NTAE: Alabama Naturalist & Underserved Communities Feature

Educators at Alabama Cooperative Extension System have launched a free online, asynchronous component of their “Alabama Master Naturalist” certification course. This publication talks about initial results of this new layer of naturalist training has helped the program reach underserved communities. The publication is excerpted from the New Technologies for Ag Extension 2022-2023 Yearbook, which documents dozens of projects funded through the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) program. NTAE is a cooperative agreement between USDA NIFA, Oklahoma State University, and the Extension Foundation. The goal of the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) grant is to incubate, accelerate, and expand promising work that will increase the impact of the Cooperative Extension System (CES) in the communities it serves, and provide models that can be adopted or adapted by Extension teams across the nation. This work is supported by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Grant projects improve human, environmental, and community health.


Welcome. “Alabama Master Naturalist” is a publication of the New Technol- ogies for Ag Extension (NTAE) program. This publication celebrates the accomplishments of a team at Alabama Cooperative Extension System, which received funding for this project in 2022-2023. NTAE is a grant program generously supported by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and administered through a partnership between Oklahoma State University and the Extension Foundation (EXF). The primary objective of NTAE is to provide financial assistance to competitively selected Extension programs that align with the strategic goal and priority program areas of the USDA and the Extension Com- mittee on Organization and Policy (ECOP). Through this support, NTAE helps teams catalyze, accelerate, and expand their work in their respective fields. Since its inception in 2019, the NTAE program has successfully funded and supported a total of 72 projects and leaders. This includes collaborations with all Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) and ECOP Program Action Teams (PATs). Selected programs receive support for a period of one year. The project leader and their team are provided with invaluable mentoring from a team of catalysts, key infor- mants, and coaches from the EXF. This customized and innovative support model assists teams in exploring new possibilities, enhancing the intended impact of their projects, and sharing their work with a national audience. Additionally, each team receives additional resources and support to create materials and experiences that speed the development of their projects and bring about desired changes. The project showcased in this publication reflects the diversity and breadth of Extension disciplinary work and programming. In this publication, you will gain deeper insights into this exciting project, including the lessons learned, the project’s significance for Extension in a broader context, and what lies ahead for the team.

4 WAYS TO USE THIS PUBLICATION. 1. BE INSPIRED . Use our model to empower people in underserved communities in your state or region. 2. ADVOCATE. Show this publication to your Extension Director and talk about how to use your educators’ expertise to enhance your institution’s public outreach. 3. SHARE. Share this publication with potential community partners who could help you build and scale a public-facing program. 4. GIVE FEEDBACK. Did this publication inform your Extension work? Share what you’ve


Editorial Staff Julie Halverson Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith Heather Martin Design & Production Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith Ellen P. Krugel Heather Martin


Wesley Anderson Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist, Alabama Extension Bence Carter Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Extension Emily Bornstein Administrator, Outreach Programs, Alabama Extension Kerry Steedley Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Extension

© Extension Foundation Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommer- cial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Published by Extension Foundation. Citations for this publication may be made using the following: Kansas City: Extension Foundation (2022). Alabama Master Naturalist (1st ed). ISBN: 978-1-955687-33-1. This work, ISBN 978-1-955687-33-1, is supported by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020- 41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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THE IMPETUS Alabama ranks fourth in terms of biodiversity in the United States but also is threatened by a high rate of species endangerment and possible extinction. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) believes there’s an untapped segment of the state’s population that can help ad- dress this environmental challenge. THE WORK ACES took a big step toward this goal in summer 2023 by rolling out the free online, asynchronous compo- nent of its “Alabama Master Natural- ist” certification course. The curriculum team relaunched with free webinars in 2021 and in-person field days in 2022, lowering the participation barrier for a wider range of potential volunteers. Limited scholarships are currently available to cover the course cost for participants, which further lowers the participation barrier. Alabama Master Naturalist & Underserved Communities Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES)

WITH NTAE GRANT SUPPORT The team conducted 14 field days in Alabama state parks in two months, reaching and collecting data from 99 unique participants. These early efforts have highlighted the need to engage underserved communities. Funds from the NTAE grant are also being directly used to fund scholarships to broaden participation. THE VISION ACES hopes to create a robust corps of well-informed volunteers around the state who educate their commu- nities about Alabama’s considerable natural resources and how to pre- serve them.

“This project adapts Extension’s legendary ability to educate and support volunteers. Master Naturalists will expand the team’s work and deepen the understanding of Alabamians about their natural treasures while protecting and enhancing their contribution to quality

of life for all.” —Dr. Scott Reed, NTAE Catalyst

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