Participate in the 2018 International Coastal Cleanup

The International Coastal Cleanup began more than 30 years ago, when communities rallied together with the common goal of collecting and documenting the trash littering their coastline.   The Friends of Accotink Creek (FACC) will be working to clean up Fairfax County’s waterways as part of this effort.

How can you help? – Join them at one, two, or as many cleanups as you like.

Have friends? – Invite them to join. Spread the word. Your civic association, club, school, business, etc. is welcome to join or share the news in newsletters or websites!

Are you a leader? – Take charge of one or more of the cleanup sites, by registering and directing volunteers.  FACC provide supplies for the day of the cleanup, including trash bags, gloves, and sign-in sheets.

Learn more, see the schedule and register here.

Fall volunteer opportunities at Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Want to share your love of nature with children and families?  Great opportunities are coming up this fall for Master Naturalists and other interested volunteers. Here’s a sampling:

Meaningful Watershed Education Experience, Hidden Oaks, Sept. 26 & 27, 9am-12:24pm; Oct. 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 18, 24, & 25, 9:15am-12:45pm.  Assist at stations including stream studies, stewardship, benthic macroinvertebrate study or live animal exhibits for 7th grade classes.  Contact Kim Young, [email protected].

Fear-less Fest, Hidden Oaks, Oct. 27, 5:30pm-9:15pm. Join as a trail leader or costumed creature explaining away their scary reputations, or lead a craft.  Light supper provided. Contact Fiona Davies, [email protected].

Monarch Tag and Tea, Hidden Oaks, Sept. 9, noon-4pm.  Assist with crafts and monarch butterfly tagging.  Can do part of presentation, if desired. Contact Fiona Davies, [email protected].

Nature Playce Celebration, Hidden Oaks, Sept. 29, noon-5pm.  Hidden Oaks celebrates outdoor play and environmental stewardship at the 10th anniversary of Nature Playce and the watershed-friendly parking lot.  Lead a craft or activity station. Can volunteer for a minimum of two hours.  Contact Fiona Davies, [email protected].

Plants and Trees for Child Care Professionals, Hidden Oaks, Oct. 13, 7:30am-12:45pm.  Prepare crafts in advance or assist on the day for Office for Children Institute of Early Learning workshop on native plants and trees for up to 50 licensed child care professionals.  Contact Suzanne Holland, [email protected].

Master Naturalists can record hours for the programs above as E110: FCPA Nature Programs.

Find more opportunities by contacting a Fairfax County nature center or park near you.  Hidden Oaks, Huntley Meadows, Riverbend, Ellanor C. Lawrence, Frying Pan, Green Spring Gardens, Hidden Pond, and Cub Run RECenter have a wide variety of volunteer needs in nature programs, citizen science and stewardship.

New (and No-Cost) Statewide Beehive Program–Suspended

Effective July 30, 2018, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has suspended the Beehive Distribution Program for fiscal year 2018-19 due to the extraordinary number of applications received by VDACS.  The Beehive Distribution Program experienced overwhelming interest from Virginia’s citizens as more than 2,600 applications have been submitted since the opening of the application period on July 1, 2018.  VDACS anticipates that the current applications will utilize all funding allocated for the program.

Virginia has experienced a sharp decline in beehives. You can help rebuild the critical local buzz that’s needed.

Virginia’s recently established Beehive Distribution Program provides beehives to both new and established beekeepers in an effort to increase the number of actively managed bee colonies.

“Last winter, Virginia lost 59.5 percent of its hives,” said Keith Tignor, state apiarist. “The Beehive Distribution Program will help counteract those dramatic losses by assisting beekeepers in establishing new hives.”

The program provides beehive equipment directly to eligible beekeepers. Residents of Virginia who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to receive up to three beehive units per year. Individuals who receive a beehive unit will be registered as beekeepers, allowing for periodic inspection of beehives by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Learn more and apply for the beehive program.

Credible climate action plans: How you can help make them a reality

Bill Hafker

Climate change, and the impacts that it can, is, and will likely have on almost every aspect of our lives, and the lives of all other living things, is the most all-encompassing environmental challenge humankind has faced.  As Master Naturalists we well know its implications for our natural world–the oceans, plants, animals, forests, water supplies, weather, etc.  As informed global citizens, we also know the economic and social implications climate change has for our infrastructure, coastal cities, agricultural output, fires, droughts, and even migrations of people.

