Two Great Locations, One Organization


We welcome volunteers to get involved in every season at Matthaei-Nichols. New volunteer orientations are offered every month, with additional training required for some assignments.

Volunteers at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Join us

We welcome volunteers to get involved in every season at Matthaei-Nichols. New volunteer orientations are offered every month, with additional training required for some assignments.

Volunteering opportunities

New Category

Docent (year round)

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. A comprehensive eight-week training, ongoing education, and two-year commitment is required. Our next training will begin January 2017.

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 a rewarding service-learning opportunity
Campus Farm (UM Students Only)

Part of the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Program (UMSFP) the Campus Farm is located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. As much laboratory as classroom, the Campus Farm connects students with nature through small-scale food production. Workdays are scheduled throughout the growing season.
Learn more



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.

Natural Areas

Eco-Restoration Workdays (year round)

These public stewardship events are held each month at the Arb (2nd Saturdays) and Gardens (3rd Saturdays) from 9 am-noon. To receive monthly email reminders about these workdays sign up below:

Join the Eco Workdays Email List

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.
Flexible schedule, weekdays, AM/PM, Arb & Gardens.

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 (1:00-4pm) at the Arb & Gardens. Training is offered in October.

Native Plant Gardens & Seeds (Year Round)

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.
Various locations, weekly, AM & PM options.


Conservatory (year-round)

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.
Weekdays, 8-10 am.

Collections (year-round)

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.

Gaffield Children’ Garden Team (April – Nov.)

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.
Fridays, 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.
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.
Monday & Friday 9 am-noon.

Greenhouse (Feb.– early May)

Assist horticulture staff with plant propagation and seed production for University classes, public sales, display gardens, and exhibits.
Weekdays 9 am-noon.

Office Support


Volunteers work behind the scenes to help keep our general operations running smoothly. Help with mailings, filing, data entry, and more.
Flexible schedule.



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.

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