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




SOUTHERN MINNESOTA - Winter 2017 – 18

candlight hikers

New Year’s Eve Candlelight Walk Event – Fort Snelling State Park

(Metro Area and Central MN)

This event has been CANCELED due to extreme cold.


ice angler

Winter Fun at Lake Carlos and Glacial Lakes State Parks

(Central MN)

Get involved in a variety of outdoor winter activities when you volunteer on weekends at Lake Carlos State Park near Alexandria or Glacial Lakes State Park near Starbuck!

Saturday Events this Winter:

Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe Events: January 27 and February 24, 2018 from 6 – 9 PM at Lake Carlos State Park

Come enjoy an evening in the park by candlelight. Hit the trails, where you will be guided by the full moon and candle luminaries. Then come warm up by the wood stove or enjoy snacks and refreshments in the Lakeview Warming Shelter.

Cross-county ski or snowshoe experience is desired to volunteer to help:

  • Set up lanterns/luminaries earlier in the day
  • Light luminaries on the trail
  • Direct parking or do traffic control
  • Staff snowshoe rentals
  • Pick up lanterns/luminaries after the event

Ice Fishing Frenzy Event: February 3, 2018 at Glacial Lakes State Park 

Ice fishing experience and skills are desired to help:

  • Drill holes
  • Work with adults/kids in small groups to help teach skill of ice fishing
  • Bait hooks
  • Take fish off the hook
  • Maintain a safe and fun experience on the ice

Snowshoe Hikes:

Lead a group of visitors on a hike or snowshoe hike around the park (day or night) at either Lake Carlos or Glacial Lakes State Park

  • Experience with leading groups, working with a variety of people (age and abilities, including school aged children), and a background in natural resource topics like plants and animals are helpful with answering questions.

For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Area Naturalist, at (320) 852-7200 x225 or email  Benjamin.Eckhoff@state.mn.us

Directions to Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319: The park entrance is located 10 miles north of Alexandria on State Highway 29, then 2 miles west on Highway 38.

Directions to Glacial Lakes State Park, 25022 County Road 41, Starbuck, MN 56381: From the town of Starbuck, go 3 miles south on Highway 29, then 2 miles south on County Road 41.


ice angler

Candlelight Event at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park – February 3

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Join us in creating a magical night of cross country skiing or snowshoeing (or walking, if there is no snow) on trails lit by the warm glow of luminaries! 

Volunteer to assist with:

  • setting out luminaries and lighting the candles along 2 miles of flat trail and shorter loops from 4:30 – 5:30 PM
  • directing cars where to park from 5:00 – 7:00 PM
  • acting as crossing guards for County Road 27 (2 locations) from 5:30 – 8:30 PM
  • maintaining lighted candles on the trail between 5:30 – 8:30 PM
  • tending to the bonfire from 5:00 – 8:00 PM
  • handing out snacks and beverages in the Visitor Center from 5:30 – 8:30 PM
  • clean up and picking up candles at the end of the evening from 8:30 – 9:30 PM

Help is needed on Saturday, February 3, 2018, between the hours of 4:30 - 9:30 PM.  Up to 15 volunteers are needed for this event.  This would be a great group activity!  The event itself runs from 5:30 – 8:30 PM. Snowshoes are available to rent. 

Volunteers need to be comfortable in dark, forested situations and physically able to work two 1-hour shifts outside in the cold weather. Listen for the barred owl at dusk and other winter night sounds. Hot beverages will warm your fingers and toes when you return to the Visitor Center!

For more information, contact Dave Olsen, Park Technician, Nerstrand State Park, 9700 - 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507-333-4840 or email david.olsen@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 and follow the signs.



Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The State of Minnesota has over 1,000 public wildlife areas designated for wildlife watching opportunities of birds, waterfowl and mammals, as well as offering public hunting of small and big game animals. These Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) need help in maintaining and enhancing the land so wildlife can thrive.

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering to help wildlife can do a one-time event or come back several times.

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Wildlife Management Area (WMA) you could:

  • Collect prairie seeds
  • Monitor and control terrestrial invasive species (i.e. Buckthorn)
  • Help with trail projects and trash pickup
  • Assist with boundary and sign maintenance
  • Clear vegetation from shallow lake and wetland water controls
  • Monitor shallow lakes and wetland water levels
  • Collect and/or seed wild rice

To volunteer on a Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Stearns, Wright or Sherburne County, contact MN DNR Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Nicholas Snavely based out of Sauk Rapids at 320-223-7872 or email Nicholas.Snavely@state.mn.us for scheduling specific days to volunteer.



