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Florida Master Naturalist Program

Florida Master Naturalist Program

Who We Are

Dr. Martin Main

Program Leader

Dr. Main began developing the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) in 1999 following a 1998 south Florida eco-heritage workshop. He realized the great need for a professional development education program on Florida's natural history. "I believe that most people are genuinely interested and concerned about nature, and that as they learn more, their level of interest and concern increases. I was surprised, however, at the tremendous response to the FMNP, which I think is a very good indication that Floridians will work hard to ensure healthy environments, clean water, and diverse wildlife are available for future generations to enjoy."

Dr. Main has since contributed to the development of Master Naturalist programs in many other states and has won many awards. He is a Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida.


Shelby Sowder

FMNP Registrar

Shelby and the UF/IFAS Office of Conferences and Institutes have worked with the FMNP since the first class launched in 2001. Shelby ensures that all registrations, finances, class logistics, and course materials are in order. She coordinates with FMNP instructors to post current course offerings and assist participants with the course registration process. Shelby’s professionalism and enthusiasm make her an instrumental partner in the success of the FMNP.

Caitlin Robison

FMNP Program Coordinator

Caitlin executes all program logistics in the state FMNP office. Her regular tasks include general operations, supporting the instructor network, managing website data, tracking program impacts, and other projects. Caitlin holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Anthropology from Rollins College, and a M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida. She is also a registered yoga teacher!

Advisory Board

The FMNP Advisory Board (FAB) serves to guide the FMNP towards fulfilling its mission of promoting awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida's natural world among Florida's citizens and visitors. The Board is composed of 18 dedicated instructors and graduates that are passionate about the Florida Master Naturalist Program.

Chad Truxall, FAB President

Chad Truxall is the Executive Director of the Marine Discovery Center (with responsibility for implementing the organization’s mission to protect and restore Florida’s coastal ecosystems. Prior to his role as Executive Director, Truxall served as the Director of Programs for MDC and was responsible for developing and implementing hands on, feet-wet education and conservation programs. Truxall holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation with a specialization in Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida and has more than 20 years of experience as a biologist, educator and non-profit manager.

He is a Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) lead instructor and serves on several boards including the FMNP Advisory board, New Smyrna Beach Areas Visitors Bureau, and the Association of Nature Center Administrators. Chad is a Florida native and resides in Port Orange, FL with his wife, daughter, 2 cats, and 2 Labrador Retrievers.

Sarah Falkowski, FAB Vice President

Sarah Falkowski is the Education Coordinator for Rookery Bay Reserve. Sarah manages the Education Department, including K-12 field trips, as well as naturalist and public programs at the Environmental Learning Center, within the 110,000-acre Reserve.  She creates the calendar of events and trains interpretative volunteers, in addition to serving as the Reserve’s education liaison with the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center Network.

Her credentials include Certified Instructor for the Florida Master Naturalist Program, Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation, and proud graduate of Leadership Collier, Class of 2015. 


Amanda Thompson, FAB Past-President

Amanda grew up in Ontario, Canada, just an hour outside of Toronto. For the last 18 years, Amanda has been immersed in learning, training, and developing environmental education programs for a wide variety of audiences. Throughout her professional life, she continues to build long-lasting and meaningful partnerships with like-minded organizations. Amanda is a lead Florida Master Naturalist Instructor and a Certified Interpretive Host, Heritage Interpreter, and an Interpretive Trainer for NAI. 

Thompson earned her bachelor’s from the University of Guelph in Cultural Anthropology and finds that she uses her degree every day to help connect people to the natural world around them. Thompson graduated from Unity College with a M.S. in Wildlife Management & Conservation at the end of 2023. 

Carrie Stevenson, Northwest FL Representative

Carrie Stevenson is the Coastal Sustainability Agent IV for the UF/IFAS Escambia County Extension Office. She has been with the organization since 2003. Her educational outreach focuses on preservation of local habitats and water resources, stormwater management, and preparation and mitigation for flooding, coastal storms, and sea level rise. She is a lead instructor with the Florida Master Naturalist Program and a prolific writer for Extension blogs and newsletters. Carrie holds a MS in biology/Coastal Zone Studies from the University of West Florida and a BS in Marine Science from Samford University. She is a Fellow in the Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) and Southern Region Representative for the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals (ANREP).

Victor Blanco, North Central FL Representative

Victor Blanco has a Bachelor's Degree in Marine Biology from Universidad de Oriente (UDO), Venezuela (1999). Master's Degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida, along with a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Education and Communication (2022). His major projects have focused on biodiversity conservation, fisheries, island and coastal management, natural resources management, climate change, sustainable development, rural development, and ecology. Since 2016, Victor has been working for Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida IFAS Extension Services as the Taylor County Marine Extension Agent. Victor is a Florida Master Naturalist Lead Instructor for Coastal Systems and Marine Habitat Restoration.

