Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

Find a volunteering opportunity in your area:

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What do DNR Volunteers do?

Click on the video above to find out!

Download the 2018 DNR Volunteer Annual Report for a listing of all the different kinds of projects volunteers do throughout the state.

Since creating a department-wide DNR Volunteer Program in 1988, citizens have engaged in more than 11.3 million hours of volunteer service focused on managing our state's natural resources.

Metro area and Central MN
Northwestern MN
Northeastern MN
Southern MN





dwarf trout lily

Wildflower Ambassador at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park 

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

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

Wildflower Ambassador – 6 weekends – mid-April through mid-May 2019 (timing is dependent on Spring bloom time):

  • Assist guests with wildflower identification of MN Dwarf Trout Lily on the boardwalk 
  • Share information with visitors about Dwarf Trout Lily’s protected status 
  • 2 to 4 hour shifts available
  • Training and scheduling will be held Saturday, April 13th from 10:00 - 11:00am 

Ambassadors need to be able to walk ½ mile downhill to the trail location on the boardwalk.

For more information on any of these positions, contact Emily Greger, Park Specialist, Nerstrand State Park, 9700 - 170 Street East, Nerstrand, MN 55053 at 507-384-6144 or email [email protected]

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. 



woman checking bluebird house

Bluebird Volunteers - William O'Brien State Park

(Central MN)

Help bluebirds raise their young and share the experience with visitors!

Background Information:
In the 1970s the Eastern bluebird population was so low that many Americans had never seen a bluebird. Thanks to the swift action and dedicated efforts of thousands of people across the country, these cavity nesters are now regular characters in open fields in much of the United States. The bluebirds recovered in large part due to the many thousand bluebird houses that people put up and monitored regularly. Without checking on the bluebird babies, there are a number of issues that can cause the chicks to die.

Research suggests the birds still need our help to maintain their population, so you have a chance to continue helping bluebirds! In addition to being rewarding work, it's also a ton of fun!

The Volunteer Program:
We need help with one or both aspects of our bluebird program:

  1. Bluebird Nest Monitors open the nesting boxes and record data on nests, eggs, and birds.
  2. Bluebird Station Volunteers connect park visitors with the bluebird project by running a Bluebird Observation Station, complete with binoculars and bluebird props.

William O'Brien has over 160 bluebird houses that have successfully raised bluebirds, tree swallows, house wrens, and other native species for decades. Last year we didn't have enough volunteers to monitor all of the boxes, so please help if you can!

Your Commitment – 5 hrs or more
Volunteers help out as much as 2 hours every week to just 5 hours spread throughout the spring and summer.

  1. Bluebird Nest Monitors open nest boxes between April 1 and September 1.
  2. Bluebird Station Volunteers work the Bluebird Observation Station between May 1 and August 15.

You can help with one or both parts of the program. Days of the week are flexible.

Info Session – March 16
Come to a Bluebird Program Information Session on Saturday, March 16, 2019 from 11a.m.-noon.

Please arrive at the Visitor Center before 11 a.m. All vehicles must have a $7 daily or $35 annual MN State Parks Sticker. Register by contacting Park Naturalist Sean Hoppes at 651-433-0500 x227 or [email protected]. Please don't hesitate to call or email with questions or if you can't make the information session and you'd still like to volunteer.

people checking bluebird house

Save the Date – March 30

All volunteers will be required to attend the Bluebird Program Orientation on Saturday, March 30, 2019 at the William O'Brien State Park Visitor Center.


  • Bluebird Nest Monitors will meet from 10:00 a.m. – noon.
  • Bluebird Station Volunteers will meet from 12:45-1:45 p.m.

Please attend both if you decide to help with both aspects of the program.

Thank you for becoming a volunteer and helping bluebirds and park visitors!



