EmpowerU! Advocating Invasive Species Management Training

Learn how to work with decision makers, influence management decisions, and stop the spread of invasive species!


Have you been working on invasive species issues but feel compelled to do more? Taking part in the EmpowerU Advocacy Training Program will move your invasive species work to the next level! 

The program includes a series of online, self-paced modules, followed by an in-person workshop. Both parts are mandatory. Topics such as who makes decisions about invasive species, persuasion, framing, and finding reliable information about invasives are introduced and then incorporated into your personalized engagement plan via assignments within the online learning modules. At the in-person workshop, you’ll practice the skills you learned and get feedback on your engagement plan.


This program is open to natural resource volunteers and forest landowners with an interest in developing skills to engage decision-makers in invasive species management.


Participants should allow about two hours a week for four weeks to complete the online course before attending the in-person workshop. During registration, you’ll select which in-person workshop you plan to attend, and the online course will be open to you one month prior to that workshop. Both the online and in-person components are required.

In-person workshop dates and locations:

  • Friday, February 15, Farmville, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Saturday, February 16, Blacksburg, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Friday, March 8, Providence Forge, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 9, Madison, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm


The course fee is $25 and includes lunch. 

Wait, I Thought Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteers Couldn’t Engage in Advocacy?

Not all engagement with decision-makers is political advocacy!  For example, you and other members of your chapter might adopt a local park and engage in discussions with the park manager in order to advocate for more management of invasive plants in the park.  This sort of engagement is not political advocacy and could legitimately be part of a VMN project.  This training is not focused specifically on lobbying elected officials or getting legislation passed, but rather on effectively engaging the right decision-maker for the change you hope to make. Plus, you might want to use the skills you learn outside of your VMN service!

Registration Info

Before you register, please visit http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/empoweru.html and read all the information so that you can understand the expectations and requirements of the program. If you decide it’s for you, you’ll find the registration information there.


Registration at least one month prior to the in-person workshop is preferred so that you have the full amount of time to complete the online modules.  Registration will close two weeks prior to the in-person workshop.

SPACE IS LIMITED. We will maintain a waitlist as well.

QUESTIONS: please email [email protected]

How Plants Move: A Talk by Charles Smith

Thursday, January 10, 2019

7:30 – 9:00 pm

Green Spring Gardens

4603 Green Spring Road

Alexandria, VA 22312

VNPS programs are free and open to the public.

No reservations are necessary for lectures

Please join us for a talk by Charles Smith, to kick off our lecture series again this year.  Charles explores the ways plants disperse across land and water and discusses reproductive strategies, niche exploitation, plant community composition and what the future may look like considering the fragmented condition of our landscape and climate change.

Charles is a native of Arlington, VA, and a naturalist and ecologist with 25 years of experience working primarily in natural resource management, including the Fairfax County Park Authority and five years with Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.   He is currently branch chief of Fairfax County Stormwater Planning Division, focusing on stream and natural area restoration.  Charles is a US Army veteran; board member of Virginia Native Plant Society, Prince William Wildflower Society and Prince William Conservation Alliance; and member of Friends of the Potomac River Refuges.  He is a popular VNPS speaker and has served as an instructor for three chapters of the Virginia Master Naturalists.

Nearby Nature Showcase, January 25th

Reston Art Gallery & Studios
Lake Anne Village Center
11400 Washington Plaza W # B, Reston, VA 20190
Friday, 25 January 2019
7pm (awards and recognitions at 7:30 pm)

The Northern Virginia Conservation Trust is hosting their first-ever art gallery showcase of winners from the 2018 photo contest. After the art show, a social gathering will take place at the neighboring Lake Anne Brew House. Join them in celebrating the beauty of Northern Virginia and mingle with other photographers, our contest judges and NVCT staff! RSVP to Emily at [email protected] or call 703-354-5093.

If you’d like to see their winning photos from this year, visit their website. To view the full gallery of photo submissions, click here.

Earth Sangha offering paid internships for 2019

Earth Sangha is looking to fill five paid, part-time, DC-area internships: 

2 growing-season internships at our nursery
2 summer internships at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve

1 office internship near George Mason University’s main campus

All internships will pay $15 per hour.
For details contact Matt Bright at [email protected] 

Virginia Forest Health Conference

Each year the Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals (VAFHP) holds a conference for professionals and other interested community members who want to learn more about forest health and ecology of the Mid-Atlantic. The 2019 Conference will be held in Blacksburg, VA January 28-29.

Attendees include local, state and federal officials, independent contractors, consultants, horticulture and forest industry representatives and students. We encourage anyone interested in the ecology of the Mid-Atlantic to participate. VAFHP is committed to developing and providing education and training for natural resource professionals. 

This year they will be offering a scholarship which will provide free registration to the conference. Note that the deadline to apply is December 31.  The application for this is available on the VAFHP website.

Agenda and registration 

VNPS Annual Winter Solstice Field Trip, 23 December

Chapman State Park, MD (driving directions and more information here)

Sunday, 23 December 2018

10 am – 4 pm

Please join the Virginia Native Plant Society for this annual winter tradition to celebrate the beginning of the winter season at Chapman Forest (Chapman State Park, MD) with its spectacular scenery and remarkable diversity of native plants, wildlife, and natural communities! Leaders will be Rod Simmons, Bonnie Bick, Mary Farrah, and Robin Firth.

This year they will visit the old-age forest section from the low river terrace and extensive Water-willow Shrublands along the Potomac River to the marl cliffs and ravines near Glymont. This section of the park is a fascinating and regionally unique meeting ground for plants with a primary range in the inner Piedmont and mountains and those of the Coastal Plain. Before participating, be sure to read Rod’s description of the old-age forest at Chapman.

