Madison FUN class graduates 17 new master naturalists

Have you ever pet a bumble bee? Photo by Chuck Orsay

By Paul Noeldner
Friends of Urban Nature

Madison Parks, Wild Warner, Friends of Cherokee Marsh and other Friends of Urban Nature (FUN) partner groups hosted the second annual summer Master Naturalist class at Warner Park on six Saturdays in July and August. Seventeen people, with a variety of backgrounds and ages, from around Madison and southern Wisconsin signed up for the class, which was facilitated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and UW-Extension. The students shared a common interest in learning more about nature preservation; restoration of habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife; nature education for adults and children; nature recreation and natural health.

The Madison FUN-hosted class has a special emphasis on urban nature and connecting communities and children with nature. Class days were spent mostly outdoors in nature with 12 field trips to nearby parks and natural areas led by UW professors, Arboretum guides, DNR staff, restoration specialists and other nature experts. Students also got to meet Madison Parks Director Eric Knepp, Conservation Manager Paul Quinlan, and other local contacts and Friends groups.

Students learned the importance of planting native flowers, trees and plants for the insects that all other life around us depends on. Did you know an oak tree supports about 500 species, while a non-native Norway Maple supports none?

Students got up close with fascinating details of plant identification at the UW Biocore Prairie. Did you know sunflower petals are not the flower, and the center is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers?

Students participated in many hands-on activities. Have you ever petted a bumble bee?

The highlight of the class was an all-day field trip that included a tour of Devils Lake with retired UW geology professor Dave Mickelson, a presentation at the International Crane Foundation and a visit to the Aldo Leopold Shack on the Wisconsin River with retired UW Nelson Institute professor Stan Temple.

To earn their diploma, each student chose a Capstone Project that will benefit nature and their community, and each student will contribute 40 hours of volunteer work in the coming year. You can meet some of the 2016 and 2017 summer Master Naturalist graduates when they lead family friendly bird and nature outings in Warner Park, Cherokee Marsh and other nearby parks and natural areas co-sponsored by Madison FUN partner groups.

For more information about the Master Naturalist Program, visit or contact Paul Noeldner at 698-0104. For bird and nature outings, visit