Volunteering - special programs

Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN





peopleTake the Plunge at the Metro Children’s Water Festival – Sept 27

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Come join over 1,800 4th graders as they come to engage in interactive education about our water resources. The 2017 Metro Children’s Water Festival will be held on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave N, St Paul on Wednesday, September 27.  

This awesome program is made possible by many generous contributors, including volunteers just like you!  In fact, it takes over 125 talented and enthusiastic individuals make this possible! 

Below is a list of volunteer opportunities.   Volunteer positions are filled on a first come, first served basis.  If you are interested in volunteering send your name, email address, phone number, affiliation (MNDNR), and volunteer interest to Andy Edgcumbe at aedgcumbe@co.carver.mn.us.

All volunteers are provided both breakfast and lunch while volunteering at the Water Festival.  Each volunteer position is different (3 – 7 hrs.), but most volunteers are expected to start at 8:00 AM and go through 3:00 PM.  See details in the descriptions below.

peopleChildren’s Water Festival (CWF) Volunteer Positions

AREA GUIDES: 7 volunteers are needed to act as area guides. Area guides will be stationed in designated areas around the festival to greet and assist with class movement from station to station and help spread excitement. During class presentations, area guides will evaluate learning stations near their designated areas. Area guides will also assist with safety, help presenters set up and tear down, direct non-festival goers to the correct areas, etc. There will be a morning training for area guides.

WATER ARCADE TEAM MEMBERS:  At least 20 more volunteers are needed to assist with activities in our two Water Arcades where students have an opportunity and free time to explore different, interactive learning stations.  Those include activities such as exploring aquatic bugs, creating water message magnets, pledging to reduce their water footprint, exploring groundwater through the Groundwater Model, or being encapsulated in Bubbleology!  If you can only commit a few hours, the Water Arcade volunteers are one of the few positions where you can volunteer for a portion of the day.

GREETER GUIDES: 11 volunteers are needed to be greeter guides, a new position to the festival. Greeters will serve as helpers at the bussing station to help guide incoming and outgoing busses, unload busses, provide teachers with their presentation schedule, maps, first responder info, and festival evaluations, and unload lunches off the bus. After all busses are unloaded, greeters will have time to visit and evaluate one or two presentations, and be back to the bussing area in the afternoon to help load the busses for departure. There will be a morning training for greeter guides.

WATER DROPS:  Do you have an outgoing spirit?  Would rather not be seen or heard at the CWF?  You have an enthusiastic soul and a theatrical spirit?  Then volunteer to be one of our two Water Drops!  The Water Drops are our mascots - consisting of a costume that looks like a giant water drop.  We could use at least 4 volunteers for these roles.  Two Water Drops are needed along with two assistants to accompany the Water Drops at all times.

PRESENTATION HELPERS:  A number of our presenters require assistants at their learning stations.   If you have an interest in assisting - and learning from a veteran presenter - then perhaps one of these volunteer positions might be for you!

COMPOST STATION HELPERS: During lunch we are in need 6 volunteers to help monitor our compost/recycle/trash station to ensure items get put in the proper location and educate students on what’s compostable, what’s recyclable and what’s trash. This is another partial day role running approximately from 10am to 1:30pm.

LUNCH HELPERS: Lunch helpers will assist the lunch coordinator in arranging and providing classes with their appropriate lunches. Helpers will also assist with setting up the lunches provided for the volunteers. This job requires lifting and moving of lunches. 6-10 lunch helpers will be needed. 

SET UP / TAKE DOWN: 10 volunteers are needed to help with morning set up of tables and chairs and afternoon take down. The morning positions runs approximately 7:30am to 9:00am and the afternoon positions run approximately 2:30 to 4:00pm.  This is a physically demanding job, pushing table and chair carts and loading and unloading the tables and chairs on them.

FLOATERS:  We also require a few "floaters" - to serve in last minute roles and to run errands for the CWF Coordinators.  If you have helped with the festival in the past and are okay doing multiple roles, this job is for you. You may be asked to substitute for another volunteer, help with registration, lunch, the water arcade, evaluations, set up, etc.  This is another role that can work for only a portion of the day.

