Review of Act on Climate, by Michaela Zint, on Coursera

Reviewed by Tami Sheiffer

I’d taken a lot of Coursera classes for fun and personal edification before I was a Fairfax Master Naturalist and could get continuing education credit for them. Act on Climate, taught by Michaela Zint of the University of Michigan, is the Coursera class I would recommend to the broadest audience because it encourages students to put what they learn from the class into practice. I’ve found that it has had more impact on my daily life than other classes have—by encouraging lifestyle changes like eating less meat, and introducing me to new groups and volunteer opportunities in my community. I would recommend this class to family or friends who may be interested in living in a more environmentally friendly way, without getting bogged down in heavy climate science.

The first week’s introductory material briefly covers the science of climate change, and introduces the concepts of mitigation and adaptation. But it quickly turns to the focus of the course, which is not the science of climate change but steps to take action.

The next four weeks of the class are topical, covering food, energy, transportation, and the built environment. For each topic, material about climate impact is covered, as are steps to reduce the climate impact. The solutions suggested for each topic are divided into type of action: individual, community, political, and adaptation. The solutions are all ones that students can put into action themselves, individually or together with others in their community. So political action may be something like attending a town hall or writing a letter to a representative, not the larger political actions that a state or country should take.

For example, we learn that we can act individually to reduce our energy usage with energy efficient appliances or by minimizing drafts in our homes, and act in our community by seeking out community-supported agriculture and community gardens. We can take action politically by attending a transit authority meeting, and we can practice adaptation actions by planting trees.

Even if much of the information was not new to me, I appreciated that this class prompted me to look into resources and opportunities for action in my community, and to make a plan to act. Because of this class, I discovered resources and groups in this area that I was previously unaware of. I learned that Fairfax County Libraries have thermal cameras available for residents to borrow to check for drafts and hot spots in their homes. I discovered Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture near me–I had unknowingly driven past it many times because it is not visible from the road—and I began volunteering there. And I came across the Fairfax Master Naturalists website, which led me to fill out an application.

Act on Climate has short quizzes to check understanding, and at the end of each unit the student is asked “What Actions Did you Take?” The culmination of the class, during the sixth week, is the creation of a peer-graded “Personal Climate Action Plan.” The class wraps up with a conclusion in the 7th week. Discussion in the forums is encouraged but not required to pass the class. The Personal Climate Action Plan makes up 40% of the final grade, and quizzes compose the rest of the grade. As with other Coursera classes, you may take the class and receive a grade for free as long as you don’t need the Statement of Accomplishment.

This class counts toward Master Naturalist continuing education credits.

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Review of Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany, by Catherine Kleier

Reviewed by Becky Strode

Plant Science: An Introduction to Botany (The Great Courses, 2017) is an informative and engaging course that you can watch on DVD or via digital download. Best of all: no homework and no tests! Plant Science comprises 24 half-hour lessons, and a 214-pp. course guide. The instructorCatherine Kleier, Professor of Biology at Regis College in Denversurveys the plant world, using photos, videos, computer animation, and her own obvious delight in the subject to make her lectures come alive. The result is intellectually stimulating and entertaining. After watching this course, you will look at plants with a keener eye and a deeper sense of wonder.

The first unit, “The Joy of Botany,” discusses what makes a plant a plant, looking at the cellular level. Subsequent lessons describe differences in the reproductive cycle of mosses, ferns, conifers, and flowering plants. Photosynthesis is explained using computer graphics to illuminate the complex biochemical processes by which plants turn light into energy and energy into sugars. Kleier discusses pollination, seeds, and fruits as well, and you will learn why a tomato is a fruit, and a strawberry is not!

Kleier also looks at plants from an ecosystem perspective, from underwater environments to deserts. She discusses problems caused by invasive species, concluding with a discussion of the promise and the potential dangers posed by genetic modification of plants. The range of potential dangers from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that she identifies is wide and includes ecological, human-health, and economic risks. Kleier also describes new techniques on the biotechnology horizon that may enable scientists to make beneficial plants more resistant to disease without modifying their genes.

Plant Science can help a Master Naturalist contribute to our mission of environmental stewardship and education in several ways. The information you learn will help you better understand the plants you see around you every day. This will enhance your own enjoyment of nature and reinforce your desire to protect it. The course will also sharpen your observation skills, making you a more effective leader or participant during nature walks. You’ll know what to look for when you encounter plants, helping you identify them and place them in a broader ecological and evolutionary context. Finally, drawing from the course’s clear explanations and many examples of botanical concepts, you’ll be better able to share your knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

This class counts toward Master Naturalist continuing education credits.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Winter Greens at Fred Crabtree Park

A Walk with Jan Meyer

Fred Crabtree Park, 2801 Fox Mill Road, Herndon VA 20171

Saturday, February 10, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Come to Fred Crabtree Park, a lovely park in Herndon, Virginia, with Jan Meyer to find out what grows there and what is green in winter. Jan will point out a variety of green plant life, including a lichen, a few mosses, a couple of ferns, three clubmosses, a little seep plant, and some forbs, shrubs, and trees. Learn to distinguish between Pitch Pine and Virginia Pine, which are side by side at the park.

