Restoration Stewards

Restoration Stewards at The Morton Arboretum

Ecological restoration provides many benefits to the environment, such as biodiversity and wildlife habitat. It also has benefits for our communities, such as cleaner air and reduced flooding. You can help The Morton Arboretum do this important work.

The Arboretum is grateful for the many volunteers who work to restore and manage its natural areas

The Woodland Stewardship Program is for those who are ready to be trained for more hands-on work with a deeper understanding. Stewards are volunteers who help keep woodlands and other natural communities healthy. They learn about natural systems so that they can work independently under the guidance of a natural areas manager.  This program covers practical techniques such as plant identification and invasive species management, as well as broad principles of ecology, conservation, and restoration.  



Offered through the Natural History department of The Morton Arboretum's Education Program, the program teaches practical skills you can put to use in the field. The program generally takes one year to complete. You will:

  • Understand the natural communities of Northern Illinois.
  • Learn how to manage, conserve and restore natural communities.
  • Improve your communication and teamwork skills.
  • Lead others.
  • Learn and work alongside other people who care about woodlands.
  • Gain skills and knowledge you can put to work in other restoration projects.
  • Take action to preserve woodlands, prairies, and wetlands!


No previous experience or knowledge is required. You do need:

Commitment. We want people who are willing to act as stewards of natural communities within the Arboretum or other local preserves.

Physical ability. Stewardship activities are physically demanding.  You must be in good health, willing to work outdoors in all weather conditions, and comfortable walking over uneven terrain, bending, lifting, and pulling.

A cooperative attitude. We need people who will cooperate with Arboretum personnel, other stewards, and visitors of the Arboretum.

Program Outline

Students receive a broad overview of ideas and practices that will help them participate in ecological restoration activities. Courses are led by teachers experienced in the fields of natural areas management and conservation. All courses require time outside of class for reading and work assignments. Major concepts include:

  • Principles of ecology, conservation, and restoration
  • Plant identification
  • Techniques to manage pests and invasive species
  • Strategies and techniques for management of local ecosystems
  • Practical approaches for organizing natural areas management

There are two levels of Woodland Steward certification:

Level 1. Steward: Work independently to help manage and conserve woodlands, prairies and wetlands at the Arboretum or in the region.

Level 2. Steward Supervisor: Lead others in managing natural areas through additional training.

To maintain Steward or Steward Supervisor status, stewards must complete 30 hours of volunteer service per calendar year in natural areas management or education at The Morton Arboretum or at another approved local natural area.

Download the complete program outline  Woodland Steward Program

Stewardship Activities

While you are participating in the program, stewards agree to become Arboretum volunteers and put your newly acquired knowledge to use in our natural areas. You can participate in a variety of meaningful projects, meet like-minded people who share your concern for our woodlands, and enjoy opportunities to learn in the field from Arboretum experts. Opportunities at The Morton Arboretum vary and are available seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Potential projects include:

  • Scouting for and controlling invasive species
  • Collecting seeds from native plants
  • Planting native plants
  • Leading volunteer work groups or education groups in restoration projects

Apply Now!

There is no charge to enroll in the Woodland Stewardship Program, but there are fees for each class in the program.

Step 1: Please complete the Online Volunteer Application

If you have questions about the Volunteer Application, contact the Volunteer Office at 630–719-2443 or email Volunteer@mortonarb.org.

Step 2: Register for classes. While there is no charge to enroll in the Woodland Stewardship Program, there are fees for all classes. Find current classes

More Aboretum education

The Arboretum also offers other educational opportunities that would be helpful background for volunteers and others working in conservation and restoration. 

Arboretum Programs in Natural History Education

Naturalist Certificate Program

Ornithology Certificate Program

Nature Photography Certificate Program 

Cooperative College Botany Program

The Arboretum thanks the following sponsor for supporting our Woodland Stewardship Program