Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

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gray tree frogMinnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Volunteer to be part of the Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey (MFTCS) to monitor the number and distribution of frog and toad populations throughout Minnesota. Sign up online to conduct nighttime "listening surveys" on 3 evenings per year between April and July. Visit our website to see a map of available route locations and training information.

Here's what's needed to become a member of the MN Frog and Toad Calling Survey Team:

  • A vehicle and valid driver's license
  • Good hearing
  • An interest in frog and toad conservation
  • A willingness to learn frog calls
  • A commitment to completing your route (about 15 hours per year)  


trout lilyRoving Naturalist at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Share your love and knowledge of nature with park visitors as a Roving Naturalist. Work with park staff on weekends to make visitors' experiences at the park educational and fun!   Here's how:

Roving Naturalist – 6 weekends beginning April 9 – May 15, 2016

  • On the boardwalk, help visitors with wildflower identification of the MN Dwarf Trout Lily
  • Need to be able to walk ½ mile to the trail location and boardwalk
  • 2 to 4 hour shifts available
  • Training and scheduling will be held Saturday, April 2, 2016

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

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.


woodcock chickBanding Woodcocks – Workshop weekend May 13-15

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

This little fuzz ball is an American Woodcock chick.  Woodcocks are a small migratory game bird that breeds in Minnesota. We need volunteers and their pointing dogs to join us in being trained how to locate and band these birds.

Banded birds inform biologists about reproductive success, migration routes, where Minnesota birds winter, and hunting mortality. Our trained banders may also be called upon to assist with other woodcock research projects in Minnesota.

Here's how it works:

  • Woodcock banders typically work alone or in pairs, anywhere in the state that American Woodcock breed.
  • Pointing dogs are used to locate woodcock hens with chicks, which are then captured, measured, banded and released.
  • Training and at least one apprentice season are required for new banders.
  • Upon completion of training, banders will be permitted to work on their own in Minnesota and may apply for permits to work on public lands.

Qualifications needed to be a woodcock bander:

  • Woodcock banders must have well trained pointing dogs to locate broods.
  • Dogs must be steady to flush and stop to flush in order to be used for banding.
  • New banders must attend a weekend workshop in May where they learn how to capture and band woodcock chicks and their dog(s) will be certified as ready for banding.

Training and Time Commitment:

  • All new banders are required to attend the May 13-15, 2016 workshop.
  • Training will be held at Pineridge Grouse Camp in Remer, MN. See details on the woodcock banding clinic This link leads to an external site..
  • You must be willing to commit to at least 4 days afield during the season, which may run from late April through June, depending on the weather.

For more information contact Donna Dustin, Volunteer Woodcock Banding Coordinator,
Detroit Lakes, at 218-849-2148 or email Donna.dustin@gmail.com


pulling garlic mustardPull Garlic Mustard – Saturday June 4

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that crowds out young trees like oaks, maples and birch making it hard for them to grow. Without these new trees our forest will change dramatically as the old trees die out.

Frontenac State Park has emerging communities of garlic mustard along the bluff-side trail of Lake Pepin. Help us pull it before it spreads further inland!

Volunteer to:

  • Correctly identify garlic mustard (training provided)
  • Climb steep inclines and walk on uneven surfaces
  • Work in a stooped position
  • Hand-pull the entire plant, including roots
  • Bag plants & transport them to a pick-up location
  • Work with a partner or more, if possible (groups welcome!)

Time Commitment:

  • Minimum of 2 hours
  • Any day of the week this Spring including weekends

Special Garlic Mustard Pull Volunteer Day scheduled

Saturday, June 4, 2016
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

For more information contact Nadine Meyer, Assistant Park Manager, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Boulevard, Frontenac, MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email Nadine.meyer@state.mn.us


riverboat cleanupGreat Mississippi River Cleanup – June 15

(Metro and Central MN)

Join us for the 25th annual Great Mississippi River Cleanup on Wednesday, June 15 from 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM. Help clean sections of the Mississippi River after disembarking from a riverboat near St Paul.

You must be in good health, able to follow specific directions, and be 11 years of age or older. Volunteers under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or other adult with written authorization to make medical decisions for the minor.

