The Ontario Master Naturalist Program (OMNP) is a community program established by Lakehead University Orillia in partnership with Ontario Nature. The first of its kind in Canada, the OMNP provides naturalists* and those interested in nature and environmental stewardship the opportunity to receive a Master Naturalist certificate.
The inaugural six-module program took place in the spring of 2015 and following our 2016 program, we have seen had two full classes of participants complete the program and received their Master Naturalist certificates.
What is a Naturalist?
The title naturalist was first defined in 1587 to describe a person who studied the world around us; its phenomena could be explained by natural causes or as Charles Robert Darwin (1809 –1882) stated “by laws acting around us.” Darwin described himself as a naturalist and used it in his 1854 letter to Thomas Huxley but the first known use of the title was in 1857 to describe a student of natural history. The title “naturalist” was a high compliment in its day and was used by many others to describe themselves beside Darwin. Carl von Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), Henry Walter Bates (1825 –1892) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 – 1913) were all given the title naturalist. The word “scientist” was not used until the late 1800s to describe the same people documenting their observations of nature, and testing their explanations against those observations.
Today the term scientist or biologist is used to describe someone with formal training who studies the natural world while the term naturalist is used to describe a person who does the same thing with or without the formal training. There are many naturalists today with a high degree of knowledge of the natural world without any formal training but with years of observations and documentation of facts and phenomena in the natural world.