Volunteers sought to take volcano naturalist classes

Staff reportJanuary 19, 2014 

Mount St. Helens Now in its second year, the Mount St. Helens volcano naturalist program will begin in February. The adult science education program is a joint offering from Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Mount St. Helens Institute.

The program provides in-depth education about and within the Mount St. Helens landscape. It also encourages participants to share what they learn in their community.

During the 12-week program, participants will learn the fundamentals of Mount St. Helens geology and biology. They will develop field identification and other naturalist skills at 11 evening classes and four weekend days in the field at the monument, according to an institute news release.

Developing high-quality interpretation skills will aid graduates telling the story of Mount St. Helens.

“As we work to expand education and recreation opportunities, including the opening of the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, we will increasingly engage volunteers to help us welcome and educate visitors,” monument manager Tom Mulder said in the release. “The volcano naturalist program is an exciting opportunity to become involved with our corps of enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.”

The program is provided at a low cost to participants with the understanding that, in exchange, they will commit to a minimum of 60 volunteer hours at Mount St. Helens within five months of completing the course. There will be a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from through the institute’s regular volunteer programs: Volcano Volunteers (visitor services, interpretation, support services, special events); Mountain Stewards (safety, assistance and interpretation on MSH trails and climbing routes) as well as school and community outreach presentations.

Following their first year in the volcano naturalist program, there will be advanced training for volunteers wanting to increase their skills and deepen their involvement in the program. Certified volcano naturalists have the opportunity to fill leadership roles within that and other institute programs. For volcano naturalists to retain their certification and be eligible for advanced classes and leadership roles, they will continue to fulfill the 60-hour volunteer commitment annually.

The 2014 program includes 11 classes meeting 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters in Vancouver. The classes will be from Feb. 19- May 14, with one week off in April. There will be three weekend field trips during this time as well – including one overnight at no additional cost.

The course fee is $200 and includes natural history books, course materials, field notebook and refreshments. Washington teachers may earn up to 54 clock hours by participating in the volcano naturalist program.

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