Volunteering opportunities

Click the following to find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

Metro area and Central MN

Northwestern MN

Northeastern MN

Southern MN






PlayCleanGo logoPlayCleanGo Events at Sports Shows: January - March

(Metro Area and Central MN, NW MN)


Support the outreach and education campaign "PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks" by assisting staff in the booth at one or more of the sports shows listed below. Help educate recreationists about invasive species and the simple steps they can take to avoid accidently spreading terrestrial invasive species. By changing at-risk public behavior, the campaign's goal is to protect the state's natural resources.


  • January 8 - 11, 2015:- Minnesota Sportsmen's Show, River Center, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd, St Paul
  • February 6 - 8, 2015:- St. Cloud Sportsmen's Show, River's Edge Convention Center, 10 South 4th Ave., St. Cloud
  • March 5 - 8, 2015:- Red River Valley Sportsmen's Show, Fargodome, 1800 University Dr. North, Fargo, North Dakota
  • March 25 - 29, 2015:- Northwestern Sportsmen's Show, Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Ave. South, Minneapolis

Volunteer Duties at Sports Show Events:


  • Read over the talking points shared before the show.
  • Arrive for your assigned shift on time. Shifts are 4 - 5.5 hours.
  • Restock any of the materials that have run low (supplies will be under the table).
  • Pick up and dispose of any trash.
  • Be open, accessible and friendly.
  • Engage show visitors and talk to them about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species and action steps folks can take to help protect our natural resources.
  • Pass out boot brushes and handouts as needed.
  • Answer visitor questions to the best of your ability (as time allows, refer to the reference folder under the table).


Volunteer Qualifications Desired


Volunteers must have a basic understanding of invasive species prevention and management, and be familiar with at least four or five of the worst terrestrial invasive species. Among them are the emerald ash borer, gypsy moths, common and glossy buckthorn, garlic mustard, spotted knapweed, common tansy, wild parsnip, Japanese beetle, Asian longhorned beetle, and European earthworms. The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of changing site or living conditions for the worse where they establish.


Volunteers will receive a free ticket to the show for each day they sign up to help.


Click on the link(s) below to sign up for a 4 to 5.5 hour shift as per the following online Doodle polls:



Contact Susan Burks, Forestry Invasive Species Program Coordinator, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul, MN 55155 at 651-259-5251 or email Susan.burks@state.mn.us for more information.




kid snowshoeingSplit Rock Lighthouse Candlelight Snowshoe & Hike Event - Feb. 7

(Northeastern MN)


Enjoy the beautiful winter scenery at theannual candlelight snowshoe and hike event at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Two Harbors on Saturday, February 7, 2015. Put on your snowshoes or boots and trek along the shoreline to listen to the waves crash; or head into the woods and see the snow sparkle in the candlelight. Refreshments will be provided at the Trail Center, where visitors can warm up around a fire, roast marshmallows or enjoy a hot drink. This event is not possible without the commitment of volunteers. Experience the park in a unique outdoors setting that is not usually available on trails at night!


Volunteers are needed for the following duties:


Trail Crews: We need people to place candleholders along the trails, light candles, patrol the trails throughout the event and collect the candles and holders at the conclusion of the event. These folks will be working outside for 1 - 2 hours, so need to dress accordingly for the cold weather. All of these volunteers need to be in good physical condition, able snowshoe or walk 3 - 4 miles and help people have fun!


This is a one-day event on Saturday, February 7. The event itself runs from 6:00 - 8:30 PM, but set up volunteers are needed starting at3:30 PM. Volunteers that can help for the whole event should be available from 3:30 PM - 10:00 PM, otherwise sign up for a few hours at the beginning or end. Volunteer registration will begin at 3:30 PM, trail setup will be from 3:30 - 5:00 PM, lighting will take place 4:30 - 6:00 PM and takedown will be 8:30 - 10:00 PM. Approximately 10 - 15 volunteers are needed for the day. Training will be provided. This would be a great individual or small group activity!


For more information or to volunteer, contact Dean Holm, Operations Supervisor, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616 at 218-595-7621 or email Dean.holm@state.mn.us .


Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located at 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Rd, Two Harbors, MN 55616, about 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on MN Hwy 61.





candleCandlelight Ski/Snowshoe Event at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park - February 7

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)


Join us in creating a magical night of cross country skiing or snowshoeing (or walking, if there is no snow) on trails lit by the warm glow of luminaries! Volunteers are needed to assist with setting out luminaries along the 5 kilometers of ski trails, lighting the candles, and picking them up at the end of the evening. Help is needed on Saturday, February 7, 2015, between the hours of 4:30 - 9:30 PM. Up to 15 volunteers are needed for this event. This would be a great group activity! The event itself runs from 5:30 - 8:30 PM. Snowshoes are available to rent.


