Is the Arizona Master Naturalist Program right for you?

Before reading the details below, please consider the following: the Arizona Master Naturalist Program may not be a good fit for you if you are only interested in “consuming” information about the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran Desert in Pima County. The goal of this program is to build community as well as individual learners. Our volunteers must learn to work in teams to create new programs for the Chapter and our Partners.

This program is designed to train volunteers to be leaders, to complete tasks working in small teams, to design programs, and to think about equity and inclusion in practice. That means, by signing up for the training program you will be committing to moving learned knowledge into ACTION and you will actively need to work with team members on some deliverables during the semester in service to being a natural resource leader. We are not simply providing a weekly lecture course with content on natural and cultural history. There is work required to be successful and become certified, but do not feel as though you need already be an expert. We will guide you through the process.

It is important for prospective members to know we are pushing the edges of “how this has been” and what it means to be a Master Naturalist. We ask that both existing members and prospective members be open to having hard conversations in trainings, workshops, and with other members. If that is beyond your comfort zone then this might not be the program for you right now, as it may not have been the program for others in the past. While it is very much about learning about our natural and cultural history, equity, inclusion, and consideration of others who have been marginalized is very much grounded in those topics.

We are flexible and understanding and use a reflective practice model. This is not an academic endeavor. We want everyone to succeed.

We expect that people will participate fully in the course. Right now we don’t have the capacity to run two programs for folx who merely wish to “audit” the class. Someday we may be able to do that with a team of volunteer leaders facilitating it, but unfortunately that time is not now. In other words, please do not sign up for this course if you do not feel as though you will be able to fully engage with the class as presented OR have no desire to work in small groups to design programs for natural and cultural history organizations.

Still with us? Read on for more details about what you can expect!


The Arizona Master Naturalist Program is designed to be a natural and cultural history LEADERSHIP program. The active and experiential curriculum is designed to help volunteers become leaders for our chapter and community partners, rather than to consume facts about our ecosystem. There is a focus on cultural equity, team building, program design for partners, and using critical thinking to contribute to natural and cultural history projects. We explore basic natural history content in the context of cultural history and ecosystem dynamics.

During the course and after becoming trained, we expect our members to help us with aspects of building and maintaining our chapter. We strive for community understanding of inclusivity in nature. Our members take learning and volunteering a step further to help build better teams of volunteers ready to tackle today’s projects with partner agencies.

Read more about our program and philosophy on the Arizona Master Naturalist Association Website. You can review what an Arizona Master Naturalist is and what we do here.

While you will learn about natural history in our region, you won’t take a deep dive into each of the “ologies” in the natural world.  If you seek a course designed to share with you scientific facts about our ecosystem, upon which you will be assessed as in a traditional academic experience, you may want to find another course. If you are interested in volunteering for a program that does not ask you to work in teams with other volunteers or apply leadership skills, this may not be the program for you. Both of these concepts are critical to our leadership training. Please check out other wonderful docent training programs and Master programs in our community at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tohono Chul Park, The Tucson Botanical Garden, etc.

Although this is a leadership development program, there will be presentations of natural and cultural histories of the Sonoran Desert in almost every session of the course so you will learn about the area and also receive great resources for further study.

This is NOT an academic program. The intent of our course is to build a cohort of volunteers who work together to take the lead on natural history programs and projects. You do not need to have any higher education experience in order to be successful. Everyone is welcome to join us regardless of prior experience – we have many resources available to help you along the journey of becoming and remaining a Certified Arizona Master Naturalist. If you desire a rigorous academic course in Sonoran Desert History, we can recommend one for you.

The course is interactive, consists of team building exercises, group projects, and presentation delivery and public speaking. It is not a passive-style lecture-based course where you weekly hear from experts. We also require the completion of self-reflective out of class time tasks to further understand natural and cultural history concepts, including best practice in environmental education and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our programs.

The Arizona Master Naturalist Association is working hard to focus on inclusivity in natural and cultural fields. We are committed to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We believe in making our training program as accessible to all who are interested, providing financial assistance for those unable to pay full price for the program through a sliding scale for course fee payment. We want all members from all audiences of our community to feel welcome to participate in the training program and the programs our volunteers lead. If you join us, you will help us to build a welcoming and understanding team. You can also read about our inclusivity project here.

