Learn all things bluebird, conference Nov. 16th

Dorothy Hart Community Center
408 Canal St, Fredericksburg, VA
Saturday, 16 November 2019
8am – 3pm

The Virginia Bluebird Society’s 2019 Biennial Meeting will be an all day bluebird fest. The keynote speaker will be Bet Zimmerman Smith, a North American Bluebird Society board member and Life Member of NABS. Her highly regarded and hugely popular website, sialis.org was ‘developed as a resource for people interested in helping bluebirds and other native cavity-nesters survive and thrive.’

The registration fee ($40 VBS-members, $50 non-members) includes continental breakfast, lunch, programs and door prizes.

View the breakout session topics and register here.  Master naturalists, earn 3.5 hours of continuing education credit.

Cutting edge: Water Chestnut Program (WCP) Meeting, Nov. 15th

Twin Lakes Golf Course, Club House, Ball Room
6209 Union Mill Rd., Clifton VA 20125
Friday, 15 November 2019
10 am – 2 pm

The Fairfax Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists is facilitating an informational meeting about the invasive water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa).

The water chestnut program (WCP) would be an early detection and rapid response project for naturalists who would like to identify, verify, map and remove this novel species of water chestnut before it becomes established. The focus area is within the Potomac River watershed in Virginia.

This type of water chestnut, discovered by Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (VGIF) in the tidal Potomac River at Pohick Bay in 2014, is not known to be established elsewhere in the USA. Scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) have found that it is spreading, but it is not yet considered widespread, or outside the Potomac Watershed. This is an opportune time to take measures to remove it before it becomes a huge menace in the Potomac River and watershed. Species of water chestnut (Genus, Trapa) are known to spread extensively and be invasive in Virginia and other regions of similar climate. Trapa can quickly grow over the surface of shallow water, completely shade out native submerged aquatic plants, impede water flow, clog irrigation pipes, alter biodiversity, and obstruct recreational boating and swimming.

Come to learn about this water chestnut species and explore options for eradicating it.  Virginia Master Naturalists, natural resource managers, pond owners, gardeners, naturalists, invasive species managers, pond management companies, and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Program is free and open to the public. Please see the agenda and register here.  Questions? Email [email protected].

Fairfax Master Naturalists:  This program qualifies for Continuing Education credit.

Wildlife Conservation in a Changing World: Can Wildlife Adapt?, a talk Nov. 13th

Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd., Alexandria VA
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
7:30 pm

Climate change is happening now. Even if we drastically reduce emissions soon, changes will continue into the future because greenhouse gases already emitted can stay in the atmosphere for decades. How will this affect wildlife? Can wildlife adapt? What can we do to help? Climate change on its own, and in combination with other stresses, may push many species to their limits. Climate change can adversely affect wildlife, for example, when the life cycles of interdependent species get out of sync and when rising coastal waters flood nesting sites. Too little or too much precipitation can stress whole ecosystems. Dr. Sally Valdes will explore how climate change is affecting wildlife and offer some steps for addressing this threat.

Dr. Valdes has a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology from Cornell University with minors in natural resource policy and ecosystem ecology. She worked for almost 25 years as a biologist in several federal government agencies. Since retiring, she has taught an environmental health and a wildlife ecology class. As a federal employee, Dr. Valdes served on an advisory group that developed the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and was responsible for integrating climate change concerns into environmental reviews of proposed federal projects.

The program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh.

Roving Trail Naturalist opportunity at Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows Park
3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria , VA 22306
Eight hours per month for one year
Contact Halley Johnson (Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator)

Do you love nature and getting outside as much as possible? Do you want to share that excitement with others? Join the Huntley Meadows team as a Roving Trail Naturalist!

Volunteers will work independently on Huntley Meadows trails. They will have access to biofacts and educational supplies to help support their engagement with visitors. Roving Trail Naturalists will engage with visitors of all ages and background to increase awareness and appreciation of Huntley Meadows’ resources.

Volunteers should have a passion for nature and a desire to learn more. Strong communication and people skills are a must. Patience with all visitors and a willingness to coordinate with staff required. Experience in informal education a plus, but not required. Ability to stand/walk for up to 4 hours carrying a backpack. Volunteers must attend division orientation and complete required training. There will be on the job training as well. Applications due by January 1, 2020. This position will require a background check.

Fairfax County Bug Bioblitz, Oct. 25-31st

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Gear up for Halloween by looking for creepy crawlies in your neighborhood! Insects support whole ecosystems. Let’s celebrate them!

