Volunteering opportunities

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

Metro area and Central MN

Northwestern MN

Northeastern MN

Southern MN






girl fishingState Park Packet Assembly

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Bring a friend or two and spend a few hours assisting Minnesota State Parks in assembling mini-folder information packets and using an electronic paperpunch to punch holes in state parks permits to indicate the expiration date. These packets will be helping to increase visits to Minnesota state parks and, in some instances, introduce people to camping, paddling, rock climbing, fishing and archery for the first time! Good attention to detail and accuracy is needed for this job. Up to eight volunteers can work together at one time.

Volunteers need to commit to at least two hours minimum at the MN DNR office, 500 Lafayette Rd N, St Paul, on one or more days of your choice, Monday – Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM, during the following times:

  • Week of March 31–April 4
  • Week of April 7–11
  • Week of May 12–16
  • Week of May 19–23
  • Week of June 9–13 

For more information or to schedule a time to come in, contact Kristel Peters, Office Administrative Specialist, Intermediate, at 651-259-5607 or email Kristel.Peters@state.mn.us 



bluebird houseBluebird Trail Monitors

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The bluebird may be Minnesota's most popular songbird. Although bluebirds aren't as common as robins or red-winged blackbirds, their sweet song and beautiful colors leave a lasting impression.  Help the bluebird make a strong recovery in Afton State Park near Hastings by becoming a Bluebird Trail Monitor! 

From April through September, up to 15 volunteers are needed to check and maintain a trail of bluebird houses every 7 – 10 days, writing notes on activities in the houses throughout the nesting season.  This should take from 1 – 3 hours for each visit to the park. Volunteers must be able to walk uneven trails and steep inclines, and also identify common species of birds that use man-made bird houses.  Bluebird Training will be provided on Saturday April 5th, 2014.

For more information contact Linda Radimecky, Area Naturalist, Afton State Park,
6959 Peller Ave S, Hastings MN 55033 at 651-231-6968 or email    Linda.Radimecky@state.mn.us



red foxBotany and Zoology Data Conversion

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Assist the Division of Ecological and Water Resources Data Management Team with converting old plant and animal paper records to digital files to free up space and make these records more easily accessible. Documents to scan include field surveys, maps and reports that are valuable in tracking plant and animal communities across the state.

The digital files need to be labeled appropriately and saved in a logical format. Volunteers will need to be organized and pay attention to details. This type of volunteer works requires people to be familiar with the operation of scanning and/or office equipment, Adobe Acrobat software, basic computer operation and have a working knowledge of Windows Explorer folder/file management system.  Basic training will be provided.

All work must be done at the DNR State Headquarters at 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul, MN 55155, Monday through Friday, at least 2 hours per week between the hours of 8 AM – 4:30 PM. Parking is free and the office is on the bus line. The project should take up to 4 volunteers to complete.

For more information contact Amy Westmark, Zoology Data Specialist, 500 Lafayette Road, Saint Paul, MN 55101 at 651-259-5163 or email amy.westmark@state.mn.us



people in costumesPeriod Costumes

(Metro area and Central MN)

Make stories come alive!  Assist interpretive services with living history programs at St. Croix State Park by creating, finding or donating costumes for history programs related to the fur trade, Dakota & Ojibwe culture, and early settlers.  Volunteers with sewing skills and experience with period costuming are highly desired to create new pieces at home.  Donations of existing costumes will be accepted, as well.  This project is due by June 2014 to be used in summer park programs.

For information on this project, contact Megan Johnsen, Naturalist, St. Croix State Park, 30065 St. Croix Park Rd, Hinckley, MN 55037 at 320-384-6615 or email Megan.johnsen@state.mn.us



trout lilySearch for the Rare MN Dwarf Trout Lily, April 20 – May 12

(Metro and Central MN, Southern MN)

Interested in wildflowers?  If so, use this interest to assist the DNR to search for, and collect data on the Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily, a Federally Endangered spring wild flower, endemic to a few forest rivers in southeastern Minnesota.  This is part of an annual monitoring effort at selected sites in Goodhue, Rice, and Steele Counties approximately 1 – 2 hours south of the Twin Cities.  Volunteers work as part of a crew of 3 – 7 people supervised by DNR staff or experienced volunteers to search previously documented areas, flag, and count plants.  No independent volunteer opportunities are available for rare plant monitoring.