Volunteers need to be comfortable in dark, forested situations and physically able to work 2 - 3 hours outside in the cold weather. Listen for the barred owl at dusk and other winter night sounds. Hot beverages will warm your fingers and toes when you return to the Visitor Center!

Directions to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park: Take I-35 to State Highway 19 east into Northfield. Go south on State Highway 3, east on State Highway 246, then turn right onto County Road 29.
For more information, contact Elaine Feikema, Park Manager, 9700 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507-333-4840 or email elaine.feikema@state.mn.us




kids on sledGateway State Trail 4th Annual Candlelight Event -
Feb. 14

(Metro Area and Central MN)


Volunteers will help with the preparations for the 4th Annual Candlelight Hike Event on the Gateway State Trail, Saturday February 14th, 2015. The event will begin in Maplewood at the intersection of White Bear Avenue and the Gateway State Trail near the Maplewood Community Center.


Duties: Up to 10 volunteers will set out candles, light them, hike the trail relighting candles or pick them back up at the end of the evening. Set up time is from about 3 to 4:30 p.m., lighting and relighting the candles is from about 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and pick up will be from about 8 to 9:00 pm. Volunteers are also needed to assist with serving refreshments, overseeing a bonfire, and cleanup from the event.


Volunteer for the entire evening or just one of the times. Please request your preferred task/time. Any length of shift is appreciated. Training will be provided. Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents - families will work together.


Volunteers must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment, i.e. being physically able, and wearing warm winter clothing as needed, etc. Backpacks are also helpful for carrying candle materials. Dress appropriately for cold weather.


For more information contact Jess Schein, Assistant Area Supervisor, Gateway State Trail, St Paul, at 651-259-5774 or email jess.schein@state.mn.us




cross country skiingRice Lake State Park Candlelight Ski/Hike/Snowshoe Event -
Feb. 14

(Southern MN)


Enjoy the crisp winter weather by taking part in the preparations for the Rice Lake State Park Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe Event on Saturday February 14, 2015.


Volunteer Duties: Up to 10 volunteers will set out candles, light them, hike/ski the trail relighting candles and pick them back up at the end of the evening. Set up time and lighting of candles is from about 2 - 6 PM, maintaining the candles is from 6 - 9 PM, and tear down will be from 9 - 10 PM. Training will be provided. Volunteer for the entire evening or just one of these times. Please request your preferred task and time. Any length of shift is appreciated. Training will be provided. Older kids are welcome to volunteer with parents - families will work together.


Volunteers must be comfortable working in the outdoor environment being physically able and wearing warm winter clothing as appropriate.If you have available, bring a backpack to make it easier to carry candle materials. Dress for cold weather.


Rice Lake State Park is located at 8485 Rose Street, Owatonna, MN 55060, just 7 miles east of Owatonna. From Hwy 35, take exit 42A. Follow the signs to Rose Street. Go east on Rose Street to the park.


For more information contact Sandi Gatlin, Park Technician, at 507-455-5871 or email sandi.gatlin@state.mn.us




cross country skiingGooseberry Falls Candlelight Ski, Snowshoe, Hiking Event - Feb. 21

(Northeastern MN)


Enjoy a unique winter outdoor experience as you help with the preparations for Gooseberry Falls State Park's Annual Candlelight Event, Saturday February 21, 2015 near Two Harbors. This event is very popular and attracts hundreds of visitors to the park, but could not be offered without the assistance of volunteers! We plan to have cross-country ski loops, snowshoe and hiking trails (depending on weather conditions), all of which need to have candle illumination.


The event includes several miles of ski, snowshoe and hiking trail, plus hot beverages by the fire in the Visitor Center. A MN Ski pass is required for skiers and can be purchased at the park. The event may be cancelled for cold or icy conditions.


Volunteer Duties:

  • Set out and light luminaries before and/or extinguish and pick up after the event (luminaries are a candle in a cup or bag placed beside the trail). We will split into teams to cover all trails and match volunteer abilities children are welcome to help (families will work together).
  • Other tasks available include tending the bonfire or setting up special luminary displays.
  • Setup starts at 4:00 PM (arrive at Visitor Center by 3:45 PM for instructions).
  • Bring something to share at the Volunteer potluck (after setup), then take your family out to enjoy the trails or sit by the fire in the Visitor Center!
  • Takedown will begin at 8:15 PM if you want to help with this part of the evening, you're invited to arrive early for the potluck! We're usually finished by 9:30 PM.


