Get involved in Audubon’s Climate Watch citizen science work

Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report predicts that over half of North American bird species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.

To test these predictions, Audubon has been running a new community science project, Climate Watch, since January. Climate Watch aims to document species’ responses to climate change by having volunteer community scientists in the field look for birds where Audubon’s climate models project they should be in the 2020’s, giving us an understanding on how birds respond to a changing climate.

There’s still time to get involved. If you would like to find out more about being a volunteer or how to coordinate in 

your area, please contact the Audubon Climate Watch Team at climatewatch@audubon.org

Your field guide to battle ticks in Fairfax County

Tick-tock… According to mother nature’s clock, it is tick season again, which means it is time to start thinking about protection and prevention.

Ticks are a concern every spring and summer because they can transmit infections that can cause people to become sick. Lyme disease is still the best known and most common disease spread by ticks in Virginia, but there are others such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis.

Factors like weather, habitat and the availability of host animals can affect the tick population from year-to-year and make it hard to predict their numbers. “What we do know is that ticks are found throughout our area, so it’s important to take steps to prevent tick bites when you are working or playing outdoors,” says Josh Smith, an environmental health supervisor with the Health Department.

There are three tick species regularly found in Fairfax County that can transmit disease to humans:

Black-legged or Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)

Learn about tick behavior, how to avoid tick bites, and more!

Take advantage of native plant sale season!

Are you looking for plants that will beautify your yard while requiring a minimum of maintenance? The plants that evolved here are the ones for you! The more local the origin of a plant, the more likely it is to be adapted to our particular soils and climate. There could be a big difference between an Eastern Red Columbine that evolved in Virginia and one that evolved in Saskatchewan, even if they do look alike!

We are fortunate in Northern Virginia to have many sources of native plants. In addition to the native-only nurseries – some of which propagate plants themselves from local seed sources – there are numerous vendors who set up shop at special plant sales in the spring and fall.  Find a list  on the Plant NOVA Natives website. The homepage of the site has the free, downloadable Guide to Native Plants of Northern Virginia.   If you are looking for particular plants, you can contact vendors in advance and ask them to bring them for you. Traditional commercial nurseries are selling more and more native plants as well (but don’t expect to find natives at big box stores).

In addition, the Virginia Native Plant Society sells plants from its propagation beds at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria VA the first Wednesday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm from April to October.  The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is also having its sale on May 19th.

Our local wildlife agree that native plants are the best. In fact, the ecosystem is entirely dependent on the plants that evolved with our bees, butterflies, birds, etc. Why not give them a home on your property?

Participate in Reston Bioblitz, 2 June

A bioblitz is a quick but intense biotic survey completed within a 24 hour period. It provides a snapshot in time of what plants and wildlife are found in a certain place.

Reston’s 2018 bioblitz is looking for volunteers, scientists, and naturalists to participate, whether you’re a Reston residents or not. Please contact Patricia Greenberg for more information: pgreenberg@reston.org, 703-435-6552.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Reston joins the Biophilic Cities Network with the help of Virginia Master Naturalists

Doug Britt

In his 1984 book, Biophilia, Harvard ecologist E. O. Wilson popularized the premise that people need contact with nature and that humans are inherently hard-wired for this attraction. Since then, the scientific community has reported that humans derive substantial physiological, psychological, and behavioral benefits from interacting with nature. More recently the concept of biophilia has taken root in the fields of architecture and urban planning. 

Building on the concept of biophilia, Dr. Timothy Beatley (Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, School of Architecture, University of Virginia) suggests that, as people across the globe become ever more urban, making life sustainable requires increasing the density and compactness of urban centers to reduce our energy use and carbon footprint.  The task of increasing urban density while simultaneously remaining in contact with nature is such a challenge that Beatley argues calls for a different approach to urban design. He suggests creatively incorporating nature into the daily lives of their residents, an activity already underway in many progressive large cities. To this end, he has spearheaded a project that attempts to link such cities together to help them share their experiences and become even healthier and more resilient communities. The resulting Biophilic Cities Network currently has 13 participating cities around the world, with many more in the application stage in an effort to join. 

In Virginia, Reston led the way into the Biophilic Cities Network 

In 2018, Reston officially became the 13th partner community, joining such biophilic cities as Singapore;  Sydney (Australia); Wellington (New Zealand); Oslo (Norway); Edmonton (Canada);  Portland; San Francisco; Austin; and Washington, DC. Dr. Beatley presented the Reston Association Board of Directors with the Biophilic Cities Network certificate on 22 March 2018. 

In 2017, Reston Association (RA) charged its Environmental Advisory Committee with the task of assessing and documenting the environmental conditions of the community to establish a baseline against which future changes could be measured. Consequently, the Committee formed a nine-member Working Group [the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER) Working Group] to undertake this task.  Among the group members were six Fairfax Chapter VMN program graduates: Doug Britt, Don Coram, Robin Duska, Linda Fuller, Lois Phemister, and Claudia Thompson-Deahl. 

The final 2017 RASER was published in July 2017. It evaluated 16 separate environmental attributes of the Reston community, concluding with a postscript arguing that Reston is a biophilic community by design and intent of its founding principles. Reston’s particular way of connecting its natural areas to its residents (through its many walking paths, trails, Nature Center, recreation areas, and education/outreach programs) maximizes such connectivity and promotes more frequent, longer duration, and more immersive interactions. The preservation of Reston’s green spaces also creates healthy viewscapes from much of the built environment. 

The RASER authors recommended to the RA Board of Directors that they consider applying for inclusion in the Biophilic Cities Network. The Board accepted the recommendation and tasked the RASER Project Director, Doug Britt, with drafting the application. Britt then contacted Dr. Beatley and explained the many ways Reston manages and monitors its natural resources and promotes connectivity between its residents and its natural areas. Dr. Beatley indicated an application from the RA would be given serious consideration.  