Frontenac Candlelight Ski/Snowshoe/Hike Event – January 27, 2018

(Southern MN)

Enjoy a beautiful evening outdoors as you help light up the trails at Frontenac State Park! Hike, ski, or snowshoe on 2 different lit trails - 0.4 mile and 1 mile loops will be lined with ice luminaries for this event on Saturday, January 27 from 5:30 – 8:00 PM.

Volunteer to:

  • Make/freeze ice luminaries (candles in ice)
  • Haul and display the luminaries at the correct locations along the ski trails
  • Light them the night of the event.

Training will be provided.

For more information on volunteering for this event, contact Katie Foshay, Assistant Manager, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Blvd. Frontenac, MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email Katie.foshay@state.mn.us



“Lake that Speaks” Luminary Hike – Feb 3, 2018

(Southern MN)

Join friends and neighbors while volunteering at Lac qui Parle State Park for a fun moonlit evening of hiking on a mile of packed luminary lit path! Enjoy refreshments (s'mores and hot chocolate), fun music, and a fire in the fireplace at the historic warming shelter during the event.

Up to 10 volunteers can help with the following:
Mid-January (TBD during the two weeks before the event and is weather dependent)

  • Help freeze ice luminaries

Saturday, February 3 – 6:30 – 8:30 PM

  • Light and set candles
  • Staff the warming shelter
  • Provide music for the event in the shelter
  • Photograph the event
  • Pick up the candles at the end of the evening 

Volunteers must be able to walk on packed snow, bend over, and handle a portable torch.  The event will be held regardless of the weather so dress warmly! Bring a flashlight in case of wind or rain extinguishing the candles.

For more information on getting involved, contact Terri Dinesen, Park Manager, Lac qui Parle State Park, 14047  20th Street NW, Watson at 320-734-4450  Ext 229 or email terri.dinesen@state.mn.us

Directions for parking for the event at Lac qui Parle State Park:
From Watson, travel about a mile NW on State Hwy 7/59, turn left on Chippewa County Rd 13, travel 2.5 miles dropping into the valley, crossing over the Lac qui Parle dam where the road changes to Lac qui Parle County Rd 33, and continuing West cross over the bridge on the Lac qui Parle River staying on C.R. 33 for another half mile, turn right at the Lac qui Parle State Park’s lower entrance. Follow signs to park. Vehicle permits are required. Call the park for more information: 320-734-4450 ext. 222 or 229.



Split Rock Lighthouse Candlelight Snowshoe & Hike Event - February 3

(Northeastern MN)

Enjoy the beautiful winter scenery at the annual candlelight snowshoe and hike event at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Two Harbors on Saturday, February 3, 2018 from 6 – 8:30 PM. Experience the park in a unique outdoors setting that is not usually available on trails at night!

Join in the fun and contact us to sign up for one of these exciting volunteer opportunities:

Candle Engineer:

  • Set out and light luminaries (these are candles placed in cups or bags along the 2 miles of trail). Meet at the Trail Center at 4 PM for instructions and supplies. Set up last about two hours.
  • Several teams of engineers are needed to complete this task.
  • Headlamps are essential if you sign up for the pick-up activity from 8:30 – 9:30 PM

Fire Tender (adults only): 

  • Armed with extra candles and lighters, you keep the luminaries glowing along the trails throughout the event. Bring a backpack to carry supplies and a headlamp.
  • Additional volunteers are needed to tend warming campfires.
  • Clean up lasts about an hour.

All volunteers must be physically able to travel over challenging terrain and comfortable working in cold conditions. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Bring snowshoes, winter boots, and a backpack or sled if helping set up or take down the trails. Don’t forget your headlamp! 

Volunteer for the entire evening or for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours. Please request your preferred task and time between 4 – 9:30 PM.  Training will be provided. 

This would be a great group activity as upwards of 10 - 15 volunteers are needed!  Volunteer abilities will be matched and older children are welcome to team up with their friends and a parent. Help us make it a magical event!

Note: This event may be canceled or changed due to poor weather or wind conditions on the day of the event. For updates, including event details, weather updates and directions to the park, call 218-595-7625 or check the visitor alert online at www.mndnr.gov/splitrocklighthouse.

For more information and to sign up, contact Luann Udenberg, Operations Supervisor, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, 3755 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors MN 55616 at 218-595-7621 or email luann.udenberg@state.mn.us

Directions: Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is located 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on Minnesota Highway 61.



Candlelight Ski, Snowshoe, Hiking Event - Gooseberry Falls State Park, February 17

(Northeastern MN)

Help create an amazing winter memory at Gooseberry Falls State Park’s Annual Candlelight Event, Saturday February 17, 2018 near Two Harbors.  Candlelight guides you on several miles of ski, snowshoe and hiking trails. A bonfire and hot beverages awaits for you afterwards.

