Attend the Smithsonian Botanical Symposium, 18 May

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany, presents Plants in the Past: Fossils and the Future, in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden. Present-day plant diversity is rich and varied, but the majority of plant species to have ever lived are now extinct. Knowledge of the past is key to understanding the origins of today’s plant diversity and to illuminating the evolutionary processes that generate biodiversity. The study of prehistoric floras (the fields of paleobotany and paleoecology) also provides key evidence for subjects such as paleozoology, the formation of the Earth’s atmosphere, and climate change.

Warner Bros. Theater
Smithsonian National Museum of American History (location is a change from year’s past)
1300 Constitution Ave NW in Washington, DC 20560
Friday 18 May 2018
9am-8 pm

Registration is free and open to the public.

Hear the Story of the Restoration of Huntley Meadows Park

Thursday, 3 May,  7-8.30 pm

 Woodend Sanctuary, 8940 Jones Mill Rd., Chevy Chase, MD

Hear Cathy Ledec, President of Friends of Huntley Meadows Park (FOHMP), tell the fascinating story of the restoration of Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, VA.

From colonial farms to a failed dream for an enormous airport to road surface testing, anti-aircraft battery hosting, and Cold War radio listening station, Huntley Meadows has had an exciting past. That excitement continues into the present day, when after the federal government turned over 1,261 acres to Fairfax County for a park, beavers quickly returned to the wetland and began to change how water flowed through the landscape. Biodiversity in animal and plant species returned, and today you can walk through a beautiful, highly diverse wetland along a network of well-maintained boardwalks and trails. Humans have helped the process of restoration along, working alongside the beavers and ensuring a beautiful natural resource is open to all and showcases an amazing hemi-marsh ecosystem.

Coffee and dessert will be provided while you enjoy an inspiring presentation on how local conservation is achieved in our region.

This program is May’s Conservation Cafe, presented by the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS).  Your $10 registration goes to support the ANS Conservation Program. Click here to register.

Vernal Pool Exploration: Adventure and Education

On a recent sunny April afternoon, educator and vernal pool expert Michael Hayslett led a captivating exploration of vernal pools in the Accotink Creek watershed. Vernal, or ephemeral, pools are seasonal wetlands that provide essential habitat for a variety of life and breeding grounds for frogs and salamanders. Hayslett is conducting an inventory of vernal pools in Fairfax County as part of an initiative by the Fairfax County Park Authority.  He shared his vast knowledge with locals from conservation volunteer groups, youthful naturalists and local governments. Vernal pools are vulnerable to a variety of threats associated with human impact, and this inventory will support efforts to monitor and protect them.

Hayslett nets the pool. Photo by D. Lincoln.

After decontaminating his boots by scrubbing them in a tub of bleach and water to protect amphibians from the dreaded chytrid fungus, Hayslett waded into a pool and began swooping the water with a net. He explained that in order for a pool to be classified as a vernal pool, it must house at least one indicator species. In this region there are four indicator species; the presence of wood frogs, spotted salamanders, marbled salamanders, or the less common fairy shrimp would indicate that the water is a vernal pool.

Hayslett scooped tadpoles into Ziploc® bags filled with water and handed them to his enthralled crowd, talking them through the steps to identify the tadpoles. Did we have an indicator species? How long were the tadpoles? Were their backs very black? Did their bellies have a golden tinge? Bingo. They were wood frog tadpoles, an indicator species: this was a vernal pool. Hayslett had hoped to also find fairy shrimp.

Invertebrates collected at the site.  Photo by D. Lincoln.

While he did not find any fairy shrimp that afternoon, Hayslett has discovered some in Fairfax County.  Unlike frogs and salamanders, fairy shrimp never leave the pool, even as it dries out, but their eggs can remain viable in a dry environment for hundreds of years, hatching only when rains replenish the pool. The eggs can be transported to other pools by wind and by birds.

But why would anything adapt to a pool that’s constantly drying out? The biggest advantage is that fish can’t inhabit them so there’s no competition or predation from hungry fish. The disadvantage, of course, is that these fleeting pools can dry up before the creature has matured from its aquatic to its terrestrial stage, for example, from being a tadpole that needs water to survive, to a frog that can live on land and only needs water to breed. In Virginia, vernal pools range from natural upland wetlands independent of a stream, some of which date back twenty thousand years, to manmade structures that become functional vernal pools.

As the hike proceeded up the trail along the west side of Lake Accotink, the group moved on to a large manmade pond near the old railroad bed.   Some surmise the pond, which is about the size of a baseball field, was built in the 19th century to hold water for the steam locomotives.  Although the pond had held more than a foot of water a month ago, it was now a mud flat. The reason? A stand pipe, that was built to keep the water below a certain level, had been deliberately caved in, allowing the pond to drain under the railroad bed to the lake.  A dead and dried-out mass of wood frog eggs indicated that the pond could be productive as a vernal pool if it was not intentionally drained.

Smashed stand pipe. Photo by D. Lincoln.

Ironically, many such drainage efforts in the 20th century were intended to control mosquitoes. As it turns out, the mud flats are highly productive mosquito breeding grounds, whereas the damselflies and salamanders, who thrive in vernal pools, actually feed on mosquitoes and decimate mosquito populations. This provided an object lesson in how vernal pools have been destroyed through incorrect practices, but they could be brought back to productivity with relatively simple restorative measures.

