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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


What is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist?

An Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist is an individual with a passion for the natural world who wishes to attend training and use his or her knowledge by giving back to the community through volunteer service. The program has three components: training, volunteer service hours, and advanced education.

As Ohio's population grows more urban, it is harder for people to make the connection to nature that ultimately allows them to value their local natural resources and thus have a reason to manage and conserve them for future generations. The Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN) program is a research-based scientific training program that emphasizes hands on natural resource education coupled with community-based volunteer service. The program embraces conservation but is not an advocacy group.

The Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Program is based upon the very successful OSU Extension Master Gardener Program and Volunteer Natural Resource programs in other states such as Florida, Missouri, and the City of Fort Collins, CO.

*OCVN is affiliated with the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP). Formerly the National Master Naturalist Initiative.


The formal training program is the responsibility of the OCVN coordinator or committee managing the program. Instructors are OSU faculty, ODNR professionals, Extension Specialists, Extension Associates, experienced Volunteer Naturalists, and other experts.

The training program is to provide a balanced, integrated practical course in natural resource science. The following are the core topics. Other topics based on local needs may also be part of the curriculum.

    The OCVN Program

  •     Ecological Concepts
  •     The Art of Nature Interpretation
  •     Exploring Ohio's Watersheds
  •     Aquatic Life
  •     Stewardship
  •     Geology
  •     Soils
  •     Plants
  •     Forests
  •     Insects
  •     Reptiles & Amphibians
  •     Birds
  •     Mammals

Volunteer Naturalist Certification Requirements:

  •     40 hours of combined classroom and field instruction
  •     40 hours of approved volunteer service projects.
  •     After certification, requires 20 hours volunteer service and 8 hours advanced training annually.

For more information about the OCVN program in Licking County contact Lori Swihart at 740-670-5322 or send Lori an email at:

Next class will be in Spring 2015

We are accepting applications now for the Spring 2015 training.

OCVN Application Packet
OSU Extension Volunteer Background Check Policy & Procedure

OCVN Brochure

Mail application to:
Ohio State University Extension
Attn: Lori Swihart
771 E. Main Street, Suite 103
Newark, Ohio  43055

or email to: or drop off your application at the address above.