By Hillary Clemens
Hi! I’m Hillary. Prior to my move to Arizona nearly a decade ago, I had an amazing experience when I stumbled upon the Idaho Master Naturalist Program. For 12 weeks, I attended expert led trainings on everything from roadside geology to Idaho’s flora and fauna. The best part however, was citizen science and field work! I skiied for Saturday Trumpeter Swan counts, tagged ducks alongside biologists, and helped trout spawn.
When I moved to Arizona, I patiently waited for an AZMN chapter to open near Phoenix, and I’m so glad it’s here! Again, I attended weekly expert trainings – a geologist who had mapped the entire state, the state’s climatologist, experts from the Phoenix Zoo, botanists, hydrologists, conservation biologists who track panthers, educators and more!
Our coordinators, Carrie and Gabby, who are amazing educators and people, worked so hard to find the best. Even better than seeing a new speaker every week, however, was seeing the friends in my cohort. On the last night of our classes, after so many meetings and field days, it was really hard to leave them. We had become a close community of friends who looked forward to seeing each other on Wednesday nights and at environmental education events and citizen science efforts all over the valley. I never knew their were so many wonderful resources. My cohort of amazing people were passionate about the land, education, and stewardship. It was inspirational to be with them and so many of them were experts in their own right. I learned more than I had ever expected in this course including methods in citizen science and interpretation, but I also gained a wonderful connection to the land and a network of amazing friends and naturalist professionals in the Phoenix Area.
I can’t say enough about a volunteer program that trains adults about the natural resources of Arizona and immediately aids the in creating a felt positive impact through education, stewardship, and leadership.