One of the great legacies my predecessor David Moulder left to Coastal Georgia is the Master Naturalist Program.
Our Master Naturalist Program is an introduction to Coastal Georgia’s natural environment. We visit some of our natural resource treasures – though there is no way we can visit them all in 12 classes – meet the people and agencies who manage those resources and discuss how all of that interacts with us, the citizens of Coastal Georgia, in our daily lives.
It is very much a field course. We meet at a different site each week and explore the natural resources of the site and its implications to how Georgia developed and will develop into the future.
This year we are reshuffling the deck to present Coastal Georgia in a different way. Instead of focusing on soils in one session, water in another and vegetation in yet another, we plan to introduce Georgia the same way Oglethorpe discovered it.
We start with the ocean and talk about the resources, influences and concerns of the past and today. We 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 folk do not realize that old beaches take you all the way to Waycross and Metter. At each site we will talk about the geology, hydrology, vegetation, soils and wildlife, as well as past uses and future challenges.
Fort Stewart’s longleaf pine and endangered species management is always a highlight of the class, and the Savannah River and Savannah Wildlife Refuge by boat will change your perspective. Savannah’s I&D Water Plant and wastewater treatment plant will show you the state of the art in environmental protection technology. Georgia Southern’s Raptor Center, the Mary Kahrs Warnell Forestry Center, Ottawa Farms, Dunham Farms, Sapelo Island and Skidaway Island are also on the agenda. We are even planning a bonus trip or two to visit some of the great innovations in environmental protection in your back yard you probably do not know exist.
The class will meet on Wednesdays from March 30 through June 15. Expect classes to last all day. When the course is completed, you will have only scratched the surface. We have so many physical, institutional and human resources available to us along the Georgia coast that, if we had the staff, we could run three Master Naturalist Programs simultaneously and neither visit a site nor hear an expert speak more than once.
Our success will be measured by how many participants continue exploring and learning about our coastal natural resources after the class is over. Folks who have taken the class before are welcome to come along on our next adventures. We often learn as much from the students as they learn from us. Past students are some of our best experts, especially in birding.
This year the sponsoring partners are UGA Cooperative Extension, Warnell School of Forest Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and Dunham Farms.
We are taking applications now. The class is limited to the first 30 paid applicants. Cost is $195 per person. Class will fill up fast. Go to the Chatham County Extension website at www.ugaextension.com/chatham and click on “Agriculture and Natural Resources” on the upper left to bring up the Master Naturalist Program. Fill out the application and mail it to the Chatham County Extension office along with payment.
Any questions you may have can be directed to me by e-mail at email@example.com, phone at 653-2231, or fax at 653-2236, or David Linvill by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 652-7981, or fax at 652-7989.
We are going to learn a lot and have a great time while doing so. Don’t miss the fun!
Gardner is the cooperative extension agent for Bryan County.