, Carolyn Butler, Dean Cole, Colette Kraft, David Foster, Rex Adams, Cindy Rutan, Bryce Lund, Elizabeth Lund, Terry Stentz, Christie Hobensack, Pamela Vaughn, Linda Schulte

Karen Creswell - Class of 2014

Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership at Beattie Elementary

For her work with the Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership at Beattie Elementary School in Lincoln, Karen Creswell was recently honored with a Volunteer Award by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.

Karen contributed 20 hours per week, enlisting 1000's of volunteers to work on the school garden for over 8 years as a community investment. Through grants, planning and supervision, they collectively helped Beattie develop an outdoor classroom into an example of sustainability. 

While modest about receiving the award, Karen was appreciative of so many involved. She reminded those attending the Awards Reception on March 4, 2016 that, “while it's given to one person, (the award) truly represents hundreds of volunteers helping to make the sustainable schoolyard possible:”
 - Families, teachers, and staff worked on the hottest and coldest days of the year to carry out the Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership.
 - Service groups gave generously of their time.
 - Merchants and nurseries gave discounts on materials.
 - Of course, the Master Naturalist Program provided much needed training of volunteers to carry out this work.

Karen was quick to note that when a school environment is more sustainable, everybody wins:
 - Schools save money by spending less on chemicals, irrigation, and energy consumption.
 - Students connect more with nature. This relationship offsets obesity, buffers stress, fosters social interaction, and improves concentration, productivity, and cognitive development.
 - Faculty gain outdoor spaces which can serve as classrooms and avenues for environmental education.
 - Staff benefit from the relaxing and restorative effects of green spaces.
 - Community members learn sustainable and ecologically viable practices that they can use in their own landscapes.

Karen's recent message enhances awareness and keen observations of the changing season, in “The Beattie Tribune,” a newsletter for teachers, students, and families . . . .

From the Beattie Garden and Karen Creswell:

Students have been looking for signs of spring. They notice more hours of sunlight. They hear bird songs again. Birds don't need songs to call to their mates in the winter. Students examine leaves for the differences. Some can survive freezing temperatures. They point out that leaves that survive are waxy, hard and dry. The first things to bloom while snow is still on the ground are the snowdrops in the Sculpture garden outside the picture window of the main hallway. We are not always in the garden this time of year so they are planted to be seen from a window. Snowdrops grow from a bulb. Students examine bulbs to find the difference between bulbs and seeds. The witch hazel has been blooming for a month. The flowers have an extra strong fragrance to attract pollinators out of their sleepy dens, under the leaves and ground. The waxy flowers of the witch hazel bloom differently than summer flowers. Even this time of year much is happening in the garden. Thank You

Joanne Langabee and Holly Hofreiter - Class of 2011

Bellevue West Natural Areas Project

The landscape at Bellevue West High School now looks a lot different than it did in the fall of 2011, when Joanne Langabee and Holly Hofreiter undertook a Nebraska Master Naturalist project to help put in the Thunderbird Arboretum. What once was a flat, bare space, now has over 70 trees spread throughout the area. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the Nebraska Forest Service suggested natives and other trees which were planted by Environmental Science Classes and the Ecology Club of Bellevue West High School. Joanne and Holly co-organized this effort over a three-year period.

The school then wanted a windbreak on the north and west edges of the property, by the softball diamond, and so Joanne was asked to head up that project. She applied for grants from different organizations to obtain money for the trees. Joanne also worked with Steve Karloff of the Nebraska Forest Service for help with selecting trees toward establishing the windbreak. The windbreak was put in over a two year period by the Environmental Science classes and the Jr. ROTC students. The 180+ trees in the windbreak were bag trees, which allow for a 100% survival rate.

Besides working with Bellevue West High School, Joanne and Holly are doing citizen science at Lauritzen Gardens, where they are participating with "Birds in Season" and "Butterflies in Season." For the "Birds in Season," volunteers go out during migration season to identify which birds are found in the gardens. "Butterflies in Season" takes place from April to late fall, where the butterflies and their numbers are identified, along with their preferred flower sources in the gardens.

Holly and Joanne also lead tours at Fontenelle Forest during the Family Sunday activities. To learn about the forest, they hike the forest trails once a week to see what is blooming, or what butterflies are out, or whatever is interesting. Feel free to join us on our weekly hikes....

Esa Jarvi - Class of 2015

I am an avid birder and of Finnish descent. I spend a lot of time maintaining and monitoring bluebird boxes.

