Volunteering opportunities

Volunteers for the DNR

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smokey bear2016 MN State Fair Volunteer Opportunities

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

The Minnesota State Fair is coming to St. Paul, August 25 - September 5, and YOU can be a part of it!  

  • Receive admission tickets to the fair for each day you volunteer with the DNR!
  • Volunteer at least one day for 4-6 hours depending on the job. 
  • Parking and meals will be your responsibility. 

Almost half a million people visit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Building and Park each year to see fish, birds, to learn more about their favorite lakes, parks, trails, and to see exhibits on various DNR Programs. 

Go to the 2016 MN State Fair Volunteer Opportunities to sign up to play Smokey Bear, His Voice or to wear the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) costume.


gray tree frogMinnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey

(Metro Area and Central MN, Southern MN)

Volunteer to be part of the Minnesota Frog and Toad Calling Survey (MFTCS) to monitor the number and distribution of frog and toad populations throughout Minnesota. Sign up online to conduct nighttime "listening surveys" on 3 evenings per year between April and July. Visit our website to see a map of available route locations and training information.

Here's what's needed to become a member of the MN Frog and Toad Calling Survey Team:

  • A vehicle and valid driver's license
  • Good hearing
  • An interest in frog and toad conservation
  • A willingness to learn frog calls
  • A commitment to completing your route (about 15 hours per year)


cleaning up crewShoreline Garbage Clean-up on Lake Pepin

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Walk along the shoreline of Lake Pepin to pick up trash in Frontenac State Park.

Bags, gloves, pickers, and reflective safety vests will be provided.

From 1 – 10 people are needed at least one day from June – October.

Sign up for one (or more) of the following SATURDAYS from 10 AM – 3 PM or inquire about alternative dates that fit your schedule:

  • June 4
  • July 9
  • August 6
  • September 10
  • October 15

Clean-up will happen at multiple locations along our Lake Pepin shoreline including Sand Point, a bay and peninsula along Lake Pepin within Frontenac State Park. This area has a tendency to collect floating debris and trash from the Mississippi River and requires regular cleaning. Sand Point is a major migratory bird flyway and refuge, so keeping it clean is vital to the birds’ health.

For more information contact Nadine Meyer, Assistant Park Manager, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Blvd, Frontenac, MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email Nadine.meyer@state.mn.us .

Frontenac State Park is located approximately 10 miles SE of Red Wing on Highway 61 or 5 miles northwest of Lake City, then 1 mile north on County Road 2.



pulling garlic mustardPull Garlic Mustard – Saturday June 4

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that crowds out young trees like oaks, maples and birch making it hard for them to grow. Without these new trees our forest will change dramatically as the old trees die out.

Frontenac State Park has emerging communities of garlic mustard along the bluff-side trail of Lake Pepin. Help us pull it before it spreads further inland!

Volunteer to:

  • Correctly identify garlic mustard (training provided)
  • Climb steep inclines and walk on uneven surfaces
  • Work in a stooped position
  • Hand-pull the entire plant, including roots
  • Bag plants & transport them to a pick-up location
  • Work with a partner or more, if possible (groups welcome!)

Time Commitment:

  • Minimum of 2 hours
  • Any day of the week this Spring including weekends

Special Garlic Mustard Pull Volunteer Day scheduled

Saturday, June 4, 2016
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

For more information contact Nadine Meyer, Assistant Park Manager, Frontenac State Park, 29223 County 28 Boulevard, Frontenac, MN 55026 at 651-345-3401 or email Nadine.meyer@state.mn.us


riverboat cleanupGreat Mississippi River Cleanup – June 15

(Metro and Central MN)

Join us for the 25th annual Great Mississippi River Cleanup on Wednesday, June 15 from 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM. Help clean sections of the Mississippi River after disembarking from a riverboat near St Paul.

You must be in good health, able to follow specific directions, and be 11 years of age or older. Volunteers under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or other adult with written authorization to make medical decisions for the minor.

Keep in mind that this is a rain-or-shine, hot-or-cold event. You will need to provide your own personal gear including:

  • rain protection
  • rain protection
  • hat
  • long pants
  • thick-soled shoes or rubber boots
  • insect and tick repellent
  • sun screen

The cleanup is located in potentially rugged areas that may include mud, loose rocks, standing water, and biting insects.

REGISTER for the 25th annual Great Mississippi Riverboat Cleanup at: www.conservationcorps.org/riverboat-cleanup.

Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) has taken over the planning and implementation of this event - with the support of the DNR and many other partners and sponsors.CCM crew members and staff have long served as volunteer leaders and media guides for the Riverboat cleanup so this will be a seamless transition.

To learn more about Conservation Corps, visit their website: www.conservationcorps.org.

If you have questions: Please contact Bailey Erickson, Conservation Corps Outreach Coordinator, St Paul at bailey.erickson@conservationcorps.org or 651.209.9900 x29.


loonCount Loons One Morning: June 24 – July 4

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Volunteers across the state are needed to track Minnesota’s loon population. Now in its 23rd year, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program will assign you to a pre-selected lake in your area to count the number of loons you see on one morning between Friday, June 24thand Monday, July 4th, 2016. Surveys must be done sometime between 5:00 a.m.-12:00 noon. Time commitment is 2-4 hours per lake.

Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, and a data form will be provided. You must commit to completing assigned lake(s) within the specified time frame and returning completed survey materials.

Call or e-mail the following DNR Regional Nongame Wildlife staff to be assigned to a lake(s) in one of the listed counties:


whitewater volunteerParsnip Pull at Whitewater State Park – Saturday June 25

(Southern MN)

Picturesque limestone bluffs and deep ravines make Whitewater a very popular southeastern state park. Enjoy the view and take part in the 4th Annual Parsnip Pull, Saturday June 25, 2016 from 8 AM to 12 noon.

  • Work with a group of volunteers to pull wild parsnip from heavy use areas of the park.
  • This service project is combined with a fun social atmosphere with lunch provided.
  • Activities and entertainment will be focused on invasive species.
  • No experience is necessary, but you must be able to stand for 4 hours, bend over and carry spades, shovels or other tools necessary for removing parsnips.
  • Approximately 50 volunteers are needed, so invite your friends and bring a group!

For more information contact Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist, Whitewater State Park, 19041 Hwy 74, Altura MN 55910 at 507-932-3007 extension 226 or email sara.holger@state.mn.us


ais signUpdate DNR Infested Waters List

(Metro Area)

Help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and invasive carp from one infested lake, river, pond or wetland to another by helping the DNR update its Infested Waters List.  Because infested waters have a special regulatory status, it’s important that this list is accurate and up-to-date. About 5% of Minnesota’s more than 11,000 lakes are on the list. Harvesting bait and water use are managed differently in these waters.

To update the list, you will need to:

  • Compare the DNR’s current infested waters list to other sources of information such as the U.S. Geological Survey’s database
  • Research dates that waters were listed as infested by rulemaking prior to 2007
  • Revise and update DNR’s infested waters list

This work can be done from home on your own computer (after receiving orientation and training) or you may come into the DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Rd, St Paul to work on it.

Qualifications Desired:

  • Ability to navigate state register online
  • Interest in aquatic invasive species regulations
  • Familiarity with state rulemaking process – or desire to learn about it!

Time Commitment:

  • Volunteer any day Monday-Thursday between the hours of 10 AM - 3 PM
  • 5-10 hours per week
  • It will take approximately 40 hours to complete the project
  • Training will be provided


  • Receive mileage for driving into the office
  • Lunch will be provided (in our cafeteria) for days when you volunteer at least 4 hours that extend over the lunch hour.


For more information contact Kelly Pennington, Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Consultant, St Paul at 651-259-5131 or email kelly.pennington@state.mn.us

You can learn more about the infested waters list here: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/ais/infested.html.


pulling garlic mustardOut with the Bad and In with the Good!

(Metro Area and Central MN)

Get your hands dirty!
Help us pull (bad) invasive plants and buckthorn saplings out of the ground so we can make way to put in (good) native plants that wildlife need for food and shelter!


Located along an interesting river terrace, just below Mounds Parks and Warner Rd in St Paul, DNR staff will provide direction as to where and what needs to be done.


What do I bring?
Bring your own gloves, hand trowels and pointed spades (shovels) to remove invasive plants like garlic mustard that tend to multiply and choke out the desired native plants. We have cleared much of the mature buckthorn, but we need to keep pulling saplings that sprout from the seed bank.


Who can volunteer?
Volunteer groups of 5 to 30 people are needed for 2-6 hours. Time can be scheduled any day of the week. Volunteers must be physically capable of working on uneven ground and plant identification skills are helpful, but not required.Volunteers must be willing to use an insect repellant containing Deet.


