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Interested in learning more about Tennessee’s natural history so you can help maintain it? Registration for the Tennessee Naturalist Program at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is now open.

The Tennessee Naturalist Program is an education training course designed to introduce the natural history of Tennessee to interested adults. Graduates join a critical corps of Tennessee Naturalist volunteers providing education, outreach and service dedicated to the appreciation, understanding and beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.

The purpose of the TNP is to teach Tennesseans about our natural world, inspire the desire to learn more, instill an appreciation of responsible environmental stewardship and channel volunteer efforts toward education of the general public and conservation of Tennessee’s natural resources. To become a Tennessee Naturalist, a person must complete a minimum of 40 hours instruction through a TNP training course and perform a minimum of 40 hours volunteer service.

After training, Tennessee Naturalists may participate in many different types of volunteer activities, such as helping a nature outreach program at a park, museum, nature center or school, assisting the collection of scientific data for a bird census, water quality assessment or rare plant monitoring, and working with trail maintenance or habitat restoration projects.

Tennessee Naturalist Program Schedule
Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m.

  • August 16: So you want to be a naturalist
  • August 23: Feathered friends: the birds of Tennessee
  • August 30: The world of invertebrates: pollinators, predators, pests, and parasitoids
  • September 6: Tennessee’s living waters
  • September 13: Forbs, ferns, fungi, and more
  • September 20: Hooray for herps
  • September 27: Forests and trees of Tennessee
  • October 4: The geology of Tennessee
  • October 11: The furry creatures of Tennessee
  • October 18: The ecology of Tennessee
  • October 25: Nocturnal Naturalist

Attire and footwear should both be appropriate for hiking and outdoor activities. First two hours are held inside, while the last two hours are held outside weather depending. Registration will begin July 15. The cost is $250, which includes all classes and class material, hand lens and field notebook. You can register in person at the nature center or call the nature center at 423-229-9447 to register over the phone.