I also have done the 4th grade Prairie Immersion at Spring Creek Prairie. I worked summer camps with kids in June and July in Minnesota. A sheet of 16 items to find, in Finnish, was one of my 45 minute camp nature activities. It was initially played like bingo,but later we went and found all 16 items. At lunch at the camp I did "Bird of the Day", in Finnish, selecting from Minnesota birds. A picture and imitated call or call played off the App was my 2 minute thing in the introductions. I was there mainly for cabin duty and Finnish lessons. I will do Birding 101 for the older crowd of the Wachiska Audubon Society in early November 2016. I plan to do this 3 hour outing once a year.

Merri Johnson - Class of 2013

2016 was my second year of monitoring the absence of salamanders in Southeast Nebraska under the direction of Dr. Dennis Ferraro of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Monitoring the absence of something probably sounds oxymoronic; if fact, both Dr. Ferraro and I had hoped I would be monitoring the presence of salamanders. But after setting and checking live traps multiple times with no success, it appeared that my efforts were documenting what Dr. Ferraro had already known, namely, that there is a significant decline in salamander populations in my area.

My failure to trap any salamanders was disheartening, but Dr. Ferraro assured me that my attempts, along with my reporting of conditions at the trapping sites, supplied valuable information in the on-going research into the causes of salamander population decline.

Even though I did not trap any salamanders, my dusk and dawn excursions to set and check traps were rewarding in other ways. One morning I watched as a flock of low-flying pelicans glided silently overhead; another morning I spotted a common yellow throat. Just driving the winding, wooded roadways to and from my trapping sites in those quiet hours allowed me to experience the rural, natural world in a way that is different from hiking in a state park or preserve. I plan to continue my efforts on the salamander project in 2017. Over the course of this winter, I will travel the country roads near my home in search of wooded sites with small fishless ponds that salamanders need for laying their eggs. I may yet find some salamanders in Southeast Nebraska.

Even if I don't find salamanders, I will no doubt discover something else wild and wonderful.

Christopher Casart - Class of 2012

As a Nebraska Master Naturalist, I have had the privilege to head up our school Monarch Waystation and maintain the habitat for the last 5 years. Our Logan Fontenelle Middle School Garden Club meets about 8 times a year to improve the habitat for the variety of pollinators and wildlife at our school. Students in the Garden Club take pride in their learning as well as spread their knowledge and experiences throughout the community.

Doug Wells - Class of 2015

I am a Nebraska native and UNL graduate. After a long career overseas with the Peace Corps and U.S. State Department, I retired and returned home in 2014. I have always loved the outdoors and grew up hunting, fishing and camping out. When planning what to do upon my return, I learned about the Nebraska Master Naturalists (NMN) from a Nebraska Game and Parks newsletter. It looked like the perfect place to reconnect with my roots.

Being a NMN has been very rewarding and has led to connections with other like-minded people and organizations who need volunteers. For example, I am now a trained "Bugmaster" with UNL's School of Entomology and a Certified Youth Fishing Instructor with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC). What I like best about the program are the many volunteer opportunities that come across the NMN email list. They are so varied and numerous, whatever your availability or area of interest you can find something fun to do!

Since 2015, I have worked part time for the NMN Program Office in Lincoln as a Program Assistant and as a NGPC Naturalist at Platte River State Park. My hope is to reinvigorate the "Naturalists in the Park" program, started in 2013, that fosters cooperation between Master Naturalists and their NGPC counterparts in parks throughout the state.

Jean Kennedy - Class of 2012

I joined the Master Naturalist organization in 2012 and have greatly enjoyed all of the activities I have participated in. I have always been intrigued by nature, wanting to know, to identify, to understand. Skeletal remains are especially fascinating to me. Graduate studies with field work in physical anthropology as well as materials from the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City have provided the bulk of my teaching materials.

I have several fairly complete skeletons I have processed myself and lots of random bones I have picked up on my walks. My husband has learned not to look in the big pot cooking outside because often something will be looking back at him.

When I do a presentation, I like to lay out in approximate anatomical position my critters for my audience to look at. Subjects I cover are skeletal differences in prey and predator (skulls) and herbivore, carnivore and omnivore (teeth).

Then we have fun taking the random bones and trying to match them to a replica human skeleton. We talk about similarities and differences. The kids are pretty amazing. I then encourage them to get out and bone hunt and try to guess what the find.

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