People of any background with an interest in wildflowers are welcome.  Volunteers will need to be able to spot a flower bud the size of a grain of rice five feet in front of them, while working with an organized team to systematically survey an area.  Some sites may also include rough, very steep terrain that volunteers must be able to walk/climb, as well as crossing small streams and rivers. Training in identifying the lily and search methods will be provided in the field at the beginning of each workday.

Work will be conducted sometime between April 20 and May 12 (dependent on flower development).  A full day's commitment is required.   For more information and/or to get on a mailing list with more specific details as the survey dates approach, contact Derek Anderson, Botanist/Plant Ecologist, St Paul, at 651-259-5071 or email Derek.Anderson@state.mn.us



dining roomSpring Cleanup of Group Center – Flandrau State Park

(Southern MN)

Spring is a great time to get everything ready for the busy summer months. The sand-bottom swimming pond, picnic area, campgrounds and group center attract many visitors every summer to this very popular state park. Work alone or with park staff cleaning cabins, mattresses, furniture and the dining hall of the Cottonwood Group Center. Training will be provided for up to 5 volunteers.  Cleaning will take place mid to late May, anytime 8 AM – 4 PM.  Days will vary as agreed upon with the volunteers. The Group Center has eight bunkhouses and sleeps up to 110 people.  This would be a great group project!

For more information contact David Ellis Hollenhorst, Asst. Park Manager, Flandrau State Park,1300 Summit Avenue, New Ulm, MN 56073 at 507-233-9800 or email dave.ellishollenhorst@state.mn.us

Directions to Flandrau State Park: In New Ulm, follow Broadway (State Highway 15) to 10th Street South. Proceed west on 10th Street South up the hill to Summit Avenue. Then turn left heading south and proceed three blocks to the park entrance which will be on the right (west) side of Summit Avenue. Park entrance is right next to the New Ulm Country Club.



volunteerVolunteer at Whitewater State Park

(Southern MN)

Picturesque limestone bluffs and deep ravines make Whitewater a very popular southeastern state park. Enjoy the view and take part in one of the following volunteer opportunities offered here:

  • Tree Planting Project during the Week of Earth Day, April 21 – 26, 2014: Assist with planting 500 small tree seedlings around the park.  Work at your own pace and plant as many trees as you feel comfortable doing.  No tree planting experience necessary as training will be provided. Volunteers must be able to bend, lift 5 gallon buckets of water, and use tree spades and shovels to dig. Up to 10 volunteers are needed.  This would be a great project for scouting groups or other groups looking for volunteer service hours.
  • Prairie Butterfly Garden Maintenance:  Work with other park volunteers to maintain the butterfly garden in front of the visitor center. Assist with weeding, mulching, watering and labeling plants.  There may also be opportunities for seed collecting. The time commitment is flexible, but all volunteers must attend a volunteer training for this project on Saturday, April 26 from 1 – 4 PM.  Up to 20 volunteers are needed.
  • 2nd Annual Parsnip Pull, Saturday June 21: Work with a group of volunteers to pull wild parsnip from heavy use areas of the park.  This is a service project combined with a fun social atmosphere as lunch is provided. This year there will be activities and entertainment focused on invasive species. No experience is necessary, but volunteers must be able to bend over and carry spades, shovels or other tools necessary for removing parsnips.  An unlimited number of volunteers can be involved, so invite your friends and bring a group!

