Become a Virginia Master Naturalist!

With each class we look for those individuals who are curious about the natural world, enjoy the outdoors, and want to develop the necessary skills for volunteering and contributing to natural resource management, preservation and conservation in Virginia.

The Headwaters Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist program, which serves Augusta and Rockingham Counties, will likely hold its next basic training class in the Spring and Fall of 2018.

Please email [at] to be notified of upcoming basic training opportunities.


Bridgewater College’s McKinney Center for Science and Mathematics

The Headwaters Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist Program held its 5th basic training cohort in the fall of 2016 and spring 2017.

Classes were held weekly on Tuesday evenings beginning on September 13, 2016, at 6PM at the McKinney Center on the campus of Bridgewater College. Each class session ran for about two and one-half hours.

The class format involved two and one-half months of one night a week evening classes in the fall and various field trips, followed by a winter break which included opportunities to continue learning, both indoors and out, and to develop chapter identity through introductions to chapter members and ongoing projects. The course concluded with another two and one-half month session of weekly evening classes in SPRING 2017, finishing up with a celebratory commencement.

The $200 cost of the 60 hour training class for 2016-17 covered field manuals, reference guides, digital and other reference materials, multi-modal learning and field experience opportunities.

Limited need-based scholarships are available. Please email the above address for more information.  Upon successful completion of your Basic Training, annual membership dues of $12 will be assessed.

The basic training course covers background knowledge and skills that every Virginia Master Naturalist needs to have. Topics include:

Click on this image for a sample fall schedule.

Click on this image for a sample fall schedule.

  • Virginia biogeography
  • Core biology topics such as ornithology, entomology, botany, and dendrology
  • Basic ecology
  • Geology
  • Climate and weather
  • Management and conservation of ecological systems such as forests and streams
  • Citizen science
  • Volunteer project development skills
  • Teaching and interpretive skills
  • The roles of Virginia state agencies in the management and conservation of natural resources
benthic monitoring

Darrell and Whit benthic monitoring

The volunteer hours and continuing education needed to attain “certified master naturalist” status may be acquired simultaneously with the training course and/or within a year of commencement. With emphasis on public education, stewardship, citizen science, and chapter development, Headwaters Chapter volunteer opportunities include:


Cohort IV at Cooks Creek Arboretum

A sampling of past continuing education opportunities includes:

  • Grand Caverns tour, river walk and bat presentation
  • a public forum on Valley Farm Stewardship
  • Saw-whet owl banding
  • JMU’s LLI classes on Butterflies, local Fish Culture, and Landscaping for Wildlife
  • Tree Steward classes
  • a JMU forum on Citizen Science and Environmental Advocacy
  • forest management at the McCormick Farm
  • evening herp “hunting” at Hone Quarry
  • tours of the Black Bear Composting facility in Crimora
  • a presentation about the 2016 Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park


This video, generously produced by VMN volunteer Sonny Bowers (Historic Rivers Chapter), gives viewers a great sense for what it means to be a VMN volunteer and why the program is so important.