Kelly Ussia, Northeast FL Representative

Kelly Ussia is the Supervisor of Outdoor Recreation for St. Johns County Parks and Recreation. She runs a wide variety of public programs including but not limited to kayaking, beach walks, archery, summer camp, fishing, and paddle boarding. She has worked for St. Johns County since 2015 and has helped to grow their programming team. Her undergraduate education is in Biology (BS) and Environmental Studies (BA) both from Florida Gulf Coast University. She has also received her master’s in Parks Recreation and Tourism Management from Clemson University.

Jason Robertshaw, Central West FL Representative

Jason is the Program Manager for Virtual Learning at Mote Marine Laboratory. He is the technical director for virtual learning connections and the multimedia producer for content. He also manages various educational technologies like Mote's distance learning studios. Prior to Mote, Jason worked in public television and in environmental project management for the state of Florida. He is currently the web developer for the Florida Marine Science Educators Association, a FMSEA/FWC Aquatic Species Collection Workshop instructor. Jason is a certified Florida Master Naturalist and Instructor and serves as the Central West representative on the FMNP advisory board.

Jennifer Hunt, Central FL Representative

Born and raised in Winter Garden, FL. Jennifer has close ties to the Oakland Nature Preserve where she serves as Managing Director. Jennifer holds a master’s degree in Zoology with a focus on conservation and inquiry-based education from Miami University located in Oxford, Ohio. While completing her degree Jennifer had the opportunity to study coastal ecosystems in Belize, high desert systems and whale sharks in Baja, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Previously she served as Lead Environmental Educator where she developed new programs while leading a wonderful team of educators. Jennifer also has a great love of music, and in the past, has served as a Director of Music.

Sara Piotter, Central East FL Representative

Sara is Senior Environmental Educator at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), a non-profit nature center located on a lush mangrove island within the central Indian River Lagoon. Her absolute favorite part of working at the ELC is helping others strengthen their relationship with nature. Through education programs, eco-tours, community events, interpretive media, and educational displays, Sara is able to share her love of nature in many different ways while serving at the ELC. In her free time, she enjoys cooking spicy food, tending to her army of houseplants, listening to live music, and all things nature - especially searching Florida’s trails for Palmetto Tortoise Beetles!

Kate Rose, Southwest FL Representative

Despite growing up in New Jersey, Kate became acquainted with South Florida waters when she earned her open water scuba certification in Key Largo at age 10. A life long gator fan, Kate attended the University of Florida, earning her B.S. in Marine Science and M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic sciences.  Her thesis focused on the effects of trap confinement on stone crabs but she also has experience with sponge restoration following cyanobacteria blooms in Florida Bay and small scale tilapia aquaculture in Belize. As a student Kate earned several awards and Grants for her work including the ET York Junior Medal of Excellence from the College and Agricultural and Life sciences and the Outstanding 4 Year Scholar Award from the UF Alumni Association and Honors Program. Kate is a Lead FMNP Instructor in Charlotte County. When not at work, she can be found singing along to Broadway showtunes. 

Kristen Hoss, SE FL Representative

Kristen is an educator and ecological consultant who teaches FMNP in Broward County, produces in-school environmental and science education programs, and provides expertise for ecological surveys and monitoring. She has a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, a Masters in Conservation Ecology and Wildlife Sciences. and over 30 years of experience in the field of ecology (inclusive of marine, aquatic and terrestrial) and the management of natural areas and wildlife. Kristen’s passion is making a difference in people's lives, to the environment and to wildlife through working and partnering with like–minded people and organizations that share her vision of promoting sustainability through self-empowerment and education. Kristen’s work has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, Wildlife Views TV program, the Pompano Forum, The Pelican, the Miami Herald, Poder and By the Sea Times.

Graduate Representatives

Mary Calo, Central West Region, St. Lucie County

Mary-Ellen Boelhower, Central West Region, Sarasota County

Bob Creedon, Central East Region, Volusia County


Presidents Emeritus

Katherine Clements (2020-2023), Sarasota County Extension

Carol Wyninger (2018-2019), Duval County 

Jeanne Murphy (2013-2018), Sensing Nature LLC


Training Partners

We greatly appreciate the organizations that have formed partnerships with the University of Florida/IFAS to offer Florida Master Naturalist Program classes through their facilities.

FMNP courses are posted throughout the year, so while you may not see courses on our schedule in your area at the moment, that doesn't mean one won't be held soon. If there are no classes listed in our schedule for your area, contact your local Instructor Team via the list of regions on the Course Locations page