We welcome volunteers to get involved in every season at MBGNA. New volunteer orientations are offered every month, with additional training required for some assignments.
Click here to submit a volunteer application and to register for an orientation.
Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 734.647.8528 or by email to sign up for an orientation and learn more about current opportunities.
Preregistration required for all orientations and trainings.
Docent Kathy Wirstrom in the Arid House
Our docents spark curiosity and a love of the natural world in kids of all ages through the Arb and Gardens' school and youth programming. For many of the docents, it's the unique combination of personal interest and educational development that inspires them to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others.
As a docent you will:
- Lead school-age children in guided interpretive programs that emphasize exploration and discovery. Programs satisfy Michigan Science Education standards (weekday mornings/academic year)
- Lead youth and families in activities that promote environmental enjoyment and stewardship. (evenings and weekends/ year-round)
- Conduct occasional adult tours
- Work with fellow docents and staff to develop educational materials
- Enjoy an amazing service-learning opportunity as a member of our education team!
A comprehensive eight-week training, ongoing education, and two-year commitment is required. Our next training will be offered in Winter 2013.
Conservatory Assistant Evan Stosick
Enjoy the tropical, temperate, and arid environments of the Conservatory and assist with general maintenance. Activities include weeding, pruning, watering, seasonal plantings, signage care, and other work to help make the Conservatory look inviting and neat. Morning shifts 8–10 am, weekdays. Two shifts per month minimum.
The Conservatory is home to more than 1,000 species of plants including four special collections that are maintained by skilled volunteers who are also members of local horticultural societies. These opportunities are limited and by invitation only given the specialized care that these collections require.
- Bonsai–Ann Arbor Bonsai Society
- Bromeliad–South East Michigan Bromeliad Society
- Cactus & Succulent - Michigan Cactus & Succulent Society
- Orchid - Ann Arbor Orchid Society
Volunteer Samantha Rahmani
Gaffield Children’ Garden Team (April – Oct)
Enjoy this playful, interactive landscape as you help tend 15 unique feature gardens - including veggies, herbs, butterfly, fairy & troll knoll and more! Volunteers must enjoy working in a kid-friendly atmosphere. Weekly workdays, Friday 9 am–noon.
Garden Teams at Matthaei (April – Oct.)
Learn new gardening techniques while you help maintain a variety of unique display & exhibit gardens at Matthaei. Activities include planting, weeding, mulching, pruning, and other seasonal garden maintenance. Garden locations vary. Some limited afternoon opportunities. Weekly workdays, Tues, Wed & Thurs 9 am–noon.
Garden Teams at Nichols (April – Oct.)
Enjoy the beautiful natural setting of the Arb as you help maintain the horticultural collections featured at the Washington Heights entrance including the Peony Garden, Gateway Garden, Laurel Ridge, and heirloom climbing roses. Some limited afternoon opportunities. Weekly workdays, Monday & Friday 9 am–noon.
Greenhouse Assistants Denise Neely & Sayaka Terada
Greenhouse (Feb.– early May)
Assist horticulture staff with plant propagation and seed production for University classes, public sales, display gardens, and exhibits. Weekday shifts 9 am–noon.
Weekend Weeders (April – Oct.)
Start your weekend off with fresh air and exercise while lending a hand in our display gardens. Activities include weeding, planting, mulching, pruning, and other garden maintenance. Garden locations vary. Saturday morning shifts 9 am–noon.
The Gardens is home to a reading room and non-circulating library located near the front lobby. The library's collection is focused on topics related to horticulture, backyard gardening, natural areas restoration, special plant collections, and more. Volunteers help with general library operations under supervision from our curator. Activities include cataloging, shelving, and assisting visitors. Previous library experience is preferred but not required. Flexible schedule.
Judy High, Andy Sell & Corinne Robertson
There's a lot happening throughout the year at the Arb and Gardens and we need your help to spread the word! Opportunities include poster distribution, photography, social media, outreach events, and more. Flexible schedule.
Our dedicated members help support the mission and programs at MBGNA. As a membership volunteer you will work toward making the member experience the best it can be through public outreach, members-only events, and behind the scenes office work. Flexible schedule.
- NATURAL AREAS (Arb & Gardens)
Volunteers from the the Wild Ones
Ann Arbor Chapter
Restoration, Trails & Trees (year round)
Learn more about your favorite natural areas & trails while you help preserve the native eco-systems at the Arb & Gardens! Activities primarily include the removal of non-native, invasive plants. Fall/winter work involves the use of loppers and hand saws as well as cutting, dragging, and piling brush. Spring/summer work primarily involves hand weeding.
Volunteers may also help with general trail maintenance activities include lining, clearing of fallen debris, pruning trailside plants, erosion control, litter pick up, and some limited construction projects. Occasional tree care activities include planting, mulching, caging, staking and pruning.