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



family hiking

Trail Clearing and Campground Preparation

(Southern MN)

Enjoy the fresh spring weather while preparing campgrounds and trails for the busy season in Frontenac State Park located on Lake Pepin.  Volunteers are needed to clear the bluff face trails of leaves, branches and other debris that has accumulated over the winter.  Leaf raking is needed in campsites and the picnic area.  The trails traverse steep terrain with steps and switchbacks and can be physically demanding in spots.  Light to moderate lifting is required to clear branches. This project can be done on weekdays or weekends.   It is preferred that volunteers work at least half days, if possible, but smaller time blocks will be accepted.  Help is needed in April, possibly late March if spring arrives early.  For more information contact Jenny Dehn, Park Manager, Frontenac State Park, 651-345-3401, or email Jennifer.dehn@state.mn.us

Frontenac State Park is located approximately 10 miles SE of Red Wing on Highway 61 or 5 miles northwest of Lake City, then 1 mile north on County Road 2.



tree tubeTree Care at Red River State Rec Area

(Northwest MN)

Give extra care to young saplings planted last season, as well as other small trees, to help them grow in the Red River State Recreation Area, East Grand Forks. Volunteers will add or remove tree protectors dependent on the size of the tree. Soil and/or mulch will be added around young trees and staked up if needed. Trim damaged branches and transplant young seedlings in the area.  Training will be provided.  Experience caring for different types of trees is desired.

Get outside this spring and volunteer with a friend for 8-12 hours/week during the months of April and May.   For more information contact Catherine Johnson, Park Manager, Red River SRA, 515 2nd street NW, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 at 218-773-4950 or email Catherine.dnr.johnson@state.mn.us

Directions to Red River SRA:  If traveling east on Highway 2, cross the Kennedy Bridge into East Grand Forks and take the first exit. Follow 4th Street NW to the parking lot for the Riverwalk Center mall, make a right turn and follow the avenue of flags to the park office. If traveling west, take a left turn at the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 220 and follow DeMers Avenue to 4th Street NW. Take a right turn at Java Coffee and then a left turn into the parking lot for the Riverwalk Center mall and follow the avenue of flags to the park office.



girls fishingShare your Outdoors Passion at Lake Carlos State Park


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 recreational activities scheduled for this spring and summer.

  • School Groups: Help run or instruct one of the multiple stations set up for school groups to visit during the months of April – May (variable weekdays).  Topics vary from geology, wetland ecology, mammals, to history. Props and outlines for instruction will be provided for 1-2 volunteers. These nature based programs make the school visits meaningful and will ultimately impact the way children value our natural resources. Public speaking experience and/or experience presenting nature based programs is desired.
  • Fishing Frenzy Fridays: Promote fishing and caring for our water resources by working with children and/or families to teach the basic skills of fishing including safety, line casting, knot tying, baiting hooks, and taking fish off the hook, as well as identifying fish species and their habitats. One to two volunteers will help instruct and oversee a small group of participants during shoreline fishing scheduled for Fridays during the summer, June 13 through August 29, 2014.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, Saturday, June 14: This nationwide initiative is focused on getting people outdoors.  On this day we have multiple events going on to help people find something they like to do outdoors like geocaching, paddle boarding, canoeing, hiking, and so on. Volunteer duties may include things like giving directions to different areas in the park, teaching geocaching, helping out in the visitor center with greeting people and answering other questions they have.

For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Naturalist, Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319 at (320) 852-7471 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.




turtleTheme Weekend Volunteers


Use your experience and knowledge of bird and wildlife watching, local history, and/or outdoor skills to help park naturalists at St Croix State Park with programs, hikes and crafts on designated weekends this spring and summer.

Theme weekend programming will include:

  • Bird Bonanza Weekend (May 23-26)
  • Ectothermathon Weekend (June 20-22)
    (Note: Ectotherms are cold-blooded creatures)
  • Outdoor Independence Weekend (July 4-6)
  • Park Heritage Days Weekend (July 25-27)
  • Mammal Jam Weekend (August 22-24)

Volunteers must be willing to talk to and help park visitors, be good with children, self-motivated and knowledgeable on the theme topic of the weekend. Skills in wildlife watching, bird and frog counting, face painting, crafts or wood working are desired. Training will be provided. Time commitment needed is at least 10 hours over the summer. Volunteers will be working directly with the public under the supervision of the park naturalists.

