Citizen Science Opportunities via the National Museum of Natural History

Anyone can be a citizen scientist–especially you! It only takes an interest, some curiosity, and a little time to volunteer. Tweens and teens who want to contribute to real science can get involved. Teachers can bring citizen science into their classrooms, engaging students in authentic and relevant science. And naturalists from Fairfax County!

The Museum of Natural History collaborates with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Virginia Working Landscapes, City Nature Challenge 2018, and other organizations to design rewarding, meaningful opportunities for those of us willing to volunteer for them.

Ask other naturalists to join you and do the work as a team!

Learn more and sign up

 

 

 

 

Explore the Trees and Forests of Virginia

Saturday, 10 March 2018

9.15 am to 3.30 pm

University of Richmond
Ryland Circle
Richmond, VA 23173
Building Number: Jepson Hall (Website Campus Map #17)

Please join the Virginia Native Plant Society for a one-day workshop that celebrates Virginia’s trees and woodlands.

The workshop will begin with a review of tree biology and ecology and a review of some of the recent research on what trees are doing. It will move on to the topic of interactions with other organisms, specifically birds and insects. Finally it will explore two Virginia forests – the longleaf pine of the coastal areas, and an old age mountain forest.

For more information and to register, click here.

Live Owl Prowl, Huntley Meadows, 24 March

Huntley Meadows Park

12-1 pm, 24 March

What are great horned owls, barred owls, barn owls and eastern screech owls doing year-round? Follow them through courtship, nesting, raising young, fledging and finally dispersal of the young to their own territories. Speakers from Secret Garden Birds and Bees Wildlife Education and Preservation will bring live birds to the program. Register via ParkTakes online. Fairfax County residents $10, others $12

Meet people who care about what you care about at Green Breakfasts, Brion’s Grille, 10 March

Join the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District and fellow naturalists for the next Green Breakfast To be notified when the Green Breakfast speaker and topic is announced, contact NVSWCD.

  • Brion’s Grille: 10621 Braddock Rd., Fairfax, VA 22032, located in the University Shopping Mall (Braddock Road and Route 123) across the street from the Roanoke River Road entrance to George Mason University.
  • Cost: $10.00 for the Breakfast Buffet, including an all-you-can-eat hot buffet with fresh fruit and coffee, tea, orange juice or water. Cash is preferred.
  • Note: You may bring fliers about your organization’s events and activities. There will be time for announcements.

Green Breakfasts are bi-monthly gatherings to discuss environmental topics in a casual setting on a Saturday morning. Attendees include agency representatives, interested citizens and community members, students, lawmakers, members of the business community and representatives of local non-profits. Six green breakfasts are held each year. Tentative 2018 schedule:

  • March 10
  • May 12
  • July 14
  • September 8
  • November 10
  • All dates are subject to changes. Sign up for Green Breakfast emails to be notified of speakers, topics, date changes and inclement weather information. Contact NVSWCD.

Learn more about Green Breakfasts.

Help remove invasives at Lake Accotink Park

Invasive plants are a huge threat to local wildlife, including migrating birds. You can help these creatures and others by volunteering to remove invasive plants at Lake Accotink Park. Sign up on the IMA website to volunteer. Sessions are every Wednesday, 2-5 pm.

 

Hidden Oaks Nature Center Needs Volunteers for Family Activities in March

Hidden Oaks Nature Center has many opportunities for volunteers. Here are a few:

Full Moon Hike and Campfire

2 March, 7-8.45 pm

Help the resident naturalist with an outdoor hike and campfire prep and clean up. You have the option to lead part of the program at campfire, including story telling.

Flying Squirrels Gliding in Tonight

11 March, 6.15-8.00 pm

Help a naturalist with a program on gray vs. flying squirrels and see live squirrels at the feeders.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt

25, 29, 30 March, 1 April, 9.30-4.00 pm

Come help with one or more of their dinosaur egg hunts, each 45 min. Volunteers will help lead a short indoor presentation, and/or the craft and/or the egg hunt in Nature Playce. This event enjoys a highly-diverse audience. No candy distributed.

For all activities, contact Suzanne Holland at suzanne.holland@fairfaxcounty.gov for details and to volunteer.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center, 7701 Royce ST., Annandale, VA 22003

Review of Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, by Carl Pope and Michael Bloomberg

Reviewed by Wendy Cohen

Climate of Hope (2017, 277 pp) avoids the usual gloom-and-doom discussion around climate change by offering up two premises: First, if we shift the focus from international treaties to projects in local municipalities, much work can be done to mitigate climate change. Second, rather than view the multiple causes of climate change as problematic, seeing them as numerous opportunities for solving the problem of rising earth temperatures can help us make headway with the problem. Every sector of society can help with climate protection. In other words, “think globally, act locally,” and above all, act. These two tenets are also at the core of the work of master naturalists.

Citing example after example of actions that have had a proven positive impact, Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and current head of Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Carl Pope, longtime environmental activist and former executive director of the Sierra Club, give the reader cause for hope in the fight against environmental threats causing rising temperatures. In addition to showing how innovative public/private partnerships have helped fund greener technologies, Climate of Hope points to the natural world as “an enormous, largely unread library of solutions.”

