Master Conservationist

Planting the Seeds of Conservation in Iowa


The Master Conservationist Program is a collaborative program offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, County Conservation Boards, and local conservation leaders and professionals. The intensive blended online and in-person curriculum is developed to equip Iowans interested in natural resource conservation with the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions about natural resources and to become local leaders and educators. Master Conservationists are individuals that share an interest in the sustainability of Iowa's natural resources and in becoming better stewards of those resources.

The curriculum is structured into four modules that combine technical information presented and curated by Iowa State University researchers and educators with in-person sessions led by local conservation leaders, practitioners, and experts. Module 1 'sets the stage' for the course, exploring the history and current structure of conservation in Iowa and also exploring the landforms and waterways that make up the state's land area. Module 2 digs deep into the structure, function, and challenges facing Iowa's natural prairie, forest, and aquatic ecosystems. Module 3 explores the wide range of conservation practices developed and implemented to address conservation challenges in Iowa. The final and fourth module then examines the human elements of conservation and explores how to communicate the importance of conservation to Iowa and Iowans.

Course graduates are awarded a certificate and encouraged to get engaged locally to apply the information they learn and continue to build their local connections to conservation professionals and other passionate conservationists.

In-person Classes

Nahant Marsh Education Center has offered the Master Conservationist program since 2012 with more than 160 participants. Our experienced naturalists, along with field experts will be leading the in-person meetings. Field trips are a wonderful way to take the lessons learned from the modules and apply them in the field. Dressing for the weather is vital for a more enjoyable experience. Hats, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, bug spray, snacks, and a water bottle are highly recommended. 


If allowable, Nahant Marsh will provide transportation for some field trips. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this may not be possible and participants will need to provide their own transportation to the sites. Please note, some sites are 1-1.5 hours from the Quad Cities area.

COVID-19 Policies

Masks are encouraged for any indoor programming regardless of vaccination status. 


Wednesday, April 20 - 6:00-7:30 pm - Meet-n-Greet
Introductions and review materials and resources for the course. 

Saturday, May 7 - 8:00 am-3:00 pm - Prairies, Woodlands, and Geology 
Learn the natural history and identify local flora and fauna identification with field trips to Manikowski Prairie, a 185-acre limestone prairie. In the afternoon, we will explore the woodlands at Mississippi Palisades State Park

Wednesday, May 25 - 6:00-7:30 pm - Aquatic Environments
Learn about water quality, conservation practices, and restoration efforts at Nahant Marsh. This session includes a guided tour of the marsh, a macroinvertebrate study, and water testing. 

Saturday, June 18 - 7:00 am-4:00 pm - Prairies and Geology
Guided tours of Thomson-Fulton Prairie and Nachusa Grasslands will include discussions on natural history, flora and fauna identification, and human impacts.

Wednesday, July 6 - 6:00-7:30 pm - Land and Water Conservation
This session includes a visit to a local farm to discuss conservation practices implemented on the farm. 

Saturday, July 23 - 9:00 am-11:00 am - Watersheds, Woodlands, Prairie
Guided by Scott County Conservation naturalists, we will learn about the county conservation system and explore the ecosystem types at the Wapsi River EE Center in Dixon, IA. 

Tuesday, August 9 - 6:00-7:30 pm - Planting the Seeds of Conservation
For our final meeting, we will reflect upon the course and harvest seed from Nahant’s prairie. The harvested seed will be used in future and ongoing restoration projects. We will also discuss opportunities to volunteer in the community. 

Contact Info

Amy Loving
All classes and locations are subject to change due to inclement weather.

Course fee

Nahant Marsh Members receive a discount. Non-members will receive an individual membership in their fee.
$160 Members | $200 Guests (includes Individual Membership) 

*Limited scholarships are available. Contact Amy for more info.

Please register by April 12.