Keep in mind that this is a rain-or-shine, hot-or-cold event. You will need to provide your own personal gear including:

  • rain protection
  • rain protection
  • hat
  • long pants
  • thick-soled shoes or rubber boots
  • insect and tick repellent
  • sun screen

The cleanup is located in potentially rugged areas that may include mud, loose rocks, standing water, and biting insects.

REGISTER for the 25th annual Great Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup at: www.conservationcorps.org/riverboat-cleanup.

Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) has taken over the planning and implementation of this event - with the support of the DNR and many other partners and sponsors. CCM crew members and staff have long served as volunteer leaders and media guides for the Riverboat cleanup so this will be a seamless transition.

To learn more about Conservation Corps, visit their website: www.conservationcorps.org.

If you have questions: Please contact Bailey Erickson, Conservation Corps Outreach Coordinator, St Paul at bailey.erickson@conservationcorps.org or 651.209.9900 x29.


loonMinnesota Loon Monitoring Program – June 24 – July 4

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

Volunteers across the state are needed to track Minnesota's loon population.  Now in its 23rd year, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program will assign you to a pre-selected lake in your area to count the number of loons you see on one morning between Friday, June 24th and Monday, July 4th, 2016.  Surveys must be done sometime between 5:00 a.m.-12:00 noon. Time commitment is 2-4 hours per lake.

Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, and a data form will be provided. You must commit to completing assigned lake(s) within the specified time frame and returning completed survey materials. 

Call or e-mail the following DNR Regional Nongame Wildlife staff to be assigned to a lake(s) in one of the listed counties:


whitewater volunteerParsnip Pull at Whitewater State Park – Saturday June 25

(Southern MN)

Picturesque limestone bluffs and deep ravines make Whitewater a very popular southeastern state park. Enjoy the view and take part in the 4th Annual Parsnip Pull, Saturday June 25, 2016 from 8 AM to 12 noon.

  • Work with a group of volunteers to pull wild parsnip from heavy use areas of the park.
  • This service project is combined with a fun social atmosphere with lunch provided.
  • Activities and entertainment will be focused on invasive species.
  • No experience is necessary, but you must be able to stand for 4 hours, bend over and carry spades, shovels or other tools necessary for removing parsnips.
  • Approximately 50 volunteers are needed, so invite your friends and bring a group!

For more information contact Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist, Whitewater State Park, 19041 Hwy 74, Altura MN 55910 at 507-932-3007 extension 226 or email sara.holger@state.mn.us   


teaching kids about forestryShare Nature at Lake Carlos State Park

(Central MN)

Sculpted by ancient glaciers, Lake Carlos State Park contains a tamarack bog, marshes, woodland ponds, and lakes. Come visit and get involved as a volunteer in a variety of projects:

Lead School Groups:

  • Assist the naturalist by leading a station on nature topics like fish, water ecology, and geocaching. Props and outlines for instruction will be provided.
  • Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 2 PM
  • Volunteer at least 1 day/week
  • These nature-based programs make the school visits meaningful and will ultimately impact the way children value our natural resources.
  • Your help will let us divide the students into smaller groups for better learning situations.
  • Experience with leading groups, working with school aged children, and a background in natural resource topics like plants and animals is desired.

Staff Visitor Center:

  • Welcome visitors
  • Answer questions about the park and displays in the center
  • Training provided
  • All days of the week including weekends
  • 2.5 hours per day
  • Volunteer at least 1 day/week
  • Need to be familiar with Lake Carlos State Park, its trails, and other things to do in the park.
  • Public speaking or ability to work with a variety of visitors with a wide range of questions is desired.

Rake Leaves:

  • Rake leaves in campgrounds and other day use areas like the beach
  • Monday – Friday
  • Volunteer for at least 1 day

Remove Aquatic Vegetation:

  • Pick-up or rake and dispose of plants washed up on the shoreline of the park
  • Monday – Friday
  • Volunteer at least 1 day

Clean-up Ditches and Campsites:

  • Walk ditches to pick up trash
  • Clean fire rings and campsites to prepare for busy summer season.
  • Monday – Friday
  • Volunteer at least 1 day

For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Area Interpretive Naturalist, Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319 at (320) 852-7471  Extension 225 or email  Benjamin.Eckhoff@state.mn.us

Directions to Lake Carlos State Park: The park entrance is located 10 miles north of Alexandria on State Highway 29, then 2 miles west on Highway 38.


lake scenePreserving Historic Water Conservation Plans

(Metro and Central MN)

Use your computer skills to help us convert paper files into electronic files of historic water conservation plans and information on specific water bodies in the metro area such as Lake Owasso, Spring Lake and Long Lake.

