Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

Metro area and Central MN»
Northwestern MN»
Northeastern MN»
Southern MN»





fall colorsShare Nature at Lake Carlos State Park

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Get involved as a volunteer in a variety of recreational activities scheduled this fall at Lake Carlos State Park near Alexandria!

Fall Festival - Saturday, October 8th.   Enjoy the rich colors of fall while learning about the history of the park and those who came before us.

  • Help run or instruct one of the multiple stations such as:
    • Harvest Games - Apple on a string or tug of war
    • Dutch Oven Cooking Demonstrations
    • Archery in the Park
    • Butter Making
    • Apple Bobbing
    • Fall Arts and Crafts
    • And much more!
  • Special Skills Needed Looking for volunteers with these specials skills to share with park visitors such as:
    • Whittling
    • Carving
    • Spinning
    • Crank socks (circular sock knitting machines made in North America from 1850s to 2015)
    • Soap making
    • Blacksmithing

Kids Programs: Help out with one of the many weekly school group programs (weekends and some weekdays available.)  Topics vary from prairie and forest ecology, birds, and mammals to history. Props and outlines for instruction will be provided. These nature-based programs make visits meaningful and will ultimately impact the way children and their families value our natural resources. Public speaking and/or experience presenting nature-based programs is desired.

Wood Working and Other Projects: Help us plan, measure, cut, and construct items like traveling desks, tree cookies, lantern boxes, bird feeder kits, and more. Skills and experience in construction and wood working is desired.

For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Naturalist, Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319 at (320) 852-7471 x227 or email  Benjamin.Eckhoff@state.mn.us

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


cleaning up crewShoreline Garbage Clean-up on Lake Pepin

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Walk along the shoreline of Lake Pepin to pick up trash in Frontenac State Park.

Bags, gloves, pickers, and reflective safety vests will be provided.

From 1 – 10 people are needed at least one day from September – October.

Sign up for one (or more) of the following SATURDAYS from 10 AM – 3 PM or inquire about alternative dates that fit your schedule:

  • September 10
  • October 15

Clean-up will happen at multiple locations along our Lake Pepin shoreline including Sand Point, a bay and peninsula along Lake Pepin within Frontenac State Park. This area has a tendency to collect floating debris and trash from the Mississippi River and requires regular cleaning. Sand Point is a major migratory bird flyway and refuge, so keeping it clean is vital to the birds’ health.

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



aster flowerFall Seed Collection with Sept 17 Event

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Work outdoors in the tall grass prairie collecting seeds from forbs and grasses as part of Frontenac State Park’s effort to expand their prairies and diversify their restoration projects.

You will:

  • collect seeds from the same species of plant at one time (multiple species may be identified for each collection)
  • learn to identify flowers and grasses by their seeds (training provided)
  • volunteer for a minimum of 3 hours, any day of the week, September – October.

A special event for seed collection will be held:
Saturday, September 17, 2016 from 10 am – 1 pm

Come with a friend and learn more about seed collecting and prairies!

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


sceneryFall Colors and Art Event – Saturday, October 22

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Be part of a fall event highlighting fall colors and the arts on Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 1 – 4 pm at Frontenac State Park near Red Wing.

Volunteer a minimum of 1 hour to lead:

  • Art activities with youth focused on leaves & fall colors (basic materials provided)
  • Hikes focused on fall colors (discuss the science behind the colors) and/or tree identification
  • Adult art activities: water colors, pencils, paint, sculpture, etc. (you will need to provide materials*)
  • Photography hikes focused on making fall color photos pop!
  • Nature-based art talk and the opportunity to display art
  • Face painting (you need to provide your own materials*)

*Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for materials may be available if you contact the park to discuss.

Up to 15 volunteers are needed for this event.

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


seed collectingPrairie Care Program Seed Collection

(Metro and Central MN)

Walk outdoors through the hills and valleys of Wild River State Park this fall collecting seeds from forbs and grasses as part of the park’s Prairie Care Program.  Help restore prairie areas within the park by collecting and planting native plant seeds.

