Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

Sign up for updates 
Text MNDNR VOLUNTEER to 468331 to subscribe to text updates.

Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN







Play Clean Go - Stop invasive species in your tracks

PlayCleanGo Event – April 27 - 29

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Support the outreach and education campaign “PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks” by staffing the booth at the Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering, 309 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis, April 27 - 29, 2017.

Help educate recreationists about invasive species and the simple steps they can take to avoid accidently spreading terrestrial invasive species.  The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of harming the environment, economy or human health where they establish.

Volunteer Duties at the Outdoor Adventure Expo:

  • Arrive for your assigned shift on time.  Shifts are 3 hours.
  • Help set up the booth if you come on Friday.
  • Restock any of the materials that have run low (supplies will be under the table). 
  • Talk to show visitors about the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species and action steps folks can take to help protect our natural resources.
  • Pass out boot brushes and handouts as needed.
  • Help take down the booth if there at the end of the day on Sunday.

Hours: Select a 3 hour shift

  • Friday, April 27, 1 – 9:30 PM
  • Saturday, April 28, 8: 30 AM – 7 PM
  • Sunday, April 29, 10:00 AM – 6 PM

Qualifications Desired:

  • Friendly, open and outgoing attitude
  • A basic understanding of invasive species prevention and management
  • Be familiar with the top 10 least wanted invasive plants in Minnesota including:
  • Buckthorn
  • Canada thistle
  • Spotted knapweed
  • Garlic mustard
  • Knotweed
  • Japanese barberry
  • Common tansy
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Oriental bittersweet
  • Wild parsnip
  • Past show experience is helpful, but not required

Volunteers will receive a free tee-shirt, ball cap and tote bag for helping!

To Sign Up:

  • Go to http://bttr.im/tx19q
  • Fill out an application on MyVolunteerPage.com
  • Select your shift
  • More information will be sent to you

For questions contact Susan Burks, Forestry Invasive Species Program Coordinator, St Paul, MN at 651-259-5251 or email [email protected] for more information.




Be a Citizen Scientist for Turtles


Volunteer to conduct an informal survey on what types of turtles are using the Kettle River in Carlton and Pine Counties.  You can choose a stretch of river that is convenient for you or the DNR can provide the location of priority areas for surveys.

Here’s how to do the survey:

  • Survey the Kettle River from mid-April to mid-June. 
  • Conduct the survey from canoe/boat or by walking along the shore on a warm sunny day. 
  • Survey the area one time or multiple times. 
  • Fill out a simple datasheet to record the number of turtles observed (live and dead) each time you go out.
  • Take a picture of all turtles. 

No experience is required and the DNR will provide you with datasheets and materials to identify turtles. 

For more information on how you can be a Citizen Science Volunteer for Turtles, contact Gaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist, Grand Rapids, MN at 218-328-8811 or email [email protected]




Turtle Crossing Survey


Volunteer to monitor roads and bridges for turtles crossing the road or for dead turtles on the road near the Cloquet River and tributaries by Rollins, MN and the St. Louis River area around Hwy 53, both in St. Louis County.  The exact location can be determined based on your interest.  If it is safe to do so, you can also assist turtles across the road.

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

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

For more information on how you can assist with this Turtle Survey, contact Gaea Crozier, Nongame Wildlife Specialist, Grand Rapids, MN at 218-328-8811 or email [email protected]




Butterfly Milkweed Planting on WMA – May 17

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Hike and plant thousands of butterfly milkweed seedlings in the prairie and savanna at Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club Wildlife Management Area , 73rd St and 250th Ave, Royalton, MN on Thursday, May 17 from 11 AM – 5 PM

Help re-introduce this important host-plant to the site for Monarch butterflies to use to reproduce and pollinate. They and other pollinators find the beautiful orange blossoms delicious!

Join up to 50 volunteers at the Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club Wildlife Management Area.  This natural encompasses 580 acres of sandplain prairie, wetlands, oak woodlands, and rare oak savanna in Morrison County, near the town of Buckman. 

Keep these things in mind:

  • Event is open to all ages  - Children must be supervised
  • Groups are welcome
  • Moderate level of difficulty in doing this restoration task
  • Must be physically able to hike approximately a quarter-mile to the site over uneven ground, bend and crouch to plant
  • Training provided
  • Snacks and lunch provided
  • Registration required
  • Minimum time commitment of 2.5 hours (Please specify your time slot in the comment section of the registration.)

To register for this event go to the Great River Greening website

This event is co-sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, Ramsey County Correctional Facility, Bailey Nursery, and MN Department of Natural Resources.