Bring something to share at the Volunteer Potluck (after setup), then go with your family or friends to enjoy the trails or sit by the fire in the Visitor Center!

All volunteers must be physically able to travel over challenging terrain and comfortable working in cold conditions for a period of time. Remember to dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Bring skis or snowshoes as well as a backpack or sled to carry supplies. Headlamps are also essential! The event may be cancelled for cold or icy conditions.

Volunteer for the entire evening or for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours. Please request your preferred task/time.  Training will be provided. 

This would be a great group activity as upwards of 30-40 volunteers are needed for this event!  The more, the merrier!!!  Help us make this event amazing!

Join in the fun and contact us to sign up for one of these exciting volunteer opportunities:

SETUP 4:00 – 6:00 PM (arrive at Visitor Center by 3:45 PM for instructions)

Candle Engineer:

  • Set out and light luminaries (these are candles placed in cups or bags along the trail).
  • You need the ability to travel over a variety of terrain in skis, snowshoes or winter boots and be comfortable working in winter conditions for a period of time.
  • Volunteer abilities will be matched and split up into teams to cover all trails.
  • Children are welcome to help (families will work together).

Luminary Designer:

  • Create several unique luminary (candlelight) displays to surprise and delight event participants.
  • You will need to travel by skis or snowshoes to the designated locations.
  • You must be comfortable working in winter conditions.
  • Sign up is required for this SPECIAL volunteer experience.
  • Each team must include one adult volunteer.

MAINTENANCE 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Fire Tender (adults only): 

  • Armed with extra candles and lighters, you keep the luminaries glowing along the trails throughout the event.
  • Bring a backpack to carry supplies and a headlamp.
  • Majority of the trails will require skis or snowshoes to assist.
  • Additional adult volunteers are needed to tend the bonfire.

TAKEDOWN 8:00 – 9:30 PM (meet at the Visitor Center at 8 pm for instructions)

Cleanup Maverick:  8:00 – 9:30 PM (Arrive early for the potluck if you want to help with only this part of the evening.)

  • Work in teams to extinguish and remove trail and display luminaries after the event.
  • Work in teams to assist with clean up either on the trails or at the bonfire.
  • Majority of the trails will require skis or snowshoes to assist.
  • Headlamps are essential for this activity.

This event may be canceled or changed due to cold weather or icy trail conditions on the day of the event.

For more information and to sign up, contact Audrey Butts, Park Manager, Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3206 Hwy 61, Two Harbors MN 55616 at 218-595-7106 or email Audrey.butts@state.mn.us

From the town of Two Harbors, follow State Highway 61 northeast approximately 13 miles to the park.


wild rice harvesting

Scanning Wildlife Lake and Wild Rice Harvester Surveys

(Northeastern MN)

Use your organizational and computer skills to help the Aitkin area Wildlife Lake Specialist scan numerous wildlife lake and wild rice harvester paper surveys and save them electronically for long term preservation.

Volunteer Responsibilities:

  • Scan all the wild rice harvester surveys individually so they can be stored as individual records. 
  • Scan multiple pages of individual wildlife lake surveys so all the pages can be filed and stored as one individual survey.

Time Commitment:

  • Minimum of 8 hours per week (for example, 2 hours for 4 days per week or any combination of hours and days to reach 8 hours/week)
  • Hours can be flexible based on the volunteers schedule, but must occur between the hours of 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM Monday through Friday in the DNR wildlife office at 1200 Minnesota Avenue South, Aitkin, MN  56401.

Training will be provided:

  • Using the scanner
  • Locating the scanned files on the network drive
  • Moving the scanned files from the network drive to the appropriate file folder

For more information contact Ann Geisen, Wildlife Lake Specialist, Aitkin at 218-429-3036 or email ann.geisen@state.mn.us


spruce grouse

Spruce Grouse Citizen Scientists

(NE and NW MN)

Interested in being a Citizen Scientist for wildlife research? Assist wildlife staff from the DNR and other agencies to conduct surveys along numerous routes throughout spruce grouse range in the northwestern and northeastern part of the state in dense conifer forests. 

We hope to obtain information on spruce grouse population trends and distribution by conducting an annual fecal pellet-based survey in late winter/early spring as the snowpack is melting.  Better information is needed to manage harvest, understand impacts of climate change and forest management, and to monitor population trends of spruce grouse.

Citizen Scientist Responsibilities:

  • Commit to a half day of training at one of 10 pre-arranged locations throughout northern Minnesota during the late winter/early spring of 2018.   Spruce grouse and ruffed grouse pellet identification and specific GPS skills will be taught during the training session.
  • Commit to surveying at least 2 routes (1 day commitment each year) for a period of at least 3 years.  We would like the same individual to collect the data each year so that the data quality is consistent.