Jan Meyer is a Fairfax Master Naturalist, member of VNPS, and also the VNPS Grass Bunch. Over the years she has adopted Fred Crabtree Park and has led invasive species removal efforts there in addition to naturalist walks.

Sponsored by the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society. Program is free and open to the public, but space on the walk is limited. Register here. To cancel your registration or ask a question, email vnps.pot@gmail.com.

Learning Opportunity: Scientific Collections in Conservation Research

A Talk by Dr. Gary Kupnick
Thursday, February 8, 7:30 to 9 pm
Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road
Alexandria, VA 22312

Museum collections are remarkable and irreplaceable sources of information about biodiversity and the history of life on Earth. In addition to playing a critical role in scientific studies, they serve an important role in conservation biology, including documenting occurrences of invasive species; providing data on locality change due to habitat destruction and climate change; providing material for DNA analysis and conservation genetics; providing material for pollution documentation; and, serving as a means of locating possibly extinct species  This presentation describes several case studies to illustrate and explore the way scientific collections have and will continue to contribute to conservation research.

Sponsored by the Potowmack Chapter of the  Virginia Native Plant Society, this program is free and open to the public.

Learning Opportunity: Evolution in Marsh Wrens

Sunday, February 25th, 2:00 PM
Mount Vernon Governmental Center, 2511 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, VA 22306
Parking is available at the Governmental Center and across the street at Whitman Middle School.

 

A Dyke Marsh inlet, photo by Ned Stone.

Hear Dr. Sarah Luttrell talk about her work on evolution and speciation in the marsh wren (Cistothorus palustris).  Dr. Luttrell studies how evolution works by studying subspecies of birds.  She will examine how comparing multiple traits like plumage color, size and shape, vocal behavior, and genetics in marsh wrens has revealed an exciting pattern of evolution in this bird.  She received her Ph. D. in Biological Sciences in August 2017 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

 

The program is sponsored by Friends of Dyke Marsh.  It is free and open to the public.

Learning opportunity: Designing green roof habitats in cities

Join the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and Biophilic DC as they explore emerging design practices and issues related to this new urban habitat. Both organizations will have information on hand to help you get involved. Weds, 7 February 2018 6:30–8:00 PM ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture 636 I Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001 […]

Register for Washington Area Citizen Science Regional Meeting, 9 February

Area-wide citizen scientists are meeting at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to discuss 2018 City Nature Challenge (CNC) and how you might get involved. Join them Friday, 9 February 2018, 9:00 am – 11:00 am.

AGENDA

Presentation by Chris Meyer, PI Moorea Biocode

2018 City Nature Challenge (CNC)

  • International and Regional Overview
  • CNC Basics: How to Get Started, Tools and Resources for participation
  • What We’re Up To – Local Projects Underway, Identification Parties, Q and A
  • Ideas and Pitches for collaboration, cool projects

Regional Network Updates

An optional 30-minute iNaturalist training will  following the meeting.

Please RSVP to: biophilicdc@gmail.com

Join the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in a yearlong celebration of birds

 

2018 is it the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—legislation that saves countless birds’ lives—but birds are facing many new and serious threats. Audubon has teamed up with National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to officially make 2018 the Year of the Bird.

Throughout the year, these partners, along with more than 100 other participating organizations, will be celebrating birds while raising awareness about their troubles across all of our channels—magazines, television, social media, and more—with new editorial, content, and programs.

Help build a better world for birds by taking a simple but meaningful action each month. Count Me In gives you options for learning about some ways to participate.

Check out the official Year of the Bird website for others.

Register for 14th annual Woods and Wildlife Conference, 24 February, Culpepper

The 14th Annual Woods & Wildlife Conference will be held on February 24, 2018 at the Daniel Technology Center, Germanna Community College, Culpeper.  On-line and mail-in registration are open.

Pre-registration is due by 14 February. $45/person. $80/couple

Topics:

  • Scientific and social challenges of timber harvesting on private lands
  • Early successional habitat: Why and how?
  • Invasive species update
  • Forest pollinators
  • Case study: The Shenandoah National Park Fire
  • Selling timber: Panel of practitioners
  • Snags: Dead trees are good
  • Introduction to wild edibles
  • Pine savannahs: Where wildlife and pine production intersect
  • Habitat triage and congnitive mapping
  • Frogging by ear
  • Coyotes in Virginia: Here today and here to stay

View presentations from previous conference.

This conference counts toward continuing education credits for master naturalists.

Support local farmers at Frying Pan Park events in February and March

Meet local farmers in the Fairfax County area to hear their stories about growing food to feed our communities.  Learn ways we can support each other and enjoy a sample of their harvests as we gather together.

February 11, 2018:  Jessie and Sean Baker, Day Spring Farms

March 11, 2018:  Allyson Gibson, Pocket Farms

Each program is from 2-3:30 PM at the Frying Pan Visitor Center, 2739 West Ox Road, Herndon VA  20171, (703) 437-9101

Cost: $10/person

Register: http://bit.ly/2klhmZ1