Extension Logo
Extension Logo
University of Minnesota Extension

Minnesota Master Naturalist: Prairies and Potholes

Event information



Central time


Cowling Arboretum
710 Three Oaks Drive
Northfield, MN 55057


Jim Platt, 651-434-8176 or jimtplatt@gmail.com

Discover the Prairies and Potholes biome at the beautiful Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Learn about the physical landscape, plants, animals and history of the biome, while exploring the Arboretum’s unique and wonderfully diverse 800 acre site that includes restored prairies and oak savanna, upland and floodplain forests, marshes and the Cannon River.

Gain valuable knowledge and a deeper appreciation of the intricate interplay between the prairie landscape and the plant and animal life found there while learning the tools and techniques to help you share your interest in the natural world with others. 

Guest instructors will expand on the basic curriculum, allowing us to get deeper into selected topics. Each evening will be a mix of classroom and field activities. All participants will contribute to a group capstone service project that will be explained in class.

  • The course will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 20 to July 27, 2023.
  • Field trips will be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16, 9a.m.-5 p.m.

Planned site visits include Blue Mounds State Park, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit of the Northern Tall-grass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, nearby scientific and natural areas, and Native American Heritage sites in Southwest Minnesota.

The instructors will reserve a group campsite at a nearby state park. Students who wish to camp will be expected to provide their own camping equipment. Hotels, at the student’s expense, are available in the area if participants prefer not to camp. Whether camping or staying in a hotel, students will be responsible for their meals, transportation and state park vehicle permit. Carpooling is encouraged.


$295. Includes manuals and supplies.

If you would like to receive a scholarship do not register now. Instead, complete this scholarship form and wait to be contacted before enrolling.

About the Prairies and Potholes course

The official name for the ecological province called the Prairies and Potholes by the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program is the Prairie Parkland Province. This biome was historically composed mainly of tallgrass prairie. Today it is used for agricultural purposes. The glaciers deposited between 100 and 600 feet of drift over the entire region. The Prairies and Potholes biome covers just over 16 million acres on the western edge of the state.

The biome is a hot and dry place, where evapotranspiration is annually higher than precipitation. In the northern portions of the biome, glacial kettles have filled with water and form the "potholes" that dot the landscape. These bodies of water are important for migratory waterfowl, and waterfowl production. The Minnesota River now flows through the old channel carved by Glacial River Warren, an outlet for Glacial Lake Agassiz.

Participants must complete the full 40 hours of training to become a certified Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

Each participant must complete a group capstone project. Participants will choose a capstone that they can complete before finishing the course.

Learn more about Master Naturalist volunteer training

Upcoming events

© 2023 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.