Registration is now closed for the 2021 Volcano Naturalist Program. If you would like to be notified when registration opens for the 2022 program, complete this form:

Become an expert on the volcano in our backyard as a Volcano Naturalist at Mount St. Helens. The Volcano Naturalist Program is a 12-week certification course offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute. Participants in this program will explore diverse aspects of the natural and cultural history of Mount St. Helens.

Each class takes an in-depth look at a different subject, including:

  • The mountain’s eruptive history
  • The ecology of the blast zone
  • The cultural history of Mount St. Helens
  • And much more! 

Classes are led by instructors who are experts in the field. With 36 hours of virtual classroom instruction, and two hands-on field trips, participants leave the class not only as a certified Volcano Naturalist, but with a greater understanding and appreciation for the powerful geological and ecological forces at play in our community.

"Without exception, every speaker was worth the commitment. I feel very fortunate to have learned from top scientists, journalists, and conservationists who have dedicated much of their adult lives to the mountain.”

-2019 participant

The Volcano Naturalist Program is hosted by the Mount St. Helens Institute with the support of community, university, and government partners including the U.S. Forest Service.


Registration is now closed for the 2021 program. If you would like to be notified when registration opens for the 2022 program, complete this form

What’s different about the program in 2021?

Evening classes will be held virtually over Zoom.

  • We’re taking extra steps to ensure virtual classes are engaging, informative, and enjoyable. 
  • You can sign up no matter where you live! 

We’re taking COVID-19 precautions for field trips:

  • Field trips are optional in 2021. Everyone is encouraged to attend, but participants can still achieve certification without them.
  • Each field trip will be offered twice, on subsequent Saturdays. Each field trip will be split up into smaller groups of no more than 10 participants.
  • Everyone must complete a COVID-19 screening form the morning of the trip.
  • Those from separate households must maintain 6’ of distance whenever possible.
  • Participants are required to bring a face covering, and properly wear when physical distancing is not possible.

Course Schedule:

The 2021 program will run from February 2nd - May 4th

  • Virtual Evening Classes: Every Tuesday from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM PST
    • No class March 16th and April 27th
  • Optional In-Person Field Trips: To keep everyone safe, you can choose from one of two dates for each trip , and space is limited. Participants share their date preferences at registration.
    • Field Trip #1 - Geological History at Ape Cave: Saturdays March 13th or 20th
    • Field Trip #2 - Blast Zone Ecology at Hummocks Trail: Saturdays April 24th or May 1st

Course Fee & Registration Dates

  • Early bird registration: $370 until 11:59pm PST Thursday December 31st, 2020
  • Regular registration: $395 until registration closes 11:59pm PST Sunday January 24th, 2021
    • *Registration fee includes course materials and book mailed to participants

Course Requirements:

  • Anyone who is interested in learning more about Mount St. Helens is welcome to register as a participant. No prior knowledge of natural history is needed by participants, as all that is needed is a willingness to learn.
  • Volcano Naturalist Program participants must be at least 18 years of age, or at least 14 years of age if participating along with an adult.
  • Field trip participants must be able to walk 3 miles on uneven, unpaved surface while carrying 10 lbs, and must provide their own transportation to and from the site.


Volcano Naturalists must complete a minimum of 30 hours of instruction (not including field trips) to receive their certification. Participants who need to miss more than two classes should contact the facilitator before registering to make sure that they will meet the minimum hour requirements.

Volunteer Commitment:

This year, volunteering is optional. While participants are encouraged to volunteer, we recognize volunteering may not be an option for everyone right now. Historically, upon completion of the Volcano Naturalist Certification Program, participants have been required to volunteer a minimum of 40 volunteer hours with the Mount St. Helens Institute during the year following their certification.  
Mount St. Helens Institute volunteers support education, safety, and stewardship of Mount St. Helens in a variety of exciting assignments, which are flexible as far as interest, ability, and availability. Learn more about volunteer assignments with the Mount St. Helens Institute online here.

Participant Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify geological and ecological forces of Mount St. Helens.
  • Describe the nature of Mount St. Helens’ dynamic landscape.
  • Relate the natural and cultural history of Mount St. Helens to others using interpretive methods.

Download a printable flyer HERE.

Clock hours may be available for teachers through OSPI.

For more information contact: Sarah Philips, Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager, at sarah@mshinstitute.org or call (360) 784-2108.