How do I sign up?
For more information on how you can get involved, contact Gina Bonsignore, DNR Regional Planner, 1200 Warner Rd, St Paul, MN 55106 at651-259-5809 or email Regina.bonsignore@state.mn.us


person smilingInterpretive Center Greeter at Sibley State Park

(Southern MN)

Do you find yourself happy to be at state park and can’t stop smiling? Then the Interpretive Center Greeter is the volunteer position for you!

The center gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Sibley State Parks resources through interactive displays as well as observe wildlife in the back pond. Greeters would be the smiling face visitors see when entering the center and would be available to help check out equipment and answer questions. Shifts can range from 2 – 6 hours.

Our goal is to have the building open 7 days a week with the focus on longer open hours Friday-Sunday. Volunteers will greet visitors and answer basic park questions. Training will be provided. Naturalists will be in charge of opening, closing and cleaning the center.

For more information on how you can be a host, contact Kelsey Olson, Lead Naturalist, Sibley State Park, 800 Sibley Park Rd NE, New London, MN 56273 at 320-354-2002 or email Kelsey.olson@state.mn.us


  • From St. Cloud, take State Hwy 23 to New London, then State Hwy 9 west to County Rd. 40. Then go west on County Rd. 40. Go one mile north on 71 to park entrance.
  • From Willmar, take US Hwy 71 north, 15 miles to the park entrance.


girl with fishShare Nature at Lake Carlos State Park

(Central MN)

Get involved as a volunteer in a variety of recreational activities scheduled this summer at Lake Carlos State Park:

  • Kids and Family Programs: Help run or instruct one of the multiple stations set up during our larger events (like National Get Outdoors Day) or help out with one of the many weekly programs (weekends and some weekdays available.) Topics vary from wetland ecology and mammals to history. Props and outlines for instruction will be provided. These nature-based programs make visits meaningful and will ultimately impact the way children and their families value our natural resources. Public speaking and/or experience presenting nature-based programs is desired.
  • Fishing Frenzy Fridays: Promote fishing and caring for our water resources by working with children and/or families to teach the basic skills of fishing including:
    • safety
    • line casting
    • knot tying
    • baiting hooks
    • taking fish off the hook
    • identifying fish species and their habitats.

One to two volunteers will help instruct and oversee a small group of participants during shoreline fishing scheduled for Fridays during the summer, June 10 through August 26, 2016.

  • Wood Working and Other Projects: Help us plan, measure, cut, and construct items like traveling desks, tree cookies, lantern boxes, bird feeder kits, and more from June - August. Skills and experience in construction and wood working is desired.
  • Staff Visitor Center:
    • Welcome visitors
    • Answer questions about the park and displays in the center
    • Training provided
    • All days of the week including weekends
    • 2.5 hours per day
    • Volunteer at least 1 day/week
    • Need to be familiar with Lake Carlos State Park, its trails, and other things to do in the park.
    • Public speaking or ability to work with a variety of visitors with a wide range of questions is desired.


For more information contact Ben Eckhoff, Naturalist, Lake Carlos State Park, 2601 County Road 38 NE, Carlos, MN 56319 at (320) 852-7471 or email Benjamin.Eckhoff@state.mn.us

Directions to Lake Carlos State Park: The park entrance is located 10 miles north of Alexandria on State Highway 29, then 2 miles west on Highway 38.


lake scenePreserving Historic Water Conservation Plans

(Metro and Central MN)

Use your computer skills to help us convert paper files into electronic files of historic water conservation plans and information on specific water bodies in the metro area such as Lake Owasso, Spring Lake and Long Lake.

These files are important to keep as a reference for current and future inquiries of permitting actions to use surface or groundwater, build or remove dams, remove nuisance aquatic plants or fishes, and other related work.

Volunteer to:

  • Sort
  • Scan
  • Upload files
  • Create files
  • PDF maintenance
  • Assist in developing overall procedures and naming conventions
  • Possibly train others in maintaining the system since this is an ongoing process

Qualifications needed:

  • You must be detail oriented
  • Able to work independently
  • Make decisions
  • Take the lead on these projects

Time Commitment:

  • 5-15 hours per week
  • All work must take place at the DNR Central Region Office, 1200 Warner Rd, St Paul, MN 55106
  • You may select any day Monday – Friday between the hours of 9 AM - 3 PM.
  • Days and hours are flexible, but the scanning portion of this work is preferred around lunch hours and Friday afternoons when demand in the office for the equipment is low.
  • Training will be provided.

