About OCVN

Welcome to the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Program

The OCVN program is a research-based education program of The Ohio State University offered in partnership with several host locations, such as, park districts and OSU Extension offices. The OCVN program emphasizes hands-on natural resource and environmental education coupled with volunteer service. Participants in the OCVN program receive 40 hours of combined classroom and field instruction. Upon completing the OCVN course, participants provide 40 hours of volunteer service at any Ohio organization with a compatible program mission.  OCVN courses are offered at several host sites. To get started, click on the ‘Find a Course’ tab above. 

After course completion, OCVNs typically volunteer in the following service categories.

Education/Interpretation & Outreach

Volunteer to give an educational and/or interpretive program at a park or arboretum. Lead a nature hike or help develop a visitor guide for a natural area! Many of these places depend on volunteers for helping educate visitors.

Citizen Science

Volunteer to collect data for a University, agency, or not for profit organization. Wildlife and plant surveys, water quality monitoring, and other scientific monitoring are some examples. These surveys are critical for maintaining and managing for biological diversity.

Land Stewardship

Volunteer to maintain a natural area, control invasive species or restore native vegetation. Or, perhaps you’d like to assist in maintaining a trail or other public recreation area. If you like to get your hands dirty, this might be your way of volunteering.

Program Support

Nature centers, local, state, and federal park visitor centers, and various natural resources groups need volunteers to work on newsletters, help with educational events, help manage meetings, websites, and even meet and greet the public at information stations. This is a great way to give back if you have physical limitations, want to hone your skills in these areas, or just want to contribute in a way that may be less physically taxing.


The mission of the OCVN program is to promote awareness and citizen stewardship of Ohio's natural resources through science-based education and community service.

What is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist?

An Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist is an individual with a passion for the natural world who wishes to attend training and use his or her knowledge by giving back to the community through volunteer service. The program has three components: training, volunteer service hours, and continuing education. (See below for instructions on adding your email address to the statewide email list-serve to stay informed.)


The education program is the responsibility of the OCVN Program Director, state steering committee, and local course host staff.   Instructors vary but can include OSU faculty, ODNR professionals, park naturalists, and experienced Volunteer Naturalists, and other experts.  The education program seeks to offer a balanced, integrated practical course on Ohio’s environment and natural resources. The following are the core topics. Other topics based on local needs may also be part of the curriculum.

  • OCVN Program Overview
  • Ecological Concepts
  • Nature Interpretation
  • Ohio's Watersheds
  • Aquatic Life
  • Stewardship
  • Geology
  • Soils
  • Plants
  • Forests
  • Insects and other macroinvertebrates
  • Reptiles & Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Mammals

Volunteer Naturalist Certification Requirements:

  • 40 hours of combined classroom and field instruction
  • 40 hours of approved volunteer service and/or continuing education.
  • Recertification requires 30 hours volunteer service and/or continuing education.

Communication Tools

Below are ways you can use to share news and information with OCVNs from around the state.

OCVN Listserv

The Ohio Certified Naturalist listserv is managed by the statewide office located in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.  If you have any questions, please send a message to baird.41@osu.edu, or call 614-292-8603.  If you would like to subscribe to the statewide listserv go to:  https://lists.osu.edu/mailman/listinfo/ocvn

This statewide listserv has members who have completed the OCVN course as well as those who are interested in receiving information on the program.  There are additional regional listservs for course participants. 

Guidelines for OCVN Listserv Use

OCVN listservs are intended for the positive exchange of information pertinent to the OCVN program.  The OCVN program is offered by The Ohio State University in partnership with state, regional, and local agencies and community organizations. Because of this, the listservs cannot be used for certain types of information and/or commentary including commercial or political activities, lobbying, or advocacy. The listserv should not be used as a forum to criticize other people, agencies, or organizations.  To be removed from the listserv, send a message to: 


 and put ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject heading. 

OCVN Website



A news section on our website can highlight stories about OCVN accomplishments, new environmental resources, or volunteer service and continuing education opportunities.  If you have a news story you would like to share, please send it to Anne Baird at baird.41@osu.edu.


An events section on our website highlights upcoming activities including continuing education or volunteer service opportunities. If you want to add an event to our calendar, please send it to Anne Baird at baird.41@osu.edu.