 Visit the CWF website for more information and to take a photo tour of the past Festivals.  The CWF website can be found at www.metrocwf.org.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is a member of the planning committee and active participant in this event.

Again, if interested in volunteering send your name, email address, phone number, affiliation (MNDNR), and volunteer interest to Andy at aedgcumbe@co.carver.mn.us who is coordinating the volunteers.


turtleTurtle Crossing Survey


Volunteer to monitor roads and bridges near the Cloquet River and tributaries by Rollins, MN in St. Louis County, for turtles crossing the road or for dead turtles on the road. The exact location can be determined based on your interest. If it is safe to do so, volunteers can also assist turtles across the road.

The DNR will provide you with materials to identify turtles and a simple data sheet to fill out for each survey. You will record the number of turtles observed live and dead, and take a picture of all turtles, if possible.

Turtle surveys usually occur from May through September each year. The most important period to conduct surveys is in June when turtles cross roads to get to nesting areas. Ideally, roads are checked several times a week in June and occasionally in May and again July –September. Volunteers can conduct surveys as often as they like. Any amount of time a volunteer can give is appreciated!

This is a multi-year project. Volunteers are still needed through September 2017, as well as in future years, if interested.

For more information on how you can assist with this turtle survey, contact Gaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist, Grand Rapids, MN at 218-328-8811 or email gaea.crozier@state.mn.us


fishing off a pierFishing at Ft Snelling State Park

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Share your passion for fishing with those trying it out for the first time! Many visitors to Fort Snelling State Park check out fishing equipment to try their hand at fishing, but need a little help.

Volunteer to help untangle fishing line and do some light repairs on fishing poles 2-3 times a week preferably on weekends and Mondays, but open to other days as well. Looking for help 10 hours or less each week from now until Labor Day.

Some experience with fishing equipment would be helpful for this position, but not necessary. Patience IS needed with the fishing line tangles!

Get involved and spark an interest in fishing for years to come! Contact Kelli Bruns, Park Manager, Fort Snelling State Park, 101 Snelling Lake Road, St. Paul, at 612-279-3552 or email kelli.bruns@state.mn.us for more information.


raccoonMining History Volunteers

(Central MN, NE MN)

Use your passion for history to help preserve Iron Range Mining history! This is a great opportunity for those looking to learn about careers in archaeology, archival science, or cultural resource management.

Up to 3 volunteers per day may assist at the following sites:

  • Croft Mine (Located in the Cuyuna Country Recreation Area, the office is located at 336 - 3rd Street, Ironton, MN 56455) Croft Mine is an underground mine that operated from 1914 - 1934, producing 1,770,669 tons of iron ore. This historic site now offers a museum, simulated mine shaft, and authentic mining artifacts.
  • Hill Annex Mine (Located in Hill Annex Mine State Park, 880 Gary St, Calumet, MN 55716, halfway between Grand Rapids and Hibbing.) Hill Annex Mine consists of an open pit mine and museum.

Volunteers will catalog, digitize, organize, and store historic artifacts associated with each site. Doing so will help preserve local history for future museums and research as well as make way for the restoration of historic buildings so they can serve a practical use for the DNR while housing new exhibits.

Volunteer duties include:

  • Take photographs
  • Dust artifacts
  • Enter data in catalog software
  • Prepare conservation and archival supplies for the day
  • Make container labels and dossiers
  • Place artifacts in storage
  • Prepare humidification chambers
  • Help unroll sensitive maps

An ideal candidate would have experience in archaeology, museum studies, or historical preservation work of some kind, but not necessary. Training will be provided.
Time Commitment:

  • A minimum of 4 hours per week is required between the hours of 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Sunday - Friday at both the Croft Mine and Hill Annex Mine.
  • Inquire if you need assistance with transportation to the mines.

For more information contact Ian Dunshee, Historic Resource Specialist, Grand Rapids, at 218-244-4117 or email Ian.Dunshee@state.mn.us


reneeInterpretive Center Greeter at Sibley State Park

(Southern MN)

Do you find yourself happy to be at state park and can’t stop smiling? Then the Interpretive Center Greeter is the volunteer position for you!

