Master Naturalists Making Momentum

Krista Wilke Samson receives her Master Naturalist certificate from Becky Sapper, Director of the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program through UW-Madison Division of Extension.

By Krista Wilkie Samson


As the buds were opening and perennials emerging this spring, so was the 2024 Master Naturalist Class beginning interesting coursework. The Clearing’s Jensen Center availed itself to an eager set of northeastern WI. residents, curious to know what they didn’t know of the natural sciences. This Wisconsin Master Naturalist Training of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension consisted of two months of Fridays, meeting throughout the Door peninsula, to introduce the unique and precious conserves which various agencies have intentionally designed to educate the public, and provide natural recreation, while proponing conservation and restoration of their respective land spaces.


The Clearing facilitated the course, introducing environmental legacy and laying groundwork for action through volunteerism and leadership as future master naturalists. We traversed The Clearing campus, heard the history and intentions of Jen Jensen, and the legacy which has formed the current educational center it is today. Experts whom would be leading during the course weeks represented their agencies and philanthropic organizations, sharing their passions and profound litanies of experiences and endeavors.


Subsequent weeks provided astounding visits from lecturers, and guides of stellar significance with equal depths of knowledge. As an example, retired State Geologist, Ken Bradbury, lectured using illustrative diagrams of the geology of North America and Door County, describing bedrock, the formation of the Niagara Escarpment, and geologic eras. The Door County Land Trust complimented by describing karst topography and ramifications of land use impacting water quality. We went throughout the Door County tip onto brisk shorelines with exposed geology and lesser known spots of public access, all with the intent to graduate additional master naturalists to one day lead our own informational hikes, entice and educate others to care to conserve and protect.


These are the concepts of the course, to empower and educate simultaneously, so more can help lead, hike, and inform of the intricate webs of life within the natural world. In good standing, the master naturalist should provide volunteer hours and well as obtain continuing education in order to never stop learning from nature and from each other. Thereby passing it on through sweat, supporting environmental philanthropies, and through genuine enthusiasm to the general public and also to curious fellow naturalists seeking collaboration.


Each week different UW provided course books are preread, before engaging interactions with impressive, learned individuals in the various natural sciences. From natural history to human connections by a county archivist; from aquatic life to citizen science by Bay Shore Blufflands State Natural Area hosts; from biodiversity to birdsong identification by Door County Land Trust hosts; from native botany to tree identification by The Ridges hosts; from wildlife habitats to research and outreach by Crossroads at Big Creek hosts; from understory to canopy; from weather to water; we were led by and led to the pockets of Door County which hold the riches of ecological and human history and responsibility of the peninsula. Those of whom lent their time and knowledge we are gratefully indebted.


Krista Wilkie Samson has since birth summered in Door County on the shores of Lake Michigan. Her dad, Steve Wilkie, lobbied for conservation of what became the DCLT Ship Canal property, sharing co-stewardship with his pal Bill Utley, and inspiring next generations to find ways to aid conservators. This article was written to complete her training to become a certified Master Naturalist through UW-Extension. To learn more about the Wisconsin Master Naturalist program, visit

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