How the application process works

The application involves an official resolution by a city’s mayor (or a community’s primary governing body) stating that the community intends to join the Network and become a biophilic partner community. It requires documenting the key ways the community already is biophilic. It requires a statement of goals and aspirations for the future. It also requires specifying at least five different biophilic metrics that will be collected and annually reported.  

The successful applicant is expected to share best practices; participate annually in at least one webinar, workshop, or Skype/conference call; respond to requests for assistance from partner communities, if possible; host visits from delegations from other partner cities; attend where/when possible yearly or semi-yearly Biophilic Cities World Conferences; assist individuals and organizational members of the Network; and other expectations consistent with serving as a leader in the Biophilic Cities Movement.

There is a nominal $250 application processing fee, and the applicant must identify an individual to serve as the primary Biophilic Cities Network Coordinator.   

Your community may benefit as much as ours has 

The benefits include the ability to share best practices, lessons learned, and effective policies with other progressive urban communities. It identifies the community as a leader in the international biophilic movement. And it is designed to promote urban development strategies that improve public health, enhance environmental quality, and create a more resilient and productive community.

Additionally, ever more large corporations are adopting a biophilic philosophy, creating more productive and healthy work environments, and using biophilic architecture to recruit and retain employees in a competitive labor market. Being designated as a biophilic community may help attract such progressive companies, further strengthening a community’s commitment to see its residents connect with nature where they work, live, and play. 

There are certainly other communities in the Commonwealth that have biophilic attributes and a desire to protect and enhance their connectivity to nature. It would be wonderful if Virginia could become the first state to have multiple communities designated as partners in the Biophilic Cities Network.

See Minimalism, environmental film showing in Reston, 24 May

How might your life be better with less? Minimalism examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking viewer inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life. Register by 24 May: naturecenter@reston.org, 703-476-9689, ext. 3. Free, but a $5 donation is suggested.

Walker Nature Center
11450 Glade Dr., Reston
Friday, 25 March
7-9 pm

Join the Clean Water Challenge

The Izaak Walton Leage of America, the national organization that oversees the Fairfax County Stream Monitoring Program, hopes to monitor 100,000 additional stream sites nationwide by 2022. This effort–The Clean Water Challenge–will not succeed without massive volunteer support. If you are a new stream monitoring volunteer, consider taking the certification test and adopting your own stream site. If you are already certified, think about adding a new stream site to your existing one. Information about the Clean Water Challenge is available on the Izaak Walton League’s website. To learn more about becomming a certified monitor, contact Dan Schwartz.

Become part of the Habitat Network

Cornell Ornithology Lab and The Nature Conservancy have joined together to create Habitat Network, the first citizen science social network. Habitat Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of wildlife habitat, for  professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments.

The Network collects data by asking individuals across the country to, literally, draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. They connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.

The kinds of questions they are seeking to answer with your help:

  • What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
  • Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
  • Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
  • What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds?
  • Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?

Service Project C253-Habitat Yard Mapping is approved for credit for FMN graduates. You can map your own yard, a local park, or other public or private property for which you have access permission. 

Learn more

Volunteer with the Virginia Native Plant Society Potowmack Chapter at Green Spring Gardens

Join the VNPS Propagation Crew on Wednesday mornings to learn how to divide, pot and grow from seed a wide variety of native forbs. 

The native plant beds are a demonstration garden and source of plants for our spring and fall plant sales. VPNS gathers every Wednesday morning from April through October to maintain the beds and pot plants for these sales. The beds are located at Green Spring Gardens behind the Horticulture Center.

You’ll enjoy light physical exertion, and have lots of fun getting your hands dirty and your spirit full. Tools and gloves provided.

Learn more

Attend 2018 Wildflower Symposium: 18-20 May 

The 30th annual Wintergreen Spring Wildflower Symposium offers diverse coverage of wildflowers and mountain ecosystems. The setting has more than 30 miles of hiking trails and convenient access to diverse geological sites. Participants learn about botany, geology, entomology, ornithology and ecology from 17 speakers and instructors.

Come learn from:

Dr. Tom Akre- Director of Virginia Working Landscapes, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Dr. Barbara Abraham- Adjunct Professor, Christopher Newport University and Retired Professor, Hampton
University

Dr. Chuck Bailey- Director and Chair, Department of Geology, College of William and Mary

Doug Coleman-  Field Botanist; Executive Director, The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen

Gerry DeWitt- Nature Photographer

Dr. Mary Jane Epps- Assistant Professor of Biology, Mary Baldwin University

Dr. Linda Fink- Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Ecology, Sweet Briar College

Allen Hale- Owner, Buteo Books & Field Ornithologist, Virginia Society of Ornithology

Clyde Kessler- Birding and Insect Enthusiast, Regional Editor of Virginia Birds

Shawn Kurtzman- Biologist, Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech

Sarah Loken- Professional Macro photographer of the insect/wildflower connection

Chris Ludwig- Chief Biologist, Virginia Division of Natural Heritage & Co-Author, Flora of Virginia

Dr. Chip Morgan- Board Member, Flora of Virginia and Member of the Edith and Theodore Roosevelt Pine
Knot Foundation Board

Dr. Janet Steven- Associate Professor of Biology, Christopher Newport University

Nancy Walters-Donnelly- Director of Activities, Massanutten Resort

Dr. Dennis Whigham- Senior Botanist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center & Founding Director,
North American Orchid Conservation Center

Tom Wiebolt- Retired Curator, Massey Herbarium, Vice President, Virginia Botanical Associates and contributor,
Flora of Virginia

 

Schedule and registration