Woodpecker Surveys

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

Woodpeckers hammer holes in trees to reach insects that live beneath bark and within wood. Left alone, many of those insects could damage trees. Some­times people blame woodpeckers for hurting trees, but this insect-eating can actually help keep trees healthy.

Woodpeckers also dig nesting holes on the trunk or branches of trees. Af­ter they move out, squirrels, wood ducks, owls, or other animals might move in. In this way, wood­peckers help make homes for other creatures.

Help the DNR develop best management practices for conserving woodpeckers on lands by conducting surveys anywhere in the state where there are large blocks of forested public lands.

As a Volunteer Woodpecker Surveyor, you will:

  • Walk 2-mile transects in the forest looking and listening for nesting woodpeckers between May 22 and July 6, 2018 (minimum 1 day, maximum of 45 days)
  • Collect nest site data
  • Collect forest stand information (identify main tree species, measure some average and large tree diameters)

Qualifications Required:

  • Physically able to walk over uneven ground
  • Able to identify woodpeckers by species
  • Have good hearing
  • Able to navigate in the forest using GPS, maps and compass
  • Able to identify tree species

Training will be provided on:

  • Tick Prevention
  • Forest Navigation, as needed
  • Survey and data collection methods

An unlimited number of people may volunteer for this survey, so round up family and friends to take part with you!  This survey will assist in determining what types of trees woodpeckers like to nest in and how many woodpeckers are in Minnesota.

For more information or to sign up for a forest near you, contact Michael R. North,
Forest Wildlife Coordinator, Brainerd, MN at 218-330-4815 or email [email protected]

For more information on woodpeckers, check out the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine article, Winter’s Woodpeckers, in the most current issue.




Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program: June 29-July 9

(Central, NE and NW Minnesota)

Volunteers across the state are needed to track Minnesota’s loon population.  Now celebrating its 25th 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 Friday, June 29th and Monday, July 9th, 2018. Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, and a data form will be provided. 

Here’s what it takes to be a Loon Monitor:

  • Time commitment is 2-4 hours per lake. 
  • Surveys must be done on one (1) morning sometime between 5:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.
  • 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:

Becker or Otter Tail Counties: Contact JoEllen Klemek, Bemidji, 218-308-2462, [email protected]

Cook, Lake, or Itasca Counties: Contact Ashley Kastner, Grand Rapids, 218-328-8823, [email protected]

Aitkin or Crow Wing Counties: Contact Karen McLennan, Brainerd, 218-203-4352, [email protected]

Kandiyohi County: Contact Dorie Tess, New Ulm, 507-359-6036, [email protected]




Planting Trees

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Help increase the area of oak savanna in Frontenac State Park by volunteering to work with the park’s Friends group in planting established trees (1 – 2 inches in diameter) and prairie forbs (wildflowers and grasses) around the park. Up to 5 volunteers are needed to help.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Physically able to walk over uneven ground, bend and stoop
  • Able to lift 25+ lbs. is preferred

Time Commitment:

  • 2-3 days of planting in June once we receive plants from the nursery and weather permits (dates to be determined)
  • Occasional watering after trees and forbs have been planted

Contact Katie Foshay, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Blvd. Frontenac, MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email [email protected] for more information.




Filing on a Ferris Wheel

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The DNR is not just about conservation officers out in the field….we also write up contracts for many different kinds of work.  We have contracts for inserting monitoring devices in snakes so we can find out where they hibernate; we test bear hair samples; we need consultants to build park buildings and water access sites; we contract for presenters and entertainers at state parks and so much more.

All of these contracts are filed in a lektriever.  A lektriever is an electronic file with rotating shelves controlled by the push of a button…think of a ferris wheel of files! Share your organizational skills by volunteering to organize these contracts.

As a volunteer, you will:

  • Alphabetize contracts, amendments, etc.
  • Be trained in how to use the lektriever, how to file contracts and what to look for

Qualifications Desired:

  • Able to alphabetize
  • Able to physically stand for quite some time filing
  • Have filing experience

Time Commitment:

  • This project will take about 10 hours total to complete.
  • Hours are flexible, Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Filing to take place at the DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul

Contact Kim Montgomery, Contract Coordinator, at (651) 259-5567 or email
[email protected] for more information.



sna workers

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 [email protected] for scheduling specific days to volunteer.



wild rice harvesting

Wildlife Lake and Wild Rice Harvester Surveys


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 [email protected]




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 [email protected]


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.  Check out the listing of which parks are still looking for hosts in 2018.  Email your questions to [email protected]  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

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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.