Play Clean Go logo

Outdoor Adventure Expo – April 26 - 28

(Metro and Central MN)

Support Minnesota state forests and preventing the spread of invasive species by staffing the booth at the Outdoor Adventure Expo at Midwest Mountaineering, 309 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis, April 26-28, 2019.
Help educate attendees about the great opportunities to recreate responsibly on Minnesota's state forest lands. Teach recreationists the simple steps in preventing the spread of terrestrial invasive species. 
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.
  • Talk to visitors about recreation opportunities on state forest lands
  • Pass out boot brushes and handouts as needed.
  • Help take down the booth if there at the end of the day on Sunday.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Friendly, open and outgoing attitude
  • A basic understanding of invasive species prevention and management
  • Have experience recreating on state forest lands
  • Ability to stand while engaging with the public for long periods of time
  • Be familiar with the negative impacts of garlic mustard, common tansy, spotted knapweed, and other terrestrial invasive species.  

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

To Sign Up:

For questions contact Forest Eidbo, PlayCleanGo Outreach Coordinator, St Paul, MN at 651-259-5259 or email [email protected] for more information.



butterfly on flower

Photographing Wildflowers and Pollinators

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Use your artistic skills and take this opportunity to make help a difference in documenting the wildflowers, bees, moths and butterflies currently present in the area of St Croix State Park.  Your photos will assist us in determining if the pollinators in Minnesota are stable, declining, are vulnerable to decline or are below levels desirable to ensure their long-term health and stability.   

Minnesota has a stewardship responsibility for those species of which populations in the state represent a significant portion of their North American breeding, migrating, or wintering population, or species whose Minnesota populations are stable, but whose populations outside of Minnesota have declined or are declining in a substantial part of their range.
Portions of St. Croix State Park are currently being restored to a native oak savanna biological community. This community will provide habitat for pollinators, flowering forbs, and other savanna species.
Volunteer to:

  • Take digital photos of wildflowers and invertebrate pollinators (bees, butterflies, moths) on state and/or private lands in and around St Croix State Park
  • Note: No trespassing on private land without permission from private landowners

Volunteers must have the ability to: 

  • Photograph wildflowers and pollinators
  • Identify the location of where the photo was taken
  • Identify the flowers and/or pollinators, if possible (not required)
  • Electronically send the digital photo(s) to DNR staff (JPG preferred)

No minimum time commitment is required - whatever time and photos that can be taken (April – October) are appreciated.
To Sign Up:

For more information contact Anna Hess, Eastern District Manager, Nongame Wildlife, Duluth at [email protected] or 218-302-3243.


making cookies

Make 100 Tree Cookies

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

Attention: Aspiring and experienced woodworkers!
Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, and tree identification. Teachers love having sets of cookies like these in their classrooms but don’t have time or tools to make them.
We need volunteers to create "tree cookies" -- slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree. 100 cookies supplies three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better. They will be used!
How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Using branches or trunks that are between 3 to 6 inches in diameter, slice into ½-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies."
  • Wood having with easily readable rings are preferred. Ash wood not accepted.
  • 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.

You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.

This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.). Eagle Scouts may be required to make larger quantities.

When finished contact Laura Duffey, 651-259-5263, [email protected] to arrange for delivery and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.



Prairie Butterfly Gardening

(Southern MN)

Do you think bees and butterflies are important to our environment? Have some gardening skills? Share your knowledge about the importance of protecting pollinator habitat and assist with maintaining the butterfly/pollinator gardens at Whitewater State Park this spring and/or summer.

 Volunteer butterfly gardeners will assist with:

  • Invasive species identification and removal as instructed.
  • Resource surveys, inventories and/or citizen science data collection
    • native bee surveys
    • monarch larva surveys
    • phenology observations
  • Habitat restoration
    • seed collecting
    • weeding
    • mulching
    • seeding/planting
    • watering
    • mowing
  • Herbicide application (training will be discussed if interested.)
  • Promoting personal safety through use of Personal Protective Equipment for all assigned tasks (PPE provided by park/trail site supervisor.)

