• What education is required to become a naturalist?


    We attended the Moths and Meteors event on 08/12, and were so impressed with Chris. What kind of education and/or training is required to become a naturalist?

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for your question!

    Naturalists come from a staggering variety of educational and training backgrounds. Some have pursued an education in science and teaching fields, but many come to the field from other careers in many cases, their work in sharing Nature knowledge with the public begins on a volunteer-and-hobbyist basis.

    Take the example of Wayne Kriynovich, one of our now-retired naturalists:

    Wayne Kriynovich at the Oberle Observatory

    [Naturalist Wayne Kriynovich performs daytime maintenance on the Oberle Observatory.]

    Before becoming a naturalist, Wayne had been a police officer, a lawyer and a private pilot.  More importantly, he was a lifelong astronomy enthusiast! Wayne’s dedication to sharing astronomy with the public led him to become an astronomy-focused naturalist after retiring from (as he called it) his “Earthbound career.”

    Once a person begins working or volunteering in the Nature-education field, they typically receive additional training from the National Association for Interpretation, or NAI.  It’s sort of the professional organization for workers in parks and historic sites. Despite the word “interpretation” in the name, no, it doesn’t primarily deal with translating between different languages!

    The NAI offers a widely sought program called Certified Interpretive Guide training, which is a terrific way to learn how to share information with the “curious, but not expert” public. (If you’ve ever had a lackluster tour from a less-than-fascinating guide, you know what pitfalls there are to be avoided!)

    Another great resource in the field of astronomy education is the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, which, as the name suggests, helps share training among planetarium users across the region. Similarly to naturalists, planetarium operators may have specifically studied planetarium-based astronomy (Youngstown State University offers one such program nearby), but many also come by their experience through on-the-job training.

    Best of luck with your studies!

    -Naturalist Chris Mentrek