Frequently Asked Questions

1) 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.

2) What kind of certification do I receive upon completion of the program?

Participants who complete all eight modules will receive a certificate acknowledging the time they have spent learning and practicing to be a naturalist, and naming the different modules in which they have participated. The Ontario Master Naturalist Program (OMNP) certificate is not a university degree or college diploma, and it does not qualify certificate holders to act as an expert in a professional capacity. The name “Master Naturalist” is used, as it is in a majority of states in the USA, in a manner similar to the “Master Gardener” designation. The Ontario Master Naturalist Program is a community-based education program that introduces participants to the role of a naturalist and helps participants to build experience and knowledge. 

3) Is there a test or exam participants need to pass to complete the modules?

There is no exam participants must pass to complete the program, but modules may include completion of worksheets that will allow instructors to assess the progress of participants.