If interested, please send a formal letter of interest (via email) outlining any past experience you have that may be relevant. Email to Lindsey Peterson, Ecological & Water Resources Division, at lindsey.peterson@state.mn.us You may call 651-259-5771 with further questions.


fishing on pierLead a Summer Fishing Program – Fridays or Saturdays, June - August

(Northeastern MN)

Five state parks in the northeast region of Minnesota are looking for volunteers to lead fishing programs this summer. All of these parks have a large fishing pier and all the equipment needed to get visitors of all ages hooked on fishing!

These programs are typically set up as 2-hour "roving" programs meaning you are available for any visitors that show up to the pier looking to fish during that time. Only one volunteer is needed per program, but teaming up with a friend or family member is welcome! Training will be provided, so little experience is necessary.

Duties include:

  • welcoming people to the park and introducing them to fishing
  • rigging fishing poles (being able to tie and bait hooks)
  • holding and unhooking/releasing fish
  • answering questions about fish ID, basic fish ecology/biology, tackle uses, and other fishing opportunities in Minnesota.

Qualifications needed:

  • Some experience fishing and understanding of fish ecology/biology is preferred
  • A passion for the outdoors and excitement to share it with others!

Time Commitment:

  • Fridays or Saturdays
  • June, July and August with the option for other times throughout the year.
  • 2 hours roving the fishing pier helping visitors

All bait will either be provided or you will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses to cover this. Mileage reimbursement is negotiable.

State Parks looking for help:

  • Bear Head Lake State Park
    9301 Bear Head State Park Road
    Ely, MN 55731
  • McCarthy Beach State Park
    7622 McCarthy Beach Road
    Side Lake, MN 55781
  • Moose Lake State Park
    4252 County Road 137
    Moose Lake, MN 55767
  • Savanna Portage State Park
    55626 Lake Place
    McGregor, MN 55760
  • Scenic State Park
    56956 Scenic Hwy 7
    Bigfork, MN 56628

For more information contact Kacie Carlson, Northeast Regional Naturalist, 1201 E Hwy 2, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 at 218-328-8989 or email Kacie.Carlson@state.mn.us


people on bikesBe a State Trail Monitor

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Help keep Minnesota’s State Trails beautiful by volunteering as a State Trail Monitor!  Not only will you be able to spend time outside on the scenic state trails, but you will also be making a difference!

Learn more about volunteering with Minnesota's State Trails!


campground hostsCampground Host at a MN State Park

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic vistas, and the company of other campers, then consider volunteering to be a "live in" host for at least 4 weeks (one month) during the period of April to October at a Minnesota State Park operated campground.

A host's primary responsibility is to assist campers by:

  • answering questions
  • explaining campground
  • performing light maintenance work around the campground
  • picking up litter
  • sweeping and stocking supplies in toilet buildings
  • making emergency minor repairs when possible.

Hosts may be requested to assist in the naturalist program by posting and distributing schedules, publicizing programs or helping with programs. Volunteers will set an example by being model campers, practicing good housekeeping at all times in and around the host site, and by observing all rules.

Check the list of Minnesota State Parks looking for Campground Hosts for 2016.

Campground Host volunteers generally work independently. Volunteers are accountable to the park manager who will provide training and orientation for hosts and assist hosts throughout the season with any question or problems that may arise. Length of period, workdays and hours are established with the campground manager, but will generally include all weekends and holidays. Avid campers or RV'ers are encouraged to apply!

Read more about the Campground Host Program. Email your questions to campground.host@state.mn.us or call 888- MINNDNR (888-646-6367) or in the Metro area call 651-259-5607.

Campground Hosts will be selected from applications that have been satisfactorily completed and submitted in a timely manner. Interviews will be conducted by the campground manager. The number of consecutive years that a host may serve may be limited to allow others an opportunity. These limitations are at the discretion of the campground manager. All DNR volunteers must undergo a background check. This is done at the time of selection. This also applies to hosts returning from the previous season.


kids planting treesGet Physical on a State Natural Area

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

As part of a typical volunteer workday on a MN Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) you will:  

  • collect prairie and woodland seeds
  • plant seedlings
  • pull buckthorn or other invasive species of plants
  • cut and burn brush such as sumac


 Projects are typically carried out on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, unless otherwise noted, on many weekends throughout the year.

 SNAs are the premier state lands displaying examples of native prairies, old growth forests, geological features and habitat for rare and endangered species. 