For more information contact Megan Johnsen, Naturalist, St. Croix State Park, 30065 St. Croix Park Rd, Hinckley, MN 55037 at 320-384-6615 or email Megan.johnsen@state.mn.us



treefrogMinnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey

(NE, NW, Central MN, Southern MN)

Volunteer to participate in the Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey (MFTCS), Minnesota's portion of the nation-wide program (North American Amphibian Monitoring Program) to monitor the number and distribution of frog and toad populations throughout the U.S.  Participants will be assigned to pre-selected routes and will be asked to conduct nighttime "listening surveys" on three evenings per year between April and July

Help is needed statewide, but especially in southwestern and northern Minnesota.   Available route locations and other information can be found on our website . Training materials including a CD of Minnesota's frog and toad calls, maps, and data forms will be provided. 

Volunteers need 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 assigned route(s), and a desire to participate in the program for multiple years.   This project takes a total of about 15 hours per year.   

For more information, contact Heidi Cyr at 651-259-5107 or heidi.cyr@state.mn.us for details.  If possible, please specify the area of the state or the particular survey route of interest.



loonMinnesota Loon Monitoring Program

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

Volunteers across the state are needed to track Minnesota's loon population.  Now in its 21st year, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program will assign you to a pre-selected lake to count the number of loons you see on one morning between June 27 and July 7, 2014.  Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, and a data form will be provided.  Time commitment is 2-4 hours per lake.  Surveys must be done sometime between 5:00 a.m.-12:00 noon. Volunteers must commit to completing assigned lake(s) within the specified time frame.  Call or e-mail the following DNR Regional Nongame Wildlife staff to be assigned to a lake(s) in one of the listed counties:

Becker or Otter Tail Counties: Contact Sherry Wright, Bemidji, 218-308-2620, sherry.wright@state.mn.us
Cook, Lake, or Itasca Counties: Contact Sarah Verke, Grand Rapids, 218-999-7808, sarah.verke@state.mn.us 
Aitkin or Crow Wing Counties: Contact Karen McLennan, Brainerd, 218-828-2605, karen.mclennan@state.mn.us
Kandiyohi County: Contact Dorie Tess, New Ulm, 507-359-6036, dorie.tess@state.mn.us



volunteersOver 200 Opportunities to be a Campground Host This Summer 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 May to October at a Minnesota State Park 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 2014.

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.



field deskBuild Portable Field Desks

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

The Minnesota School Forest Program works with schoolteachers to educate students about forestry and nature in the outdoors.  Field Desks are a fun tool to assist with teaching in a School Forest.  They are a great way for students to carry supplies out to the forest, provide a hard surface for writing, and help keep students organized.  Younger students can even turn them on their side and use them a small stool.

DNR Volunteers make classroom sets of 30 field desks for School Forest sites.   The School Forest Program connects volunteers with sites.  The volunteer then delivers the field desks.

If you are interested in making a classroom set of field desks, read the info below and then contact Laura Duffey, Forestry Education Specialist, St Paul, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us

Paul, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us
Field Desk Details

  • A classroom set is 30 field desks.
  • You need to provide all materials.
  • You can use this field desk designor come up with your own approach.  Do what works best for your woodworking skills. In 2012, an outstanding volunteer put together a video of his process.  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.
  • Several volunteers have been successful at seeking donations for the materials from hardware stores.

School Forest Site Selection

  • There are School Forest sites statewide interested in field desks.  After you finish making a set of field desks, we will provide you with a current list of sites needing desks. Then you can select a school to deliver to.  The School Forest site list changes as volunteers complete projects, so we do not post a list online.
  • You can request a current list of School Forests to get a sense for where the schools are.  However, remember that the list is likely to change before you complete the project.
  • We do NOT reserve School Forest sites. When you have completed your field desks, you can select from the list. 

Eagle Scouts

If you are considering doing field desks for an Eagle Scout project, School Forest is happy to work with you.

  • 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, 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, Forestry Education Specialist, St Paul, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us to let her know you are interested and then get started on your project.



making cookiesTree Cookies as Educational Tools

(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

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!



prairie flowersState 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.



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 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.