If you’re interested in nature and educating the public about the natural world, you might consider becoming a Nature Ambassador. We’re currently looking for Nature Ambassadors who will enhance people’s experience learning about the natural world and the Center.
When weekend visitors come into our building and are greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer, it makes their visit even more exciting. Having volunteer naturalists at Schlitz Audubon who handle animals, lead hikes, and take people on pond explorations adds a special touch to peoples’ experiences.
The role is similar to a docent, guiding people through events and news at the Center, keeping people abreast of what’s happening on the trails, answering questions, and directing visitors to what they want to do on a given day. Nature Ambassadors help people engage with the Center in a way that allows them to get the most of their visit.
For people interested in animals, volunteers will be able to introduce visitors to snakes, turtles, and even our Blue Tongued Skink, showing them to individuals and groups in the Great Hall. Nature Ambassadors begin their animal training with Lindsay Obermeier, Raptor Program and Animal Ambassador Director. When they start to educate people about animals, volunteers bring out one or two animals at a time on a cart to show them to people up close, Sometimes they take them out of their enclosures so visitors can touch them while learning about the species. Ambassadors are rewarded for their efforts by the delight a child shows when holding their first snake. In the past year, Nature Ambassadors have spent 675 hours sharing our resident animals with visitors.
On the Trails
If you like the idea of being a volunteer naturalist on the trails, consider working with Jeff Gilardi, the Center’s Weekend Naturalist, who leads hikes at 11:00am and 2:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Jeff trains new volunteers, who begin by shadowing him and assisting him on his hikes. Some Ambassadors like birdwatching, while others are interested in prairie plants, aquatic pond life, trees, or insects. These areas of personal interest, in conjunction with the season, will help determine what an Ambassador’s hike will focus on.
Other Outdoor Experiences
We continue to grow opportunities for Nature Ambassadors. This past spring a volunteer with an interest in pond ecosystems spearheaded a new drop-in program by offering pond explorations. Visitors use nets to scoop macro-invertebrates, amphibians, insects, and other pond life into a container, and then identify it with charts and magnifying lenses. Other volunteers have gotten involved with this program, and it has expanded.
Next spring migration, we hope to have Nature Ambassadors lead morning birding hikes. This person need not be an expert, but should be self-motivated to guide birding hikes and familiar enough with the birds on the property that they can identify many of them. Any gaps in knowledge can be made up by enlisting the help of other birders and by learning more about bird species as they go. If you like the idea of leading a bird hike at a premiere birding hot spot, this opportunity may be for you.
Some Nature Ambassadors have gone through the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program, which offers training to people interested in become volunteer naturalists in their communities, or have some other background with nature, whether it is a career or other volunteer experience. Many of our volunteers start out with an interest and curiosity. Whatever your background, if you are motivated to be a Nature Ambassador, consider looking up volunteer opportunities on our website.