Volunteer for the entire evening or for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours. Please request your preferred task/time. Training will be provided. This would be a great group activity as upwards of 30+ volunteers are needed for this event! The more, the merrier!!!


All volunteers need the physical ability to travel over challenging terrain and be comfortable working in cold conditions. Bring skis to work on ski trails or snowshoes for snowshoe trail. Please dress for weather conditions and bring a backpack to carry supplies. Headlamps are also essential!!


For more information, contact Audrey Butts, Park Manager, Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3206 Hwy 61, Two Harbors, MN 55616 at 218-834-3855 x 222 or email audrey.butts@state.mn.us




cross country skiingVolunteer to be part of the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park Team

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)


The following three volunteer positions work with park staff and are designed to enhance and enrich visitors' experiences at the park.


1. Monitor ski trails and report trail conditions:
Monitoring duties include removing small branches and sticks off the trail and reporting the need for larger branch removal. Volunteers must have their own X-Country skis and be able to ski 4-6 miles of trail.


2. Roving Naturalist - 6 weekends beginning March 27 - May 3:
Volunteer for 2 to 4 hour shifts to assist guests with wildflower identification of MN Dwarf Trout Lily on the boardwalk. Training and scheduling will begin in early March. Volunteers need to be able to walk 1/2 mile to the trail location and boardwalk.

3. Winter photography:
Photographer needs own digital camera and an understanding of winter photography and basic photo composition.


Background and experience in each area are helpful, however, a love of nature and a willingness to expand your personal knowledge and share that with park guests are the most essential qualifications to being a team player!


For more info on any of these positions contact Elaine Feikema, Park Manager, 9700 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507-333-4840 or email elaine.feikema@state.mn.us




snowmanShare Your Best Shots

(Metro Area and Central MN, NW MN, NE MN, Southern MN)


Expand your outdoor photography! The DNR Parks and Trails Outreach section is looking for beautiful and scenic photos of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. Volunteers that are willing to share their photos of recreating in a Minnesota state park or trail will help expand the current DNR photo library and provide updated photos for publications, advertisements, the website and social media. Your photos have a chance of making it into print!


Here's all you have to do:

  • Take high-resolution (300 dpi) digital images of recreation opportunities in Minnesota State Parks and Trails.
  • Upload photos to the DNR photo uploader to share your best shots!


Volunteers must have access to a digital camera that takes high-resolution images, Internet accessibility to upload the photos and be familiar with Minnesota State Parks and Trails. The time commitment for this project would vary depending on how involved the volunteer would like to be. The bulk of the time would be spent traveling to a Minnesota State Park or Trail, taking photos and then uploading them to the DNR public photo site.


For more information, contact Claire Gahler, Communications Project Specialist, Parks and Trails Division, St Paul at 651-259-5647 or email Claire.Gahler@state.mn.us






making cookiesMake 100 Tree Cookies

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)


Project Learning Tree (PLT) program is a natural resources education program for teachers across Minnesota. PLT needs volunteers to create "tree cookies" as teaching aides for teachers to use with their students. Tree cookies are slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree. They are used to teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, environmental factors affecting tree growth, tree identification, and more. Teachers often don't have the time or capability to make these so volunteer help is greatly appreciated!


Slice the branches or trunk into half-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies" that are between three to six inches in diameter. Sand the surfaces until the rings appear. Finish the surfaces with clear varnish. "Interesting" cookies with easily readable rings are preferred (e.g. cookies that show history of disease, disturbance, or other story).


Labeling cookie species and location harvested is optional, but appreciated. This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.) You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.


Tree Cookies - How to Make Your Own This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.


When finished contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Coordinator, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us to arrange for delivery to site and to get Minnesota DNR recognition! 100 cookies are enough for about three classes. So the more you can make, the better! They will be used!




sna brush burningState Natural Areas Assistance

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)


State scientific and natural areas (SNA) are the premier state lands displaying examples of native prairies, old growth forests, geological features and habitat for rare and endangered species. The state natural areas program needs volunteers to work on projects at natural areas throughout the state. Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, unless otherwise noted, many weekends throughout the year. Activities include prairie and woodland seed collection, planting seedlings, removal of exotic species, pulling buckthorn, and cutting and burning brush such as sumac.