Insect populations are declining worldwide. Help us monitor our local insect and arachnid populations with this fun citizen science project.

Using iNaturalist, an app that can be downloaded to your Android or Apple phone, make and upload your observations between October 25th – October 31st, anywhere in Fairfax County. You can also join them for their public event on Saturday, October 26th from 10 am – noon at Lake Accotink Park.

More information on iNaturalist here.


The Local Lens: Engaging communities through participatory photography

Tuesday, October 29

12:00pm – 1:00pm ET


For coastal fishing communities in Zavora, Mozambique, the ocean is a way of life. Yet coastal overfishing threatens this small and dynamic community on the southeastern coast. Designing a lasting solution first requires understanding the community and the perspective of people. One way to do that is through participatory photography.

Working with renowned photographer, Jason Houston, Rare gave cameras to four community members to document their lives and share their experiences through their own lens. What emerged was a personal look at the daily lives of the people of this extraordinary place along Mozambique’s Wild Coast.

Join Houston and Rare’s BE.Center for a free webinar exploring how participatory photography can be used as a powerful tool for practitioners looking to engage communities and better understand their world.

During this webinar, you will:

  • See stunning photos from this fishing community shot both by Jason Houston and members of the community
  • Hear from Jason Houston about his experience embedding himself in a fishing community
  • Learn the core principles of participatory photography and how you can apply it in your own work to gain insight into community experiences

While the webinar is free, space is limited.


FMN members win 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards for service

The 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards recipients are:

Individual Awards:

  • Catherine Ledec
  • Helen Stevens

Organization Awards:

  • Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
  • Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER) Working Group

County Employee Award:

  • James Hart
  • Noel Kaplan


Catherine Ledec

Cathy Ledec has worked on many local initiatives regarding natural resource protection, restoration and land use.  Cathy is an indefatigable public advocate, leader and volunteer who inspires others and works to incorporate environmental considerations and impacts into decision-making.

As president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, Cathy led two conservation campaigns that resulted in the long-term conservation of natural and historic resources, including rare and globally significant resources.

One campaign challenged a local utility through the State Corporation Commission’s regulatory process, in which a transmission line rebuild project was proposed on Huntley Meadows Park property. Cathy spent hundreds of hours leading volunteers, reviewing the proposal, collecting documents to verify the presence of threatened species and habitats, consulting with experts, preparing and submitting testimony and responding to questions, all under tight deadlines. As a result of her leadership and persistence, the utility company agreed to change the project design to avoid permanent damage to a historic viewshed, reduce the transmission line collision risk for birds and ensure the protection of natural and cultural resources at Huntley Meadows.

Cathy led another campaign to remove two conceptual paved bike trails from Fairfax County plans for Huntley Meadows Park, thereby protecting sensitive park resources. Cathy compiled scientific evidence on the significance of the areas to be impacted, including the presence of rare plants, animals, and habitats. She organized community support and guided those who wanted to provide public testimony, a first for many.  This led to unanimous support from both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for the removal of these conceptual trails from County plans.

In addition to providing public comments to minimize the impacts of development projects, Cathy performs public outreach as a certified Fairfax Master Naturalist, Audubon-at-Home ambassador and member of the Plant NOVA Natives coalition.  She also restores habitats as a site leader for the Fairfax County Park Authority Invasive Management Area program and as the president of her homeowners’ association; participates in citizen science for the Washington, D.C. and Fort Belvoir Christmas Bird Counts; and serves on multiple advisory boards, including Supervisor Dan Storck’s Environment Advisory Committee.  She led efforts to restore habitat at the Mount Vernon Government Center, chaired Supervisor Storck’s first Environmental Expo in 2018 and was recently elected Chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission.

Cathy has made significant contributions to the advancement and support of many of the county’s environmental goals with tangible results and motivates others to get more involved, often against difficult odds, to create a more lasting and healthy community for all of Fairfax County’s residents.

Reston Annual State of the Environment Working Group

The Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER) Working Group, established in 2017 by the Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee, is comprised of nine volunteer professionals and citizen scientists, including Doug Britt, Don Coram, Robin Duska, Linda Fuller, Carl Mitchell, Sara Piper, Claudia Thompson-Deahl, Katie Shaw, and Stephanie Vargas.