The center gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Sibley State Parks resources through interactive displays as well as observe wildlife in the back pond.  Greeters would be the smiling face visitors see when entering the center and would be available to help check out equipment and answer questions. Shifts can range from 2 – 6 hours.

Our goal is to have the building open 7 days a week with the focus on longer open hours Friday-Sunday. Volunteers will greet visitors and answer basic park questions. Training will be provided. Naturalists will be in charge of opening, closing and cleaning the center.

For more information on how you can be a host, contact Kelsey Olson, Lead Naturalist, Sibley State Park, 800 Sibley Park Rd NE, New London, MN 56273 at 320-354-2002 or email Kelsey.olson@state.mn.us


  • From St. Cloud, take State Hwy 23 to New London, then State Hwy 9 west to County Rd. 40. Then go west on County Rd. 40. Go one mile north on 71 to park entrance.
  • From Willmar, take US Hwy 71 north, 15 miles to the park entrance.


minesMake Geological History!

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

The DNR Lands & Minerals office in Hibbing is home to several large collections of documents relating to past mining and geological exploration in our state.

If you enjoy organizing, proofing, (and sometimes sleuthing!) and appreciate geology, peatlands, and/or Minnesota history - this volunteer position is for YOU!

Work closely with geologists, engineers, and reclamation specialists to help:

  • scan historical documents
  • organize collections holdings
  • proof PDF documents of previously scanned work

We are in the midst of tidying up some of our historical collections and online data in order to make room for our expanding collections. These documents allow everyone understand Minnesota geology, mining, and exploration history - all of which is important academically, environmentally, and economically. We need your help to expedite this enormous task!

As a geological history volunteer:

  • You will volunteer for a minimum of 2-3 hours per week, anytime between 8 am - 4 pm, Monday-Friday, at the DNR Lands and Minerals Office, 1525 3rd Avenue East, Hibbing, MN 55746. Please note that Hibbing is located approximately 3 hours' drive north of the Twin Cities.
  • If you do not live in the Hibbing area, there is the possibility of doing some of this work remotely. A stable internet connection, an email account you check regularly, and Adobe Reader (or equivalent) is required for any volunteers wishing to work remotely. This project does not have a specific end date.
  • Experience with Microsoft Excel or Word is desired, but not required. Training will be provided.

For more information, contact Andrea Reed, Mineral Resource Geologist, NE Region, Hibbing, at 218-231-8460 or email andrea.d.reed@state.mn.us


volunteer in EAB costume2017 MN State Fair Volunteer Positions

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

The Minnesota State Fair is coming to St. Paul, August 24 - September 4, and YOU can be a part of it!

  • Receive admission tickets to the fair for each day you volunteer with the DNR!
  • Volunteer at least one day for 4 hours. 
  • Parking and meals will be your responsibility. 

Volunteer to be:

  • Smokey Bear and His Voice
  • EAB Costume Character (Emerald ash borer)
  • Wildlife Wing Interpreter

Go to the State Fair Volunteer Positions page to find out more!


bike trailVolunteer as a State Trail Monitor

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

Help keep Minnesota's State Trails beautiful by volunteering as a State Trail Monitor! Not only will you be able to spend time outside on the scenic state trails, but you will also be making a difference!

Learn more about volunteering with Minnesota's State Trails.


campground hostsCampground 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
  • explaining campground
  • doing light maintenance work around the campground
  • picking up litter
  • sweeping and stocking supplies in toilet buildings
  • performing 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 2017.

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.

NOTE: 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.


removing brushGet Physical on a State Natural Area

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

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) you will:

  • collect prairie and woodland seeds
  • plant seedlings
  • pull buckthorn or other invasive species of plants
  • cut and burn brush such as sumac

Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, unless otherwise noted, on many weekends throughout the year.

SNAs are the premier state lands displaying examples of native prairies, old growth forests, geological features and habitat for rare and endangered species.

Take a look at volunteering on SNAs, and check out the calendar of events to see when you can come lend a hand!


minnesota master naturalist logoBe a Master Naturalist

If you enjoy learning about nature, hiking, bird watching, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer!