As the world struggles to find the way and the will to identify and take the steps needed to try to keep temperature rise from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement, what can we as Master Naturalists do to help to increase the likelihood of success of efforts to address climate change?  With our knowledge of the severity of the issue, and the criticality of ensuring that efforts taken to address it are done in a rigorous, and sound scientific and economic manner, and are properly documented and shared with the public, we can help ensure that climate plans, regardless of who prepares them, are credible documents that are likely to achieve what they purport to do.

Whether we are part of helping develop a climate plan for an organization we belong to (e.g., a faith community or homeowners association), submitting comments solicited in the preparation of county or state energy, environmental, or climate plans, or responding to plans offered by others (e.g., companies, municipalities), we can provide input that helps ensure that the plan actually stands a chance of doing what it claims to.  Just this past July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the Fairfax County Operational Energy Strategy which is “intended to further the objectives of the Board’s Environmental Vision”.  Prior to that adoption, a draft of that Strategy was available for comment.  The State of Virginia is in the midst of taking input on the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan (comment period closes 8/24) because “The Plan is intended to provide a strategic vision for the energy policy of the Commonwealth over the next 10 years”.

These are just two very significant opportunities for Master Naturalists to review and evaluate what is being proposed and offer comments in support of what they find good in the draft plans, and suggestions for how they should, or even in some cases must, be improved if they are to actually deliver climate risk reduction.

I recently presented a paper at the Air & Waste Management Association Annual Conference:  “A Framework for Credible 2 Degree Celsius Climate Planning”.  For those interested in preparing a credible climate plan that will pass muster with those who would challenge its completeness, or who seek a yardstick against which to evaluate strong points and shortcomings of climate plans they wish to review and comment on, this paper offers  a checklist of 11 elements that are needed in a credible climate plan.  The 11 elements of the planning framework are described, and their relationship to each other is presented in a flow diagram, allowing users to compare plans they are helping to develop, or ones they are assessing, for completeness.  The flow diagram also shows how the elements interact with each other, and over time, to deliver results.  With 36 years as an environmental engineer with ExxonMobil, I used  the petroleum industry as the source of examples of how such planning can be effectively done; however, the framework presented is equally applicable to any climate planning activity.

Bill Hafker is a graduate of the Spring 2017 Fairfax Master Naturalist class.

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

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay: RiverTrends Water Quality Monitoring service project

The Fairfax chapter has approved a new citizen science service project (C257) to perform water chemistry testing in Chesapeake Bay watershed streams and rivers.

The Alliance’s citizen water quality monitoring program is a regional network of trained volunteers who perform monthly water quality tests that help track the condition of waterways flowing toward the Chesapeake Bay.

Each month,  volunteers complete an observational survey at their stream site and conduct tests for dissolved oxygen, pH, water clarity, salinity (where appropriate), temperature, and bacteria. Data is reported to the Alliance, which partners with other water quality monitoring groups in the Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative.

Volunteers attend a training session where they learn about water quality and how to collect data following standardized protocols. Volunteers spend 1-2 hours monthly collecting data at their stream sites and completing the required tests within 8-48 hours, depending on the test. Volunteers complete a written report and submit data online or mail in the report. Volunteers may choose when they monitor, but they should try to monitor at the same time each month, although there is some flexibility for weather, etc. The Alliance would like each volunteer to monitor at least 10 times per year.

Data is annually submitted the to Virginia DEQ for use in the Virginia’s 305(b)/303(d) Integrated Water Quality Assessment Report to EPA, which summarizes water quality conditions and identified waters that do not meet water quality standards.

All volunteers are trained by Certified Watershed Coordinators under the Alliance’s Quality Assurance Program Plan (QAPP). Training includes an initial session where monitors learn about water quality and testing methods and an annual recertification session to check monitoring equipment, chemicals, and methods.

To learn more about the program, contact the program coordinator Amy Hagerdon at [email protected]

Review of Deep Look: PBS examines the mysteries of nature

Reviewed by Laura Anderko

We can all relate to the majesty of a mountain or the expansiveness of the ocean. And while many Fairfax Master Naturalists engage in activities that require an “eye for detail” such as counting caddisflies during stream monitoring, it is not always possible to capture the splendor of the life of a caddisfly.