Volunteers must be able to:

  • Carry up to 30 pounds. 
  • Walk up hills and on uneven terrain. 
  • Reach overhead, bend over, and squat/kneel down without restriction.

Sign-Up and More Information:

Fill out the Prairie Butterfly Garden Volunteer Application online to get started! You will be contacted with more information. 

 Whitewater State Park is near Altura, MN.





Bison Ambassadors – Minneopa State Park, Mankato

(Southern MN)

It’s thrilling to watch bison up close!

Visitors entering the bison range at Minneopa State Park near Mankato are anxious and excited for an opportunity to see and photograph wildlife.  Yet, many visitors may not know where or how to watch bison safely and courteously.  Park staff cannot always be present to provide directions and answer basic questions about bison and bison viewing.  For this reason Bison Ambassadors help establish a link between visitors and park staff.

Be a Bison Ambassador for 2 hours on weekends or holidays!

Responsibilities of Bison Ambassadors:
Authorized work:

  • Become familiar with basic bison safe viewing information and communicate this to visitors.
  • Help the public view bison at Minneopa State Park by answering visitor questions about viewing etiquette and locations bison where may be seen.
  • Answer questions and explain bison drive rules in a cheerful and helpful manner.
  • Act professionally in your official role as a Bison Ambassador.
  • Refer all questions related to DNR policies and procedures to your supervisor or the DNR Information Line.
  • Make at least one entry into the Ambassador Log Book for your shift.  Entries could include frequently asked questions, notes on where the bison were, interesting nature observations, visitor behaviors of note, or anything you feel would be of value to share.
  • Occasionally assist with the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs.

 Restricted work:

  • You must never come within 25 yards (75 feet or 1/4 of a football field) of bison.  Do not come within 75 feet of a cow and calf.
  • Never drive a vehicle around or through a herd of bison.
  • Avoid expressing personal opinions while on duty and representing the park as a Bison Ambassador.

 Qualifications needed:

  • Be familiar with Minneopa State Park rules and safe bison viewing.
  • Be familiar with basic bison facts (How much you learn about bison natural history is up to you.)
  • Ability to work independently

Safety training topics to be covered with volunteers:

  • Rules of safe bison viewing
  • Ticks
  • Heat and Cold Related Illness

 Minimum Time Commitment:

  • Weekends and holiday dates open to volunteer through October
  • Shifts are 2 hours long.  10:00 AM – 12 Noon or 12:00 – 2:00 PM.
  • We prefer you not volunteer for both shifts on a day to avoid fatigue.


To sign up go to the Bison Ambassador Application to sign up as a DNR volunteer and then view available shifts.

For more information:

Contact Scott Kudelka, Area Naturalist, Minneopa State Park, 54497 Gadwall Rd, Mankato, MN at 507-384-8890 or email [email protected]



The Trailhead – State Parks and Trails Outreach

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Want to use your knowledge and passion for outdoor recreation to help others find opportunities outdoors?

The Minnesota DNR Division of Parks and Trails is partnering with the Loppet Foundation at The Trailhead, a new and exciting outdoor recreation facility located in Theodore Wirth Regional Park, 1221 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Golden Valley MN, 55422.

The MN DNR Division of Parks and Trails has a kiosk in the new building to provide resources on outdoor recreation opportunities and is looking for volunteers to staff it. Be a part of a new partnership that will continue to encourage getting outside and enjoying Minnesota’s public lands!