These activities and other events posted on the SNA Program Events Calendar.





minnesota master naturalist logoMinnesota Master Naturalist Training

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)


Any adult who is curious and enjoys learning about the natural world, shares that knowledge with others, and supports conservation can be a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. If you enjoy hiking, bird watching, following tracks, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer! Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers are a motivated group of fun and interesting people: teachers, retired professionals, nature guides, hunters, eco-tour operators, farmers, and...YOU!


To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org . The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the MN Department of Natural Resources.





volunteersAdopt-a-River Program

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)


The Adopt-a-River program encourages Minnesota volunteers to "adopt" a section of a lake, river, wetland, ditch or ravine to ensure its long-term health through annual cleanups. Get involved!







lake level mnLake Level Minnesota volunteering… doing your level best!

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)


Whether it is floods, droughts, or just a normal year, lake level fluctuations (or the lack of them) are important to document. Lake levels are recorded on a regular basis, thanks to the efforts of volunteer observers. These volunteers are joining with the Minnesota Department of natural Resources to create permanent, credible, public lake level records.


Find out more about the Lake Level Minnesota program and Check lake levels with the LakeFinder





loonVolunteer LoonWatcher survey

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)


Volunteers that live on lakes or regularly visit lakes can participate in the Minnesota Volunteer LoonWatcher Survey as a volunteer "loon watcher". Loon watchers report on their lake at the end of the season providing information on nesting success, number of loons observed, interesting occurrences and problems that may negatively affect the loons. Anyone with an interest in loons can join this program and choose a lake to report on. Some volunteers have been in this program for many years.


For more information about the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke at Kevin.Woizeschke@state.mn.us or 218-833-8729.





zebra musselsZebra Mussel Monitoring Program

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)


Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest. These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers killing native mussels, limiting recreational activities, clogging water supply pipes, and competing with larval fish for food. You can provide important help tracking their distribution in Minnesota by spending a few minutes monitoring the lake or river where you live without any specialized equipment. Early detection for zebra mussels is important in protecting your property and Minnesota's water resources.


Learn more on how you can monitor for zebra mussels.





snowmobilesVolunteer Safety Instructors

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)


Consider becoming a Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor in Firearms, Bowhunter Education, Snowmobile, ATV, or Wildlife Species!


Pass on a love for your sport by teaching youth and adults the ethics and safety you would expect from those you meet in the field. During the instructor training, applicants will learn about policy and procedures, teaching concepts, use of training aids and youth classroom training techniques.


Check current certified volunteer instructor classes or sign up for our instructor e-mail list to receive notification of any additional instructor training sessions.


All new instructor applicants and instructors seeking recertification must meet the requirements of being at least 18 years old and passing a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) background check. All applicants for any of the DNR safety programs must also complete the forms online and attend a volunteer instructor training course. There is no fee to attend.


If you are interested in becoming a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor, the process begins online: Get started now! And check out upcoming safety instructor courses.





campground hostsBe a Campground Host at a MN State Park

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)


If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic vistas, and the company of other campers, then consider volunteering to be a "live in" host for at least 4 weeks (one month) during the period of April to October at a Minnesota State Park operated campground.


A host's primary responsibility is to assist campers by answering questions and explaining campground rules in a cheerful and helpful manner.  Campground Host volunteers should be familiar with state park campground rules, perform light maintenance work around the campground such as litter pickup, sweeping, stocking supplies in toilet buildings and making emergency minor repairs when possible. 


Hosts may be requested to assist in the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs. Volunteers will set an example by being model campers, practicing good housekeeping at all times in and around the host site, and by observing all rules.


Check the list of Minnesota State Parks looking for Campground Hosts for 2015.


Campground Host volunteers generally work independently. Volunteers are accountable to the park manager who will provide training and orientation for hosts and assist hosts throughout the season with any question or problems that may arise. Length of period, workdays and hours are established with the campground manager, but will generally include all weekends and holidays.  Avid campers or RV'ers are encouraged to apply!


Read more about the Campground Host Program.  Email your questions to campground.host@state.mn.us  or call 888- MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or in the Metro area call 651-259-5607.


Campground Hosts will be selected from applications that have been satisfactorily completed and submitted in a timely manner.  Interviews will be conducted by the campground manager.  The number of consecutive years that a host may serve may be limited to allow others an opportunity. These limitations are at the discretion of the campground manager. All DNR volunteers must undergo a background check.  This is done at the time of selection.  This also applies to hosts returning from the previous season.