When you volunteer in the Prairie Care Program, you will:

  • Learn how to identify prairie plants and collect their seeds (training and collection equipment will be provided by the park)
  • Be shown the locations of the plant species needed
  • Provide your own transportation to and from the park as well as within for collection duties
  • Walk on sloped or uneven ground as may be necessary to reach the plants
  • Work at your own pace (no minimum time is required; individuals and groups are welcome)

For more information contact Mike Dunker, Interpretive Naturalist, Wild River State Park, 39797 Park Trail, Center City, MN at 651-583-2125 ext. 227 or email him at Michael.dunker@state.mn.us

Directions to the park: From I-35, take State Highway 95 to County Road 12. Drive 3 miles on County Road 12 to the park entrance.

Do not rely on a GPS unit to find the park's main entrance! GPS units direct you to the geographic center of the park (Sunrise Landing area), not to the main park entrance. Please consult a map or call the office if you need additional driving directions.


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 
  • 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   Call 651-259-5771 with further questions.


large leaved asterScenic Wildflower and Shrub Seed Collecting

(Northeastern MN)

Hike the wilderness-like setting of Scenic State Park collecting seeds from wildflowers such as wild roses and large-leaved aster and from shrubs.  The wildflower seeds will be used to fill in trails made by foot-travel damage and the shrub seeds will be planted to provide screening between campsites. 

You will:

  • collect seeds from the same species of plant at one time (specific seeds collected will vary depending on exact timingonly ripe seeds should be collected)
  • learn to identify flowers and shrubs by their leaves and shape (training provided)
  • need to have the ability to identify common native seeds in the area and awareness of common terrestrial invasive species such as Canada thistle to avoid collecting seeds from them
  • work outside independently 
  • volunteer for a minimum of 2 hours, 8:30 AM - 4 PM, Monday - Saturday, mid-September - early November

For more information or to schedule a time, contact Shawn Conrad, Assistant Park Manager, Scenic State Park, 56956 Hwy 7 Bigfork MN 56628 at 218-743-3362 or e-mail shawn.conrad@state.mn.us.

Directions to the park: Located 7 miles east of Bigfork on County Road 7. Also 32 miles north of Hwy 169.


organizing artifactsOrganize Historical Artifacts – Norris Camp

(Northwestern MN)

Help to inventory, label, and arrange historical artifacts at Norris Camp for display and safe storage.  Norris Camp, headquarters of the Red Lake Wildlife Management Area located near Warroad and Baudette, is an historic Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp and is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Organizing the artifacts, as well as cleaning the storage and display areas, will take at least 20 hours.  Days and hours are flexible. 

Qualifications and Perks:

  • Some education or experience working with cultural resources is preferred, but training may be coordinated with the MN and/or Lake of the Woods Historical Society. 
  • You must be able to use Excel computer software spreadsheets.
  • Housing is available at the Norris Camp bunkhouse if you wish to stay onsite.
  • Up to 3 volunteers are needed for this project.
  • Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses may be negotiated depending on your qualifications and how much training would be required.

For more information, contact Gretchen Mehmel, Wildlife Area Manager, Red Lake WMA, Roosevelt, MN at (218) 783-6861 or email Gretchen.mehmel@state.mn.us


coneflowersWildflower Seed Collection

(Southern MN)

Walk through the prairie lands of Fort Ridgely State Park collecting seeds from wildflowers like prairie clover, bergamot, and coneflower as part of the park’s effort to restore the prairie to its original state.

Volunteer to:

  • learn to identify wildflowers (training provided)
  • collect seeds from the same species of flower at one time (many species may be identified)
  • collect for a minimum of 2 hours, any day of the week, September – October.

Come with a friend and learn more about wildflowers, seed collecting and prairies!  Groups are welcome!

Contact Joanne Svendsen, Assistant Park Manager, Fort Ridgely State Park, 72158 County Road 30, Fairfax MN 55332 at 507-426-7840 or email Joanne.svendsen@state.mn.us

Directions to the park:  Off State Highway 4, go 6 miles south of Fairfax or 12 miles north of Sleepy Eye, then follow the signs to the park.


minesHelp Make 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


making cookiesTree Cookies for the Classroom

(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.


making 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 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.

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!


people on bikesBe 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 This Fall

(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 during September or October at a Minnesota State Park operated campground.  Hosts receive a free campsite in return for services provided.

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 are on-duty four to five days of the week and have off the other two to three days. Volunteers 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.

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.


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. 

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 logoEnjoy Nature as a Master Naturalist

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

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.


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


snowmobiles on a trailVolunteer Safety Instructors – Firearms, Bow, ATV, Snowmobile

(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.


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.