Take a look at volunteering on SNAs, and check out the calendar of events to see when you can come lend a hand!


minnesota master naturalist logoEnjoy Nature as a Master Naturalist

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

If you enjoy learning about nature, hiking, birdwatching, or identifying wildflowers, you'll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer!

Take trainings and learn about Minnesota's biomes (plant and animal communities) including:

  • hardwoods and rivers
  • north woods and Great Lakes
  • prairies

To learn more visit www.MinnesotaMasterNaturalist.org .

The Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is a joint effort of the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


lake level mnLake Level Minnesota volunteering… doing your level best!

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)

Whether it is floods, droughts, or just a normal year, lake level fluctuations (or the lack of them) are important to document. Be a volunteer observer and record lake levels on a regular basis.

Find out more about the Lake Level Minnesota program and Check lake levels with the LakeFinder.


loonVolunteer Loon Watcher Survey

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)

If you live on a lake or regularly visit a lake, and you have an interest in loons, you can be a volunteer "loon watcher" in the Minnesota Volunteer LoonWatcher Survey.

As a Loon Watcher you will record:

  • the number of loons you see
  • nesting success observed in eggs and young birds
  • interesting occurrences and
  • problems that may harm the loons.

For more information about the Minnesota Volunteer LoonWatcher Survey contact Kevin Woizeschke at Kevin.Woizeschke@state.mn.us or 218-203-4371.


zebra musselsZebra Mussel Monitoring Program

(NE, NW, Southern, Metro area and Central MN)

Zebra mussels are spreading to lakes and rivers in the Midwest.

These small invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces in lakes and rivers doing major damage such as:

  • killing native mussels
  • limiting recreational activities
  • clogging water supply pipes
  • competing with larval fish for food

Spend a few minutes checking the docks, swimming platforms, boats, motors, anchors, and any hard objects that have been in the lake or river where you live. Early detection for zebra mussels is important in protecting your property and Minnesota's water resources.

Learn more on how you can monitor for zebra mussels.


firearms safety classVolunteer Safety Instructors – Firearms, Bow, ATV, Snowmobile

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Consider becoming a Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor in Firearms, Bowhunter Education, Snowmobile, ATV, or Wildlife Species!

Pass on a love for your sport by teaching youth and adults the ethics and safety you would expect from those you meet in the field.

During the instructor training, applicants will learn about:

  • policy and procedures
  • teaching concepts
  • use of training aids
  • youth classroom training techniques

Check current certified volunteer instructor classes or sign up for our instructor e-mail list to receive notification of any additional instructor training sessions.

All new instructor applicants and instructors seeking recertification must meet the requirements of being at least 18 years old and passing a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) background check. All applicants for any of the DNR safety programs must also complete the forms online and attend a volunteer instructor training course. There is no fee to attend.

If you are interested in becoming a DNR Certified Volunteer Safety Instructor, the process begins online: Get started now! And check out upcoming safety instructor courses.


making cookiesMake 100 Tree Cookies

(Metro and Central MN, NW, NE, and Southern MN)

Help classroom teachers across Minnesota teach children how trees and other woody plants grow, factors that affect tree growth, tree identification, and more. You can volunteer to create "tree cookies" which are slices of branches or trunks that show the rings of a tree. 100 cookies are enough for about three classes of students, so the more you can make, the better. They will be used!

How to Make Tree Cookies:

  • Slice the branches or trunk into half-inch thick, wafer-shaped "cookies" that are between three to six inches in diameter.
  • "Interesting" cookies with easily readable rings are preferred (these show a history of disease, disturbance, or other story.)
  • Dry the cookies correctly. Do not skip this step or your cookies will rot. See detailed instructions.
  • Sand the surfaces until the rings appear.
  • Finish the surfaces with clear varnish.
  • Optional - Label the cookie with the tree species and location cut.
  • Don't use wood from ash trees.

Detailed instructions found in Tree Cookies - How to Make Your Own This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.

This project can be done individually or with a group (scouts, 4-H, FFA, Kiwanis, etc.) You must provide your own tree or woody plant material, saws, sander, oven, varnish, and labor.

When finished contact Laura Duffey, Project Learning Tree Coordinator, at 651-259-5263 or email laura.duffey@state.mn.us to arrange for delivery to a school site and to get Minnesota DNR recognition.

Project Learning Tree (PLT) program is a natural resources education program for teachers across Minnesota. Teachers often don't have the time or capability to make these cookies so your help is greatly appreciated.