With explosive growth and development, communities in southern Nevada need informed leadership to educate and take action to increase environmental literacy and protection.
Cooperative Extension has offered Nevada Naturalist since 2008. In 2018, Extension offered two sessions with curriculum created by Extension and experts in each field of study and with full advisement and review of program partners. Session One was in the spring, with 11 students completing the program and becoming certified Nevada Naturalists. Basic environmental education topics were covered, and at least 60 hours of basic environmental education were required for certification. The session had 16 classes and eight labs.
Session Two was in the fall, with 8 students completing the program. This session covered additional environmental topics, including: cultural history, archaeology, paleontology, and site stewardship. It had 14 classes and seven labs. All students completed a project on an environmental topic of their choice. Nevada Naturalists (students and/or graduates), under the direction of program faculty and staff, also helped to conduct activities and events during the year as well as volunteer with partnering agencies for a total of 1,200 hours reported as of November.
Since 2008, 261 people have been certified through the program, and Nevada Naturalists have volunteered over 24,905 hours on environmental projects in southern Nevada. The program has a 90 percent completion rate, and after completing the program, 87 percent of students stated they have a greater understanding and respect for our natural resources. Of those who completed Session One, 67 percent enrolled in session two. About 86 Nevada Naturalists currently either volunteer or work on environmental issues in southern Nevada.
In 2018, the program was evaluated using pre- and post- testing for each session.
- The Session One average score increased by 16 percent
- The Session Two average score increased by 29 percent
Some participant responses to open-ended questions included:
- "I look forward to the opportunity to share what I have learned with future Nevada Naturalists and others."
- "I plan on volunteering and using the information to teach at the school where I currently work."
- "I am open to helping with future Nevada Naturalist classes."
Partners included Nevada Department of Wildlife; Clark County Wetlands Park; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Park Service — Lake Mead National Recreation Area; Nevada State Museum; Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association; Friends of Desert Wildlife Refuges; Lake Mead Volunteer Steward Program; City of Henderson; and the Springs Preserve.