Now in its fourth season, PBS Digital Studies and KQED San Francisco offer a series of nature videos entitled Deep Look. These 3- to 5-minute videos cover a wide range of topics, such as how the caddisfly builds a protective home of pebbles using a waterproof “tape”. The photography is stunning, using macrophotography and microscopy (in 4K resolution) providing detailed views of nature that are often overlooked or invisible to us. Decidedly better than our bug boxes with magnifying lid! 

But these videos offer more than the inside scoop on insects. Birds, sea life, plant life, animals, and how climate change impacts wildlife are also explored. Examples of topics include: 

Feathers and the owl’s quiet flight

Sea otter’s fur and the secret to staying warm

Life of sand

Death cap mushrooms in disguise 

Coral provides clues about weather 500 years ago

Episodes offer a topic of interest for everyone. New episodes are offered twice a month (complete watch list). For educators (elementary, high school and beyond), PBS Learning media provides a platform for students using the Deep Look videos. As a professor in public health, I found the episode on ticks fascinating with its images of how it uses its hooks to extract blood and ultimately, spread disease. I will be using it in the course I teach this fall. 

I encourage you to take a few minutes to observe nature “up close and personal” to gain a deeper appreciation of our natural world and the complexity of lives of even the smallest of creatures. And how our work as Master Naturalists helps in safeguarding nature, no matter how “small”. 

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

Plant NOVA Natives seeks volunteers for September events

Plant NOVA Natives is the joint marketing campaign of a coalition of non-profit, governmental, and private groups, all working to reverse the decline of native plants and wildlife in Northern Virginia. Their strategy is to encourage residents as well as public and commercial entities to install native plants as the first step toward creating wildlife habitat and functioning ecosystems on their own properties. All are welcome to participate in this collective action movement! ​

Events in need of volunteersPlease sign up here. No experience necessary! Just a basic understanding of why native plants are such a good idea.

• 9/22 Green Spring Garden Fall Garden Day – Dress up as a pollinator with a sign that says “Ask me about native plants.” Give out cards telling people how to find Plant NOVA Natives Guide.
• 9/23 Manassas Latino Festival – Spanish-speaking volunteers needed.
• 9/23 NatureFest – Runnymede Park, Herndon. Engage with kids – they have tons of ideas for you.
• 9/29 Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale. Sell Guides.

We need social media volunteers for outreach. Please help post content – email [email protected].

Engage your neighbors in a community project. Would you like to engage your neighbors in the home habitat movement? Help pilot an Audubon-at-Home certification program for your neighborhood by organizing a “Habitat-in-Training” community, in which 60% of residents commit to plant at least one native plant as the first step toward eventual Audubon-at-Home certification for the community as a whole. Plant NOVA Natives is seeking volunteers who can help them figure out how to create a fun and easy program. Click here for details of this work in progress, and email [email protected] if you are interested.

Web person needed – The Wix software is user friendly. The work consists of occasional updates to existing pages and creation of new pages using text and photos which will be provided. They just need you to be adept enough at basic computer skills to be able to work independently and quickly.

Take advantage of fall native plant sales

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. Scroll down to find the Fall Native Plant Sale portion.  You’ll also find 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 for them. Traditional commercial nurseries are selling more and more native plants as well (but don’t expect to find natives at big box stores).


Learn how native plants support wildlife, September 12th

Join the Friends of Dyke Marsh to hear Dr. Desiree Narango speak about her research on how residential landscapes influence biodiversity.

Common yellow throat

The talk will focus on her research comparing how well native and nonnative trees provide food for insect-eating Carolina chickadees.  She will share results from her work that can help you choose trees and shrubs that will support habitat for birds and other backyard wildlife.  She is a postdoctoral researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh and co-sponsored by Plant NOVA Natives, the Northern Virginia Bird Club, and the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society.

Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria VA

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

7:30 pm



Help at the Earth Sangha Pull-a-thon 10-12 August

Join Earth Sangha for a Pull-a-thon at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve this weekend!  The group is going to continue to focus on pulling mile-a-minute and Japanese stiltgrass from the woodland edge. It’s crucial to remove these invasives now before they set seed.

Marie Butler Leven Preserve, 1501 Kirby Road McLean, VA 22101

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10-12 August 2018

9 am – 12 pm

For more details, click here.