These files are important to keep as a reference for current and future inquiries of permitting actions to use surface or groundwater, build or remove dams, remove nuisance aquatic plants or fishes, and other related work.

Volunteer to:

  • Sort
  • Scan
  • Upload files
  • Create files
  • PDF maintenance
  • Assist in developing overall procedures and naming conventions
  • Possibly train others in maintaining the system since this is an ongoing process

Qualifications needed:

  • You must be detail oriented
  • Able to work independently
  • Make decisions
  • Take the lead on these projects

Time Commitment:

  • 5-15 hours per week
  • All work must take place at the DNR Central Region Office, 1200 Warner Rd, St Paul, MN 55106 
  • You may select any day Monday – Friday between the hours of 9 AM - 3 PM.
  • Days and hours are flexible, but the scanning portion of this work is preferred around lunch hours and Friday afternoons when demand in the office for the equipment is low. 
  • Training will be provided.

If interested, please send a formal letter of interest (via email) outlining any past experience you have that may be relevant.  Email to Lindsey Peterson, Ecological & Water Resources Division, at lindsey.peterson@state.mn.us   You may call 651-259-5771 with further questions.


fishing on pierLead a Summer Fishing Program – Fridays or Saturdays, June - August

(Northeastern MN)

Five state parks in the northeast region of Minnesota are looking for volunteers to lead fishing programs this summer.  All of these parks have a large fishing pier and all the equipment needed to get visitors of all ages hooked on fishing!  

These programs are typically set up as 2-hour "roving" programs meaning you are available for any visitors that show up to the pier looking to fish during that time.  Only one volunteer is needed per program, but teaming up with a friend or family member is welcome!  Training will be provided, so little experience is necessary. 

Duties include:

  • welcoming people to the park and introducing them to fishing
  • rigging fishing poles (being able to tie and bait hooks)
  • holding and unhooking/releasing fish
  • answering questions about fish ID, basic fish ecology/biology, tackle uses, and other fishing opportunities in Minnesota.

Qualifications needed:

  • Some experience fishing and understanding of fish ecology/biology is preferred 
  • A passion for the outdoors and excitement to share it with others! 

Time Commitment:

  • Fridays or Saturdays
  • June, July and August with the option for other times throughout the year. 
  • 2 hours roving the fishing pier helping visitors

All bait will either be provided or you will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses to cover this.  Mileage reimbursement is negotiable. 

State Parks looking for help:

  • Bear Head Lake State Park
    9301 Bear Head State Park Road
    Ely, MN 55731
  • McCarthy Beach State Park
    7622 McCarthy Beach Road
    Side Lake, MN 55781
  • Moose Lake State Park
    4252 County Road 137
    Moose Lake, MN 55767
  • Savanna Portage State Park
    55626 Lake Place
    McGregor, MN 55760
  • Scenic State Park
    56956 Scenic Hwy 7
    Bigfork, MN 56628

For more information contact Kacie Carlson, Northeast Regional Naturalist, 1201 E Hwy 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 at 218-328-8989 or email Kacie.Carlson@state.mn.us


people on bikesVolunteer 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
  • performing light maintenance work around the campground
  • picking up litter
  • sweeping and stocking supplies in toilet buildings
  • 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 2016.

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.


kids planting treesGet 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.

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


minnesota master naturalist logoBe a Master Naturalist

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

If you enjoy learning about nature, hiking, birdwatching, 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.


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. 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 LoonWatcher Survey

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central 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 LoonWatcher 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 LoonWatcher Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke at Kevin.Woizeschke@state.mn.us or 218-203-4371.


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 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)

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
  • 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.


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

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.