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Master Naturalist Program starting
Where the grass is greener
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The 2012 Coastal Georgia Master Naturalist Program is now open for registration.
Classes meet Wednesdays from March 28 through June 6 and may be expected to last all day.
As an introduction to the state’s natural environment, the program visits many of Georgia’s most treasured natural resources — though there is no way we can visit them all in 10 classes. The program also allows participants to meet the people and agencies who manage those resources and examine how all of these affect and react with the citizens of the Georgia Lowcountry on a daily basis.
The program is very much a field course, whose participants meet at a different site each week and explore the natural resources of the site, their effects upon the development of Georgia and their implications for our region’s future. We present Georgia and its natural resources in the same order that Oglethorpe and the colonists encountered them, beginning at the ocean and examining its resources, influences and concerns of the past and today.
We next move inland and examine the marshes and estuaries, then move farther up into blackwater swamps and old beaches. (When we talk about old beaches, many people do not realize that old beaches take you all the way to Waycross and Metter.) At each site, we discuss the geology, hydrology, vegetation, soils and wildlife, past uses and future challenges.
Fort Stewart’s longleaf pine and endangered-species management are always highlights of the course. Savannah’s Industrial & Domestic state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plants reveal the best of environmental-protection technology.
An optional boat trip up the Savannah River through the port into the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge enhances the perspective.
A second optional, three-hour canoe trip paddles down the Ogeechee, where participants will see much of the river just as early colonists first found it, as well as the marks that visitors have left on it since.
At the completion of the course, participants only will have scratched the surface. There are so many physical, institutional and human resources available along Georgia’s coast that, if we had the staff, we could run three Master Naturalist courses simultaneously while never revisiting a site nor hearing the same expert twice.
The program’s success is measured by the number of participants who continue to explore and learn about the coastal natural resources after graduation.
Not all the experts are instructors; we often learn as much from the students as they learn from us. Course graduates, now certified Georgia Master Naturalists, are among our most knowledgeable experts, especially in birding.
This year, the sponsoring partners are the UGA Cooperative Extension, the Warnell School of Forest Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Dunham Farms.
The course is limited to the first 30 paid applicants, and classes will fill quickly. For application materials and course schedules, contact me at or 912-554-7578 or contact Pat Payne at or 912-554-7577.
Who says learning can’t be fun?

Gardner lives in Keller and is the UGA extension agent for Glynn County, also serving South Bryan. He can be reached at

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