The Winter Solstice Field Trip is free and open to non-members. Registration is not required.  For additional information, contact Anne DeNovo at [email protected]

Fairfax County Community Survey, complete by Dec. 21st

Every five years, each Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) office across the state undergoes a situation analysis, to assess the needs of their county or region. This community survey is a vital piece of the VCE Fairfax situation analysis. 

The purpose of this survey is to gather information about issues in Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church. Please take a few minutes to share your opinions. Your responses will help shape Virginia Cooperative Extension programs in Fairfax. The survey is anonymous. We appreciate your time in completing this survey.  Take the survey.
 Please respond by Friday, December 21, 2018.

Virginia Cooperative Extension takes pride in providing educational programs targeting the most pressing issues, problems, and needs of the local community. For more information on VCE Fairfax, please contact our office: https://fairfax.ext.vt.edu/  

Response to Major Bee Kill in Reston, June 2018

Article by Don Coram

On June 14, 2018, residents of a Reston housing cluster noticed hundreds of dead and dying bees on their parking lots and lawns.  They were concerned because they were aware of the importance of bees, but were unsure what to do about it. They contacted the Environmental Resources Department of Reston Association (RA).  With the help of a couple of Fairfax Master Naturalists, RA submitted a pesticide complaint for the residents to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (VDACS). VDACS collected specimens of the dead bees and pollen and sent them to a lab for pesticide analysis.  It was also reported to the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs.

RA also contacted a bee specialist with the Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab of the United States Geological Service (USGS).  He identified the bee species and counted the dead bees which had been collected by RA: 1278 bees, comprised of 13 species, only a few of which were honeybees. The most common bees found were two-spotted bumblebees and common eastern bumblebees.  The USGS specialist believes the incident is “actually nationally important”. 

On November 6, 2018, VDACS sent its report to RA.  The lab found the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid in the specimens.  The investigation found that Imidacloprid had been applied as a systemic pesticide to the basswood trees in violation of the Virginia Pesticide Control Act.  

To put this incident in perspective, bees are critically important pollinators, responsible for pollinating about 75% of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the U.SA.  But the populations of bees have been declining drastically nation-wide. More than half of US species are in decline and a quarter are at risk for extinction. The probable causes are pesticides and habitat loss.  

In particular, neonicotinoid pesticides (also known as neonics for short), such as Imidacloprid, are highly toxic to bees and can have serious sub-lethal effects on bees’ foraging ability and reproduction.  Neonicotinoids can remain toxic to bees for years when used as a systemic insecticide. They are widely believed to be a major contributor to the Colony Collapse Disorder for honeybees.  However, neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture as seed coatings, foliage sprays, and irrigation water additives. More problematic is the use of neonicotinoids in horticulture, where training may be limited and regulations may not be as closely followed.  

There is a growing movement world-wide to restrict the use of neonicotinoids for the sake of bees.  For example, in 2015, Oregon banned the use of four neonicotinoids on linden and basswood tress after a large bee kill in 2013 caused by a neonicotinoid pesticide.  In 2013, the Save America’s Pollinator Act, intended to limit the use of neonicotinoids, was introduced in the U. S. Congress. In 2015, Montreal banned the use of all neonicotinoids within the city limits.  In February 2018, the European Food Safety Authority banned three neonicotinoids for all outdoor uses because of the threat to bees.

Individuals and landscaping companies in Virginia should carefully follow pesticide labeling instructions and the Virginia Pesticide Control Act.  In particular, do not use neoniotinoid systemic insecticides on linden, basswood or other trees in the Tilia genus.  Virginia residents, particularly FMN members, can assist in saving bees by reporting sites with many dead or dying bees to VDACS directly, 804-371-6560.  For more information on pollinators, contact The Xerces Society, Plant NOVA Natives, or the National Wildlife Federation.

Find photographic hotspots, a talk on January 15th

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Chantilly Regional Library, 4000 Stringfellow Road, Chantilly VA

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

7-8 pm

Don’t hibernate this winter!  Learn when and where to find close-up wildlife in the winter mid-Atlantic.  Please join wildlife photographer, amateur naturalist and author Barbara J. Saffir to discover the best places to see nesting eagles, “fairy diddles” (acrobatic flying squirrels), winter blooming flowers with intoxicating scents, flamboyant ducks and more.

Last Call for 2019 RVA Environmental Film Festival Film Contest Entries

The ninth annual Richmond Environmental Film Festival (RVA EFF) will be held February 4 – 13 & Feb. 16, 2019.  The deadline is 11:59 pm on January 1, 2019.  The annual event will showcase films selected to raise awareness of environmental issues relative to all residents of our planet. Submission information for this sixth annual RVA EFF Virginia Environmental Film Contest and more information in general about the RVA EFF will be found at https://rvaeff.org/contest.

All Virginia filmmakers are encouraged to submit entries.  In the past, the contest has been open to only documentaries, but the criteria has widened to allow fiction and nonfiction entries that include environmental themes.

At the past 2018 festival, An Oyster’s Eye View of the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program by Mr. Ronaldo Lopez, a Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Environmental Studies graduate, won the $1,000 grand prize, while Kenny Fletcher’s Menhaden: The Chesapeake’s Unsung Hero and Jess Jacklin’s Waterman received $100 runner up prizes.  The prize money awards were supplied by Sierra Club – Falls of the James Group. The Secret Sandwich Society, a popular restaurant located in the heart of Richmond, VA has stepped forward to sponsor the 2019  “Virginia Environmental Film Contest” award.  “We continue to be enthusiastic and delighted with the contest entries we receive.  Our festival followers have embraced the contest and it has become a powerful feature for the festival.  The contest also underlines our commitment to local filmmakers,” said the RVA EFF’s main contest organizer, Scott Burger