As an outreach volunteer, you will be:

  • Trained on topics such as Minnesota State Parks and Trails information, the DNR website and other public lands resources, and other FAQ you might receive from customers
  • Oriented on the logistics of staffing the kiosk
  • Helping customers research and plan outdoor-related trips with knowledge of MN State Parks and Trails
  • Using available technology, maps, and trip guides to answer questions and plan trips
  • Providing insight on recreation opportunities

Qualifications Desired:

  • Experience with outdoor recreation in Minnesota
  • Experience with and/or interest in state parks and trails is preferred
  • Comfortable with initiating conversations with guests and taking initiative with regards to outreach
  • Familiar with tablets or iPads (sufficient to help customers navigate to different websites)
  • Familiar with the state parks and trails reservation system website
  • Willing to positively represent the DNR’s goals and mission
  • Willing to make the most of downtime in between guests by doing research to further your own knowledge, maintaining the kiosk, and otherwise being proactive

Time Commitment:

  • Weekday evenings and weekend shifts available:
    • Tuesdays 4 – 7 PM
    • Thursdays 4-7 PM
    • Sundays 10 AM – 2 PM, 2PM – 6PM
  • At least one shift per month is required (you can mix and match)

volunteerTo Sign Up:

  • Follow the link to The Trailhead activity
  • Fill out an application (you will be prompted to create an account first if you do not have one)
  • Starting dates will be determined after passing a background check

For more information on becoming part of the Trailhead Team, please contact Kaia Bierman, Conservation Corps Urban Outreach Specialist, at [email protected] or via phone at 612-725-2724 Ext. 222.



adventure station kiosk

REI Adventure Station – Trip Planning

(Metro Area and Central MN)

The Minnesota DNR wants your knowledge and passion for outdoor recreation! Interested in sharing your love for Minnesota’s State Parks and Trails with others?

The Minnesota DNR Division of Parks and Trails is looking for volunteers to staff the new Adventure Station located at the REI Bloomington Flagship store. The Adventure Station was created in an effort to provide awareness of recreational opportunities and to connect people with outdoor experiences on Minnesota’s public lands.

As an Adventure Station Volunteer, you will be:

  • Trained on topics such as Minnesota State Parks and Trails information, the DNR website and other public lands resources, and other FAQ you might receive from customers
  • Oriented on the logistics of staffing the Adventure Station
  • Helping customers research and plan outdoor-related trips with knowledge of MN State Parks and Trails
  • Using available technology, maps, and trip guides to answer questions and plan trips
  • Providing insight on recreation opportunities

Qualifications Desired:

  • Experience with outdoor recreation in Minnesota
  • Experience with and/or interest in state parks and trails is preferred
  • Familiar with tablets or iPads (sufficient to help customers navigate to different websites)
  • Familiar with the state parks and trails reservation system website
  • Willing to positively represent the DNR’s goals and mission

Time Commitment:

  • This is an ongoing opportunity and signing up for shifts on a regular monthly basis is required (schedule flexible)

Shifts available:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
    • 11 AM – 3 PM
    •   3 PM – 7 PM
  • Friday
    • 11 AM – 3 PM
  • Saturday
    • 10 AM – 2 PM
    •   2 PM – 6 PM

To Sign Up:

For more information on becoming part of the Adventure Station Team, please contact Kaia Bierman, Conservation Corps Urban Outreach Specialist, at [email protected] or via phone at 612-725-2724 Ext. 222.



Improve Habitat for Wildlife on a WMA in Wright, Stearns or Sherburne Counties

(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.



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 2 hours per week (for example, 1 hour for 2 days per week or any combination of hours and days to reach 2 or more hours/week)
  • Hours can be flexible based on the volunteer’s 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]


campground hosts

Campground Host at a MN State Park or Forest

(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 2019 Campground Host Locations.    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.


deer in woods

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!


burning 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.



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, the process begins online:  Get started now! And check out upcoming safety instructor courses.  There is no fee to attend.


zebra mussels

Zebra Mussel Monitoring Program

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

Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest.

These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers doing major damage such as:

  • killing native mussels
  • limiting recreational activities
  • clogging water supply pipes
  • competing with larval fish for food

Spend a few minutes checking the docks,  swimming platforms, boats, motors, anchors, and any hard objects that have been in the lake or river where you live.  Early detection for zebra mussels is important in protecting your property and Minnesota's water resources.

Learn more on how you can monitor for zebra mussels .