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Sample Workshop Agenda

 Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, Inc.

GNO website:

State website:

The Louisiana Master Naturalist of Greater New Orleans program (LMNGNO) exists to advance awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the natural environment of the Greater New Orleans area by developing a corps of well-informed citizen volunteers dedicated to conservation education and service within their communities.


To become a certified Louisiana Master Naturalist, a participant must fulfill the following:

  • Register for a course and attend at least 7 of the 9 formal training workshops that combine field and classroom instruction, as well as orientation. We strongly encourage attendance at all 9 workshops plus orientation and closure.
  • Meet the assessment criteria: a) Write at least 5 reflections about LMNGNO training sessions, receiving a minimum score of 80% overall according to a published rubric; OR b) pass a multiple-choice take-home test covering the topics of the workshops with a minimum score of 80%.
  • 20 hours of approved volunteer service completed within six months following the course's closing session; LMNGNO allows that volunteering be done in virtually all venues where natural history support is needed, such as state agencies, parks and refuges, schools, scouts, nature/environmental centers, nature programs of not-for-profits, summer camps, etc.
  • 8 hours of advanced training by the same date.
  • $50 annual dues are paid 
  • Bingo: certification is awarded!!!


  • Learning about the ecosystems present in Louisiana and the flora and fauna that inhabit them;
  • Becoming part of a network of people who are passionately interested in Louisiana’s natural history, how it functions, and how to protect it;
  • Understanding the interconnections among our flora and fauna and the well-being of our ecosystems, economic foundation, and cultural communities.
  • Having ample opportunities to continue the expansion of your knowledge on Louisiana natural history.

We now hold two courses per year, one each spring (workshops scheduled mainly on Saturdays) and one in the fall (workshops scheduled mainly on Fridays).   


  • Volunteer a minimum of 20 hours of approved volunteer service each year,
  • Attend at least 8 hours of approved continuing education training each year,
  • Be a dues-paying member at $50 per year. It is possible to opt out of the first two requirements once certification is attained. LEADERSHIP TEAM is composed of certified Master Naturalists from the Greater New Orleans Chapter.


In general, we convene at 8:30 AM and dismiss at 3:00 PM. 
Fall workshops take place on Friday.
Spring workshops take place on Saturday.

To adapt to concerns for public health, we have adjusted the workshop schedule to minimize indoor meetings at this time. Most content is delivered via recorded sessions and available through Canvas, once participants have been accepted into the class.

In general, the workshop weeks will entail the following:

  • a bit of reading to acquaint you with the topics covered
  • one or more zoom presentations, live and/or recorded – times to be determined
  • field work to our favorite nature places (times and places given below)
  • we will conduct field work while maintaining social distance
  • we will all wear masks
  • we are supplying a state-of-the-art communication system that allows participants to clearly hear interpretive discussion by the educator

I. Orientation – Audubon Park, across from Loyola University.

  • Introductions & getting to know one another
  • A short trail walk in Audubon Park to discuss how to look at nature – how and where to look
  • Assessment: reflections v. final test – what is your best choice?
  • Orientation to overall course and LMNGNO organization & communication
    • Canvas (our software for posting relevant information for workshops)
    • Google groups
    • Handouts
    • Pathway to certification
  • Brief overview of suggested equipment and their use
    • Binoculars
    • Field guides are available to borrow for the duration of the course.
    • Local experts
    • Others
  • Naturalists of Louisiana
  • Taxonomy & scientific/common names – our way of using them
  • Taxonomic lists and how to use them
    • How constructed
    • What we mean by commonly encountered species
    • The purpose of our Taxonomy Bank
  • Thinking like a scientist: How scientists talk (weasel words) and why.
  • Thinking like a naturalist: How to read nature.


  • Overview of basic natural history concepts
    • Andrew Barron – Basics of Naturalism, Overview of Geology, and Overarching Biological Concepts
    • Bob Thomas – Overview of plants and characteristics we use to identify them

   II. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge –

  • How to walk trails and how to look - each interpreter demonstrates what he/she does and why
    • walking quietly
    • speaking in soft tones
    • moving slowly
    • watching for movement, texture differences, shapes
    • Listening and recognizing sounds
    • Importance of the senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste (sometimes), etc
  • In the field, how to look at trees & other plants
  • Ridge & freshwater plant assemblages
  • Mammals
  • Possibly comments on phenology and its importance
  • Possibly winter birds - seasonality in our bird fauna

III.   Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, Manchac -

  • All in the field
  • Boat ride from Galva facility to the Environmental Research Center
  • Estuarine habitats: Freshwater/intermediate marsh & plant communities – especially sedges, rushes, and grasses.
  • Live snakes in the field (weather dependent)
  • Galls on cypress trees
  • Loss of and research to restore cypress swamps
  • Macroinvertebrate faunal communities of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Estuary
  • Possibly biodiversity and biological productivity of fishes

IV. North Shore (Northlake Nature Center, Mandeville) –

  • Habitats, creatures and plants of NNC
  • Snakes, how they work, and how that effects their interaction with nature
  • Breakout topics
    • Characteristics of an upland forest, its common species, and their identification
    • Pine flatwoods, longleaf pines and their recovery
    • Beaver Pond ecosystem - why it exists and how it functions