Individual volunteers with some experience in natural areas restoration and conservation are welcome to work alongside our staff on a variety of projects. Weekdays, AM shifts at the Arb & Gardens.
We also welcome individuals and group to join us for our public Eco-Restoration Workdays held each month at the Arb (2nd Saturdays) and Gardens (3rd Saturdays) from 9 am–noon. To receive monthly reminders about these workdays simply send a blank message to the following address with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject: firstname.lastname@example.org
Burn Crew Volunteers strike a pose
Prescribed Burn Crew (Fall & Spring)
Our prescribed-burn team learns about and participates in the use of controlled fire as a restoration tool. All activities are physically demanding. Volunteers are on call for weekday, afternoon burns (noon–4 pm) at the Arb and Gardens. Training is offered in October.
Native Plant Gardens & Seeds
(Year Round, Arb & Gardens)
Learn more about landscaping with plants that are native to SE Michigan as you tend a variety of gardens at Matthaei and Nichols that feature species found in prairie, oak opening and woodland settings. This group is active year round and activities include general garden maintenance (April – September) and seed collection/propagation (October – March). Previous experience with native plant ID is preferred, but not required. Multiple workdays, various locations, weekly, AM & PM options.
- OFFICE SUPPORT (year round)
Volunteers work behind the scenes to help keep our general operations running smoothly. Help with mailings, filing, data entry, and more. Flexible schedule, weekdays.
Photo volunteer Albert Anthony
The Arb and Gardens provides natural inspiration for artists in every season. Photography volunteers capture images of people, plants, and events for use in our publications, on our website, and in marketing materials and special projects. Volunteers must have their own personal digital camera (high megapixel capacity preferred) and have work reviewed by MBGNA staff in advance of assignment. Flexible schedule, limited opportunity.
Ambassadors provide a welcoming atmosphere as they greet and guide visitors at key locations at the Gardens. Volunteers will learn about our mission, programs, general points of interest, visitor etiquette, and customer service. Volunteers will also learn the specifics related to assigned areas, i.e., Conservatory, display gardens, children's garden, and MiSo House. Training and ongoing education is provided for volunteers working in each area. Weekday and weekends, AM and PM shifts. Two shifts per month minimum.
Ambassador Carol Figarra in the Conservatory
(year-round; Nov.–April peak months)
Conservatory ambassadors welcome visitors as they explore a living museum of plants found in tropical, temperate, and arid regions of the world. Conservatory Ambassadors also learn about the basic Conservatory features, collections, seasonal exhibits, and special events. Required training offered in October.
Garden Ambassador (May–Oct.)
For 2013, we're creating a single group of ambassadors who can speak to all of the display garden areas at Matthaei, including the new bonsai and Great Lakes Gardens and the popular Gaffield Children's Garden. This new team of "Garden Ambassadors" will enjoy the beauty and variety of the gardens while inviting visitors to take a closer look during the growing season. Ambassadors will assist visitors with basic questions, way finding, and seasonal points of interest. Special attention will be given to young visitors and families as they experience the different elements of the Children's Garden. We are looking for volunteers with a love of gardens who enjoy working with a diverse array of visitors.
Required training is offered in April (choose weekend or weekday session). Ongoing monthly education sessions. Seasonal commitment May - October, 3 hour shifts, minimum of 2 shifts per month.
Garden Ambassador Training 2013 - Two Options:
Wednesday, April 24 or Saturday, April 27
Each session is held 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, Matthaei Botanical Gardens.
Pre-registration is required.
Ambassador Karen Kerr in the Gaffield Childrens Garden
Want to get involved but need a more flexible schedule? Consider volunteering at one of our special events. Preregistration and orientation is required prior to volunteering for all events.
Music in the Arb (September)
A series of summer concerts held at the Amphitheater in Nichols Arboretum featuring eclectic music from local bands and performers. Volunteers direct audience members to the amphitheatre and also help with set up and tear-down.
Beta Theta Pi at Run for the Arb
Run for the Arb (October)
A special fundraising run/walk/stroll through the trails of Nichols Arboretum. Volunteers help out with registration, way-finding, refreshments and finish line.
Shakespeare In The Arb (June)
A theater production of the LSA Residential College that moves through different areas of the Arb. Performances held Thursday–Sunday evenings in June. This beloved annual tradition is eagerly anticipated by the community and commands sold-out performances. Volunteers enjoy a unique theatrical experience while ushering the audience throughout the Arb as actors move from scene to scene. Cool t-shirts, too!
Sign up now for the 2013 season!
2013 Spring Plant Sale Schedule
- May 11-12
Mother's Day Weekend Hanging Baskets & Containers
- May 18-19
Cultivating Community Veggies & Herbs and Michigan Natives
- June 1-2
Peony Sale & Festival at the Nichols Arboretum