Water levels in many Lake Accotink Park pool complexes have been controlled by culvert pipes installed to drain high water toward Accotink Creek. Fairfax County’s vernal pools are vulnerable to a variety of threats associated by human impact on the environment, and hopefully Hayslett’s inventory will support efforts to protect them. Hayslett encouraged anyone who has knowledge of a vernal pool that may not have been inventoried to contact him: Principal Consultant, Virginia Vernal Pools, LLC, www.virginiavernalpools.org.

Submitted by: Dave Lincoln and Beverley Rivera, Friends of Accotink Creek

Attend NVCC Green Festival, April 26th

Towards Environmental Resiliency in a Changing World

Thursday, 26 April ● 9.15 am to 4.00 pm
 
Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus
CE Building, Forum, Gym, and Theatre
 
Free and Open to the Public

Festival Highlights:

Screening of the 2016 Film The Age of Consequences
Keynote Address by Michelle Wyman, Executive Director, National Council for Science and the Environment
Free Gifts
Drawings for a Chance to Win a Kayak or a Bicycle
Information Booths for Environmental Organizations

Information at http://www.nvcc.edu/green-festival/2018/index.html.

Job opening: North American Invasive Species Management Association Program and Communications Manager

North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA) seeks an experienced Program and Communications Manager to organize, coordinate, and manage programs, provide strategic guidance to committees and partners, oversee the progress of operations, and manage much of the organization’s communications. At least 50% of this position will be dedicated to the PlayCleanGo outreach campaign; especially expansion of the campaign in the Northeastern U.S.

The ideal candidate will be an excellent leader, able to develop efficient strategies and tactics, and  have experience managing multiple programs and communications tools while producing results in a timely manner.

While NAISMA’s office is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this position can be executed via telecommuting from anywhere in the U.S. if the successful candidate has demonstrated capacity to do so. This is a 1-year, renewable, non-salaried contractor opportunity and is expected to grow to full-time depending on the successful candidate?s performance and the organization?s fundraising efforts.

 

Compensation: $25,000 – $32,000

Who may apply: Open to the Public

Interested candidates should email a resume or CV and cover letter with at least two references to: bbergner@naisma.org by

5:00 pm CDT on Friday, 4 May 2018.

 

See raptors up close

Saturday, April 21st, 10.00am – Noon
Belle Haven Park, 1250 Mount Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA

Come see and photograph live raptors like barn and barred owls, hawks and more up close at Belle Haven Park on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Co-sponsored by Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, and the National Park Service. This is a great event for kids of all ages. Free, no need to RSVP.

Celebrate Earth Day at Hidden Pond–CANCELLED!

This program was cancelled due to low registration.

Hidden Pond Nature Center

8511 Greeley Blvd., Springfield VA

Sunday, April 22nd, 10.00 am-12.00pm

Explore the stream valley and pond at Hidden Pond Nature Center with a tackle-the trash hike, critter talk and Earth Day craft. Give back to Mother Nature by appreciating and beautifying the park. Cost: $8 per person. Register and learn more here.

What on Earth are we doing for Earth Day at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park?

Ellanor C. Lawrence Park

5040 Walney Road, Chantilly VA

1.00 – 4.00 pm, Sunday,  April 22nd

Come and celebrate Earth Day at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park! Learn how plastics affect our environment and our park. Explore what we can do to reduce, reuse, restore and recycle through walks, talks and games.
This free program runs from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 703-631-0013.  Learn more.

Explore vernal pools at Lake Accotink, April 14th

Saturday, April 14th

1.00-4.00 pm, Lake Accotink

The Friends of Accotink Creek invite you to join them for a vernal pool exploration led by Mike Hayslett, a passionate and dedicated champion of these special habitats! This is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a lovely spring day in nature, learning about some of our intriguing neighbors like fairy shrimp and spring peepers and spotted salamanders!

The group will meet in the lower parking lot at Lake Accotink, below the dam.
Youth are welcome! Please dress for the weather. Some areas will be muddy, and there’s some possibility of ticks and poison ivy, so long pants and boots are recommended.

Mike Hayslett (Virginia Vernal Pools LLC), a state expert on vernal pools, is conducting an inventory of vernal pools in Fairfax County, as part of an initiative by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Vernal pools are seasonal wetlands, rare ecological features that provide essential habitat for a variety of living beings, including frogs and salamanders. They are vulnerable to a variety of threats associated with human impact, and this inventory will support efforts to monitor and protect them.

Please RSVP at the meetup  or by email to krisunger@gmail.com. If the group doesn’t get enough participants (12) then they will need to cancel the event, so it’s important to RSVP!

Walker Nature Center Spring Festival, May 5

Saturday, May 5 • 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Free • All Ages • Rain or Shine
Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA

Produced and presented by Reston Association, the Spring Festival is fun for all ages with live animals, fishing activities, craft-making for kids, displays and information from environmental groups, including Fairfax Master Naturalists, and family-friendly entertainment. Entertainment sponsored by Reston Community Center.  Learn more here.