V. Urban Ecology – CITY PARK (Couturie is pronounced cō-tour-ē-ā – 4 syllables, 1st, 3rd, and 4th vowels long)

  • Urban water management – New Orleans’ new approach
    • Tour of a rain garden in a City Park parking lot
  • Urban wildlife: how to live with it and what is of concern
  • Plant succession - story of where City Park is in its succession -
    • what are seral stages?
    • what is the climax seral stage?
    • what will help it or prevent it from happening?
  • Invasive concerns and why we need to understand its relevance
    • Invasive species management program and why it is happening here
    • Terminology for exotic/invasive/introduced/true natives/etc species & learn examples
  • Couturie Forest & Trail – values and phenology walk

 VI. UNO/Coastal Education & Research Facility (CERF) –

  • Brackish marsh plants
  • Blue crabs
  • Estuarine fish (seining or trawling with a boat)
  • Ecology of the Pontchartrain Embayment
  • Canoeing activity is part of the marsh field work


  • Bird biology and land birds (GI)
  • Beach and marsh birds (EI)
  • Geomorphology of barrier islands and their beaches & lagoons
    • How beaches wax and wane (ridges & runnels)
    • How to be a naturalist in the dunes - respecting the habitat
  • Beach plants - adaptations that allow them to live there
  • Coastal Marine Fish – an orientation slide show, then pulling a seign along the beach front at Elmer’s Island
  • Regional habitats
    • Salt marsh
    • brackish marsh
    • maritime forest
  • Lagoons
    • Faunal and floral differences/similarities
    • How used by fauna
    • How they function in the ecosystem
  • Invertebrates
    • Basic identification of shells on the beach
    • life in the swash zone
    • life on the upper beach
    • beach wrack goodies - how to be a beachcomber
    • how does animal life differ on the beach & in lagoons?
    • thixotropy

VIII. EVENING WORKSHOP - 4pm-10pm - Jean Lafitte National Park, Coquille Trail –

  • Discussion of how the Coquille Trail came to be
  • How nature transitions from daylight to night: diurnal/crepuscular/nocturnal
  • Introduce the concept of seasonality, using local examples
  • Discuss the transect of habitats present
    • Indicator species - the concept & examples
  • Introduce concept of habitat specificity, and why there are exceptions
    • How does the presence of the spoil bank affect the distribution of species?
  • Briefly discuss the field terminology for exotic/invasive/introduced/native species/etc species & show examples
  • Insects - blacklight? Powerpoint posted; find and discuss specimens in the field
  • Spiders - Powerpoint posted; find and discuss specimens in the field
  • Frogs - information posted - discussion of how to find, define common groups, seasonality, vocalization; find and discuss specimens in the field
  • Bats - their presence, echolocation, and habits; discussion of their sounds and how it is used in scientific studies
  • Alligators - social behavior, tapedum lucidum eye shine  

IX. Overview of coastal restoration challenges (Bayou Dupont Wetland Restoration Project in the Spring and Lake Hermitage Restoration Project in the Fall)

  • Boat ride to Lake Hermitage;
  • OR drive and walk to Bayou Dupont site
  • Coastal wetland loss
  • Controversies – restoration (pumping) vs. sediment diversions – or both and more!
  • 2017 Louisiana Coastal Restoration Plan
  • Coastal wetlands restoration
  • Identification and discussion about seral stages of plant arrivals in a typical restoration site

X. NOTE: WEDNESDAY – 6-9pm - Closing sessionsite to be determined

  • Take-home closing exam due by 5 pm
  • Turn in loaned books
  • Critique – roundtable


Keep in mind that the educational program will include being outdoors, walking (up to a couple of miles on some trips), and engaging in activities to observe nature.  Dress will always be what is appropriate for each trip – always casual. 

Participants will supply their own transportation unless group arrangements are made; depending on Covid status, carpooling may be encouraged, leaders will keep you informed of protocols: it is environmentally friendly and participants enjoy the fellowship and conversation.  Participants need to be well equipped and supplied for fieldwork.  Suggestions to be well equipped include:

  • food for lunch and snacks
  • water bottle (we would appreciate your using refillable bottles – single use plastic is not good for the natural environment)
  • sunscreen if needed
  • insect repellent (we will make suggestions)
  • binoculars – decent to good quality will enhance your enjoyment
  • appropriate field guides for your special interests; leaders will always have communal field guides to share
  • camera
  • pencil and/or pen and journal
  • hand lens (useful) – we give you one

We will provide:

  • a dynamic agenda
  • all the presentations with excellent educators
  • use of field guides specific to the focus or area
  • special equipment needed to sample the flora and/or fauna
  • posting of any slides and the like on Canvas (we will explain this in the orientation meeting)


COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans (LMNGNO) is committed to providing a safe and engaging outdoor experience for all participants. To that end, we are offering outdoor workshop field experiences and indoor meeting events only to those who are fully vaccinated.

Prior to Event

  • If you are unable to attend due to illness, you may makeup missed workshops with a later workshop class at no cost.
  • Although we typically encourage carpooling for several reasons, at this time, plan independent transportation or ride with someone in your social bubble.

At the Event

  • Bring food, drink, hand sanitizer, and materials to avoid sharing while at the event.
  • We will follow local mask regulations.
  • Audio devices will be provided for leaders and participants who wish to maintain social distancing.

Use of shared spaces

  • Bathroom: participants should bring a supply of wipes and hand sanitizer or soap to clean surfaces and hands upon entering and leaving the facility.

After the event

  • Notify LMNGNO leaders if you develop COVID-19 symptoms within a few days of the event.
  • Other participants will be notified without revealing details of individual initiating the notice.
  • Stay in touch so that we can adjust plans as needed.

If you are interested in learning more about outdoor safety during a pandemic, here is a great video produced by University of New Hampshire for training outdoor education staff. All LMNGNO leaders have participated in this training and have agreed to follow the guidelines.