Citizen Scientist Tasks:

  • Surveys can be conducted at any time of day, but require the ability to use a GPS unit and walk a circular transect of 100 meter radius around a road-based point as the snowpack is melting. 
  • Record the number of spruce grouse roost piles and individual fecal pellets encountered within 1 meter of the transect, along with information on most recent snow fall and the primary conifer trees in the survey plot (i.e., jack pine, black spruce, tamarack, balsam fir, red pine, white cedar). 
  • Eye protection must be worn.

Qualifications Needed:

  • Ability to identify common conifer trees (jack pine, tamarack, balsam fir, red pine, white cedar, black spruce)
  • Comfortable using a Garmin GPS unit.
  • Ability to walk through deep snow in dense forest cover

For more information on how you (and a friend, if desired) can get involved, contact Charlotte Roy, Grouse Research Scientist, Grand Rapids at (218) 328-8876 or email Charlotte.roy@state.mn.us


wolf tracks in snow

SNA Nature Photographers

(NE MN and Statewide)

Love taking photos and wish you could devote more time to it? We'll give you the chance!  Volunteer to take a collection of winter photos of Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) located primarily in the northeastern region of Minnesota to increase awareness and appreciation for the natural diversity found there.

Winter photography of SNAs includes:

  • Images of native plant communities, native plants, native wildlife, signs of wildlife, or events held there. 
  • Photos from multiple locations, panoramas, and macro photography.
  • Photos of people on SNAs (snowshoeing, skiing, attending an event, etc.).
  • Uploading photos to the SNA Flickr group.
  • Documenting each photo by title, tags, and content following Flickr guidelines.

Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer skilled in nature photography, we invite you to share your skills with us.

SNA locations to take photos:

  • Hovland Woods
  • Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods
  • Myhr Creek Ridge
  • Sugarloaf Cove
  • Butterwort Cliffs
  • Iona’s Beach
  • Black Lake Bog
  • McGregor Marsh
  • West and East Rat Root River Peatlands
  • Any other SNA’s in the northeastern region or state would be welcome!

For more information on being an SNA nature photographer, contact either
Bryonna Persing in Eveleth at 218-735-3962, email bryonna.persing@state.mn.us  OR
Kelly Randall in St Paul at 651-259-5070, email kelly.randall@state.mn.us



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


hunting from an elevated blind

Adopt-a-WMA Program

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

The Adopt-A-WMA Program was established to encourage sporting, outdoor, business, and civic groups or individuals to assist, on a volunteer basis, in improving and maintaining Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) This program encourages Minnesota volunteers to "adopt" a specific site, parking lot, or project on a WMA area to help maintain these public lands in cooperation with Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers.


Projects for the Adopt-A-WMA Program are typically focused on a minimum 2 year time commitment Volunteers must be able to work outdoors in various weather conditions safely without direct supervision except for initial guidance and orientation as needed. Hours are flexible typically Monday through Friday with weekends possible depending on the project.

Projects for Individuals, Groups, Organizations or Companies

The work level of project/site depends on the interest and skill level of the volunteer(s):

Level 1: (volunteer work without supervision)
Trash pickup, sign replacement, vandalism reporting, reading water gauges, painting facilities, etc.

Level 2: (volunteer work with initial guidance/orientation) 
Seed harvest, weed removal/vegetation management using hand tools, shallow lake and wetland water control vegetation clearing, wildlife surveys, facility work, fence removal, invasive species control, maintaining forest openings, etc

Level 3: (volunteer work requiring certifications/licenses, training or close supervision)
Equipment, power tools, chainsaw work, other specialized skilled work, mowing noxious weeds, mow prescribed fire breaks, mow hunter walking trails, prescribed burning, etc.

  • Organizations or companies interested in improving wildlife habitat on a WMA may do so at Level 3 by providing contract services at no cost This would include access/road maintenance, tractor and equipment operation, farming activities, mowing, power tool use, chainsaw work, prescribed burning, and herbicide application *Liability and Worker's Compensation is covered by the organization, rather than DNR, in these cases.

To find the closest WMA to you, refer to the MN DNR's Recreation Compass and maps of Assistant Area Wildlife Managers and Area Wildlife Managers. Contact them to find out how you can adopt a WMA!


campground hosts

Campground Host at a MN State Park

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

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

A host’s primary responsibility is to assist campers by:

  • answering questions
  • 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.

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.


making cookies

Make 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.


removing brush

Get 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 logo

Be 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.


steve ward

Lake 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


firearms safety class

Volunteer 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.



Volunteer 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 mussels

Zebra 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.