Calling All Nature Lovers: Become a Texas Master Naturalist

Do you love nature and being outdoors? Do you wish you knew more about the plants you see on a nature walk, or perhaps the birds you spot in your backyard? Would you like to contribute to conservation projects around San Antonio? Then I highly recommend you check out the Texas Master Naturalist program!

The goal of the Texas Master Naturalist Program is to create a corps of “well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.”

I became a Texas Master Naturalist in 2020 after going through the initial training program offered by our local Alamo Area Chapter, and embarked on one of the coolest learning experiences of my life! As a Master Naturalist you get to explore all of these areas in your training:

  • Ornithology (the study of birds)
  • Botany (plants)
  • Entomology (insects)
  • Wildlife biology
  • Herpetology (reptiles and amphibians)
  • Geology
  • And more!

I have always been a nature lover, but I didn’t have a clue how little I actually knew about the nature surrounding me until I started this journey. The program opened up a new world of nature-related interests for me, including a newfound love for Texas native plants!

Master Naturalist
Volunteering at the Master Naturalist Wildscape Demonstration Garden at Hardberger Park.

Fun fact: The Master Naturalist program actually started right here in San Antonio in 1997. The program is a collaboration between Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Now there are Master Naturalist chapters spread across the United States. Most states have several chapters. In Texas, we have 48 different chapters comprised of over 10,000 volunteers.

To become certified as a Master Naturalist, you participate in a 40+ hour training program to learn about all aspects of nature in our local area, and then put that knowledge to use through 40+ hours of volunteer service each year. The best part? Our local chapter offers training in the evening over Zoom, so busy parents like us can still participate!

The next training class is slated for February 16–May 25. The program is accepting applications through January 2!

Volunteering is a big part of the program and is really the reason why the program exists. There are tons of volunteer opportunities available each week, including on the weekends. While many are outdoors, others can be done virtually or in your own backyard, such as helping with the Great Backyard Bird count!

Since becoming a Master Naturalist in 2020, I have logged over 330 volunteer hours helping maintain local native plant demonstration gardens, assisting with invasive plant removal, leading nature talks, and serving on the board of our local chapter. As a busy mom with an 11-year-old and 13-year-old and my own business, I have found it to be the perfect flexible volunteer program to fit into my schedule.

Master Naturalist
Exploring nature in my backyard. Can you spot the caterpillar in this photo?

If you want to have a greater appreciation for the nature surrounding you every day, and if you want to help the planet but aren’t sure how to make a difference, then this is the program for you!

If you’re interested in joining the upcoming spring class be sure to submit your application by January 2.

P.S. Our local chapter just launched a Junior Master Naturalist program for kids ages 9–13—more information on that to come!

Haeley Giambalvo has been a professional blogger and online content creator for the past decade. She started in 2011 to share simple crafts that make a big impact. Her craft projects have been featured by major magazines including Country Living, Martha Stewart Living, and Better Homes and Gardens. In 2020, Haeley launched her second website,, to encourage people to help the Earth from their own yards by growing native plants that support insects and wildlife. Over the last two years, Haeley has transformed her backyard with Texas native plants and turned it into a haven for butterflies, bees, and birds. She wants to help you do the same! She is excited to write for ACM to share ideas for spending more time as a family outdoors, starting a garden, attracting butterflies to your yard, and more! Haeley is a mom to Stella (13) and Hazel (11). You can follow along with her gardening adventures and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook @nativebackyards.