The Ecology and Natural Resources Education Program fosters connections with and conservation of our ecosystems, through education about the area’s diverse natural resources.

Areas of focus

Click on a program below to learn more about it (show all items).

  • Multiple public programs for youth and adults regarding conservation and wildlife
    • Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP)
    • Suncoast Master Naturalist chapter
    • Project WILD trainings, partner with Fla. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
    • “Learning in Florida's Environment” (LIFE), partnering with Florida State Parks and Friends of Florida State Parks.

      Our free "Learning in Florida’s Environment" (LIFE) program brings students to public conservation lands for science-based environmental education, reinforcing existing Florida curricula and science standards. Available to students in grades 4-5 (with future plans to expand to grades 6-8), schools pay only the cost to provide transportation and lunch for their students.

      Through LIFE, students take part in three field excursions each school year, acting as wildlife biologists, ornithologists, entomologists, marine scientists, horticulturalists, and other roles that bring science and scientific careers closer to them. Labs also may address local environmental issues and how students can affect change.

      Current field locations for our LIFE program include:

      • Myakka River State Park (freshwater – in the fall);
      • Oscar Scherer State Park (uplands – in the winter); and
      • Lemon Bay Preserve (coastal – in the spring).

      UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County and Sarasota County School District staff have collaborated to modify a program launched in 2004 and originally intended for grades 6-8 to make it accessible and meaningful also for grades 4-5. Teachers in the program receive an e-book guide developed for each module, complete with background information and post-trip literacy extensions for the classroom.

      The non-profit Friends of Florida State Parks organization supervises the LIFE program, originally developed in 2004 by the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection. UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County delivers the program in Sarasota County.

  • Presentations, information, or assistance
    • Promoting backyard wildlife habitats and creating wildlife corridors
    • Human-wildlife interactions and minimizing nuisance wildlife issues
    • Native and invasive plants in natural areas





Suncoast chapter of Master Naturalists

Master Naturalist graduates of Charlotte and Sarasota County: Come one, come all! Are you interested in forming a Suncoast regional Master Naturalist chapter? Are you interested in attending exciting educational outings with other Master Naturalists? Would you like an opportunity to share what you have learned with others by volunteering to assist with environmental education programs? Have you graduated from at least one Master Naturalist


Herbal medicine: old or new?

Ever try Echinacea to help your immune system? Or St.John's wort for your mood? Or chamomile to help you relax? Then you have used a form of medicine that's been around for more than 5,000 years. There is a "new" – or should I say, "re-newed" – interest in the "old" traditions of using plants for healing. Until the mid-1900s, herbal medicine was one of the primary forms of health care in America. According to research,


Alligators: nuisance or neighbors?

Sarasota County has seen a recent increase in alligator encounters. Why, you may ask? Not only is there approximately one alligator per every 20 humans in Florida and they live in all 67 Florida counties, but alligators are currently looking for mates and water sources. (We are still in a drought even with these recent rains!) What should you do? Be Alligator Smart! Don't feed alligators. They're not meant to