Take trainings and learn about Minnesota's biomes (plant and animal communities) including:

  • hardwoods and rivers
  • north woods and Great Lakes
  • prairies

To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org.

The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


field desksBuild Portable Field Desks

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

Use your woodworking skills to build portable field desks! Field Desks are a fun tool to assist with teaching in a School Forest. (School Forests are natural spaces used as an outdoor classroom.) Create a small wooden box for students to carry supplies out to the forest and use as a hard writing surface. Younger students can even turn them on their side and use them as a small stool to sit on.
Field Desk Details

  • A classroom set is 30 field desks.
  • You need to provide all materials. (Many have been successful at seeking donations for the materials from hardware stores.)
  • You can use this field desk design or come up with your own approach. Do what works best for your woodworking skills.
  • In 2012, an outstanding volunteer put together a video of how to make field desks. This video might help your planning, especially if you are doing the project with a group. (Note this is just one approach, and not meant to be directions.)
  • You will need to deliver the field desks directly to the School Forest site when they are complete.

School Forest Site Selection

  • There are School Forest sites statewide.
  • After you finish making a set, you will select a school from a short list of sites currently requesting desks. The list changes as volunteers complete projects, so we do not post a list online.
  • We do NOT reserve School Forest sites. When you have completed your field desks, you can select from the list that we provide.

Eagle Scouts
If you are considering doing field desks for an Eagle Scout project, we are happy to work with you.

  • DNR School Forest staff can sign your paperwork to initiate the project.
  • Once you have the desks completed, the School Forest site coordinator at the school should be able to sign the final/completion form. Or, if preferred, DNR School Forest staff can sign it.
  • Be sure to allow enough time to finish and deliver the project before your 18th birthday.

Contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Planning Specialist, MNDNR Division of Forestry, St Paul at laura.duffey@state.mn.us to let her know you are interested and then get started on your project!


steve wardLake Level Minnesota volunteering... doing your level best!

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

Whether it is floods, droughts, or just a normal year, lake level fluctuations (or the lack of them) are important to document. Be a volunteer observer and record lake levels on a regular basis.

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


loonVolunteer Loon Watcher Survey

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

If you live on a lake or regularly visit a lake, and you have an interest in loons, you can be a volunteer "loon watcher" in the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey.

As a Loon Watcher you will record:

  • the number of loons you see
  • nesting success observed in eggs and young birds
  • interesting occurrences and
  • problems that may harm the loons

For more information about the Minnesota Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke at Kevin.Woizeschke@state.mn.us or 218-203-4371.


zebra musselsZebra Mussel Monitoring Program

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

Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest.

These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers doing major damage such as:

  • killing native mussels
  • limiting recreational activities
  • clogging water supply pipes
  • competing with larval fish for food

Spend a few minutes checking the docks, swimming platforms, boats, motors, anchors, and any hard objects that have been in the lake or river where you live. 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.


firearms safety classVolunteer Safety Instructors

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

DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor opportunities are available in the following areas:

  • Firearms safety
  • Bowhunter education
  • Snowmobile safety
  • ATV safety
  • 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.

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.

If you are interested in becoming a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor, apply online to become an instructor. And check out upcoming safety instructor courses. There is no fee to attend.


making cookiesMake 100 Tree Cookies

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

Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, tree identification, and more.  You can volunteer to create “tree cookies” which are slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree.  100 cookies are enough for about three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better.  They will be used!

How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Slice the branches or trunk into half-inch thick, wafer-shaped “cookies” that are between three to six inches in diameter.
  • "Interesting" cookies with easily readable rings are preferred (these show a history of disease, disturbance, or other story.)
  • Dry the cookies correctly.  Do not skip this step or your cookies will rot.  See detailed instructions.
  • Sand the surfaces until the rings appear.
  • Finish the surfaces with clear varnish.
  • Optional – Label the cookie with the tree species and location cut.
  • Don’t use wood from ash trees.

Detailed instructions found in How to Make Tree Cookies PDF

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.

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 a school site and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.

Project Learning Tree (PLT) program is a natural resources education program for teachers across Minnesota. Teachers often don’t have the time or capability to make these cookies so your help is greatly appreciated.