Bloomberg and Pope show examples of something naturalists have long known: investing in more sustainable agriculture and forestry practices is key to combating climate change. In their words, maintaining healthy ecosystems allows them to “do what they are equipped to do–suck carbon out of the atmosphere and turn it into soil and vegetation”(p. 178). One example they give is mangroves: According to their research, if half of what has been lost of the mangroves found mostly in Asia were restored, 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide could be stored, a number that matches total U.S. emissions each year! An additional advantage would be greater protection of the tropical coastline from typhoons.

Climate of Hope demonstrates how local efforts to protect our ecosystem can have a ripple effect. Promoting environmental stewardship goes a long way in helping to counter rising global temperatures. This book validates the work of master naturalists.

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

Review of The Forest Unseen, by David George Haskell

Reviewed by Anne DiFiore

A square meter of Tennessee forest can give us insights into all forests.

This is the premise of The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature (2012, 288 pp). Haskell, Professor of Biology at Sewanee, the University of the South, visits a corner of old growth forest every few days over the course of a year to record his observations. Inspired by the intricate sand paintings, or mandalas, created by Tibetan monks to represent the cosmos, Haskell lays down a hula hoop to mark the boundaries of his mandala. Armed with a hand lens, he uncovers within this microcosm stories of creation, evolution, adaptation, life unexplored, and man’s relationship to the natural world.

For Master Naturalists, this book deserves a place of honor on our bookshelves, alongside A Sand County Almanac and other classics of ecology/natural science. Through Haskell’s penetrating lens, readers are able to see and appreciate the often unseen organisms that populate the forest’s soil and upper layers. He then switches to a wide-angle lens, educating the reader on larger ecological issues and emphasizing always the interconnectedness of life on our planet.

In his January 1 entry, “Partnerships,” Haskell discusses the amazingly successful union of fungi and algae—the “world-conquering” lichens and the first living thing he encounters in the mandala. Lichens cover 10% of the earth’s surface. How symbiotic relationships push evolution forward–microbes living in digestive tracts, the interdependence of fungi and plants—is a recurring theme in the book.Humans, he notes wryly, “… are lichens on a grand scale” (p. 5).

A sense of humor infuses his writing. In “Faces,” he reluctantly confesses to finding a trio of young raccoons adorable (naturalists aren’t supposed to make such judgments)—and then analyzes human responses to animals. In “Earthstar” he debates removing golf balls from the mandala and decides to allow geological forces to return them to their elements, reminding us that humans are part of nature and “our biggest failing is a lack of compassion for the world, including ourselves” (p. 158).

Haskell’s sense of wonder at nature’s ingenuity and variety is evident in each entry. The firefly’s incandescence, the turkey vulture’s ability to destroy anthrax bacteria and cholera viruses through digestion, the snail’s reproductive strategies—fascinate him, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Haskell takes the scientific community to task for its alarm cry that the recent rise in deer population is ruining our forests. He argues that historical and archaeological records point to deer being plentiful inhabitants until the 1800s, when they had been extirpated. “The deerless forests of the early and mid-1900s were aberrations” (p. 31). For 50 million years, large mammalian browsers—wood bison, oxen, tapirs, peccaries, herbivorous bears, and mastodons—feasted on forests until they were hunted into extinction. Only the deer remain. In “Flowers,” he credits deer for dispersing wild flowers from their post Ice Age home along the Gulf Coast across the continent, arguing that ants who travel little more than a few feet from their nests would not have been able to accomplish the task so quickly.

The author laments that while science informs and educates us, it does not help us “listen” to nature. In “Epilogue,” Haskell urges us to create our own mandalas for ecological exploration. His advice: To leave behind expectations and to be present—see, listen, smell—and return, over and over again.

“The desire to name, understand, and enjoy the rest of the community of life is part of our humanity. Quiet observation of living mandalas offers one way to rediscover and develop this inheritance” (p. 245).

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

Sign up for Harvesting Garden Water, at Green Springs, 25 February

Green Spring Gardens Park, 4601 Green Spring Road, Alexandria

25 February 2018, 1.30-2.30 pm

Water harvesting involves strategies to manage and enhance the water resources on your land, leading to healthier plants and lower water bills. Understanding and implementing just a few simple water harvesting techniques, such as swales, hugelkultur beds, and rain gardens can improve the way water moves through your yard and how effectively your plants are able to use it. Designer Michael Judd shows you designs that best fit your land, how they are created and how to make them look good. These principles will help make your land more diverse, productive, and ecologically friendly. Register via ParkTakes. Fairfax County residents $10, others $12.

Counts toward continuing education credits for master naturalists.

The Fairfax County volunteer website has LOTS of service opportunities

Do you need fresh ideas on where to find meaningful volunteer work? The Fairfax County volunteer website has a special section listing volunteer opportunities for people who are interested in the environment, parks, recreation, or sports. 

You will need to register, but it only takes 10-15 minutes to complete the application. Dozens of opportunities qualify for FMN service hours (e.g., volunteering at our county parks, rec centers and other public lands).  

Don’t forget to check the County website for new opportunities from time to time; you can even search for opportunities by date.  If you see more than you can do yourself, share them with the rest of us!