WHO ARE OUR PARTNERS? If you’d like to know more about the Association’s Community Partners we work with, take a look at our list. Every year we connect with more organizations in our area. Master Naturalists have contributed over 20,000 service hours to partners in our state since 2016.

The next training course begins in January 2023. It will mostly likely be a hybrid – facilitated online and in person. You will join us for a weekly online meeting on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 8:30pm. We will work to try to put together additional in person field experiences throughout the course, but that is subject to change based upon our community’s response to the COVID pandemic. You can read our Association’s COVID Policy here.

To participate you will need to have access to the following: computer with access to the internet; webcam or built in video device; audio device. If you do not have these items and wish to participate, please let us know. We may be able to help you find access to these things to assist you.

Applicants who attend ONE info session (via zoom meeting) will be given priority in their application status. You need only attend one session; bring your questions and prepare to meet some of our members. The info sessions for 2022 will be scheduled this summer. There will be one a month in September, October, and November. Join our email list to receive updates about these sessions. The application for the 2023 cohort will be available online on September 1, 2022.

To become certified you will participate in a 60-hour weekly online program held on Wednesday evenings, beginning January. The course runs until May. There will be approximately one session a month that will be held in person, with social distancing and masks required. We may also be able to offer field labs, based on our community’s response to the pandemic. 

To become fully certified you must contribute 20 hours of volunteer service in your training year to approved Chapter Community Partner Organizations or service to the Pima County Chapter, and 20 hours of advanced training (5 of which must be skills-based training) by December 31.

Thereafter, in order to remain a certified Arizona Master Naturalist, one must annually contribute 40 service hours (+20 advanced training hours) in Year 2, and Year 3 and beyond 60 hours of service (+20 advanced training hours).

If at any time you require assistance with completing your hours we are happy to help you.

The course fee is a non-refundable $300. The course is delivered at-cost and the fee covers course materials. Payment is due upon your acceptance into the course and payable by the start of the training. If your payment is not received by the start date of the course, your position may be forfeited to someone else on the wait-list. Financial assistance is available; we have a sliding scale for payment. Please indicate your need on the application form and we will reach out with details.

The Pima Master Naturalist Course is an all-volunteer run program. At this time no one, including the Executive Director, receives any financial re-numeration for service to the chapter or serving as an instructor.

CONTENT-BASED Reading: Interested to see what our required reading list includes? Want to know more about how we are grounding Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion? Take a look at these resources which are being updated in real time for more information:



The Application for Intent will be available on September 1 and is due no later than December 1st at midnight Arizona Time. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by December 31. Once your application and application fee has been received, you will be contacted within a few weeks to schedule your interview with our application committee.

There is a $20 non-refundable application fee required to file your application. The fee will be applied to your full course fee, should you be accepted. You are not required to pay anything else unless you are accepted into the course.

We are only able to accept 25 participants into the course at a time. There has been a wait list for the last four years as we’ve received over 40 applications each year. Applications are reviewed by committee and participants are chosen based on a combination of the following primary and secondary criteria:

Primary Criteria for Acceptance:

1. Attended an information session
2. Ability to attend at least 85-90% of weekly meetings and field labs
3. Desire to be a natural history leader for the chapter or our partner

4. Commitment to diversity and inclusion
5. Participation in an interview and commitment to completing team-based assignments and using online tools such as google drive.

Secondary Criteria:

1. Diversity of experience among cohort
2. Diversity of experienced naturalists vs. those new to the field
3. Diversity of members from all communities, including those under represented in our field and programs
4. Timely payment of the application fee
5. Willingness to help with administrative tasks
6. Well-thought out answers to the application questions
7. Ability to contribute something new and relevant to our program

Here is a Google Document with the list of questions on the application if you’d like to work on that separately and then copy and paste your answers into the Google Application form. You must submit an application online using the provided form to be considered. Please email if you have questions.

The Arizona Master Naturalist Association seeks to engage a diversity of audiences in our communities. We wish to cultivate inclusivity and to make our programs welcoming and accessible to a diverse array of age, cultural, sexual orientation, economic, professional experience, and ethnic backgrounds.

Add your name to our email list. You’ll be notified when the application for the next course is available. We’ll also send you our quarterly newsletter, the Prickly Pear Post.


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