Since the completion of the RASER in November 2018, the RASER Working Group has presented the findings of the report to the public and evaluated and documented progress toward implementation of the 2018 recommendations.

The report evaluates the status of an array of environmental resources and attributes related to air, water, forests, meadows, wetlands, landscaping, urban agriculture, wildlife, hazardous materials, light and noise pollution, and education and outreach; incorporates information from more than 325 data sources and scientific reports; and describes how each attribute relates to Fairfax County’s Environmental Vision. Nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer time went into the production of the RASER and the implementation of many of its 72 recommendations.

To address the paucity of information about wildlife in Reston, the RASER Working Group recommended that Reston implement a BioBlitz to collect information on biological diversity. During the subsequent event, scientists, citizen scientists, and other interested parties were recruited and then conducted inventories of biological species in Reston.  More than 90 naturalists and volunteers (including the RASER Working Group) identified 608 separate species of plants, animals and other organisms within Reston.

The Working Group also addressed the protection of Reston’s urban forests and residential connections to their environs through 55 miles of paved and natural pathways. The Working Group noted that such connections were central to the growing Biophilic movement, which recognizes that connecting urban landscapes with nature provides physical, mental, and emotional benefits, in addition to many ecological services.

The RASER Working Group recommended that Reston apply for membership into the prestigious international Biophilic Cities Network. Reston subsequently became the first Virginia community and the first unincorporated community to be accepted into this worldwide network, joining such cities as Singapore, Oslo, Wellington, Sydney, Birmingham, Edmonton, Austin, Phoenix, Portland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington DC. Reston now participates in monthly conference calls with environmental managers from other member communities.

The Working Group also drafted a “Biophilic Pledge,” listing actions that residents can take to become more nature friendly. Reston is now serving as a role model for other communities, including Arlington County, to join the Biophilic movement. Based on Reston’s lead, Virginia may soon become the first U.S. state with multiple Biophilic Network communities.

Through these and other actions, the RASER Working Group has established a strong foundation for the assessment and enhancement of Reston’s ecological resources and helped to create well-connected urban landscapes where nature and community members can thrive.

Earth Sangha seeks part-time office manager

Want to put your office skills to work protecting forests and meadows? The Earth Sangha seeks a part-time Office Manager to support their office. The Office Manager will be responsible for the various day-to-day tasks that make a small nonprofit run. These tasks include, but aren’t limited to: database management (Filemaker), data entry (Excel), mailings (stuffing envelopes and labeling), basic accounting (Quickbooks), invoicing, updating their email list, event preparation, and answering phones. The Office Manager will be based at the Earth Sangha office (5101 Backlick Road, Suite I, Annandale VA 22003) with occasional work at the Wild Plant Nursery (6100 Cloud Drive, Springfield VA  22150).
No relevant degree/certification necessary, but candidates should have a strong interest in conservation, public service, and have experience in office administration. Candidates must be highly-organized, self-directed, and have good communication and interpersonal skills. $15 per hour to start. For more details see www.earthsangha.org/staff.

Using Service Learning and Citizen Science as a Meaningful Context to Teach Plant Science, a talk Nov. 17th

Green Springs Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA
Sunday, 17 November 2019
1 – 4pm

Join the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society at their annual meeting with speaker Dr. Peter Mecca.

Dr. Mecca will describe some of the science-learning opportunities available to students at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia. For example, every fall and spring, Mason students assist National Park Service Staff at Shenandoah National Park to remove invasive plants along the Appalachian Trail. In addition, Mason students are leaders in urban agriculture through traditional gardening (raised beds) and alternative gardening (hydroponics, FarmBot) methods. The presenter will share information about a potential new learning opportunity for students – a citizen science experience in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Peter Mecca has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Ecology from Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. degree in Environmental Biology from Hood College, and a B.S. degree in Secondary Education – Biology from Penn State. He has served as a public school teacher, science education consultant, administrator, and a university faculty member. Prior to his current position, Dr. Mecca was the Instructional Systems Specialist for Science with the U.S. Department of Defense Schools. He is a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Virginia Association of Science Teachers, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and the Council of State Science Supervisors and was awarded the Conservation Education Teacher of the Year by the VA Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Calling all amateur photographers!

Northern Virginia Conservation Trust’s Sixth Annual Nearby Nature Photography Contest is going on right now.

Categories for Adults

  • Awesome Animals
  • Beautiful Bugs
  • Fantastic Flowers
  • Tremendous Trees

Categories for Youth (under 18): Same categories listed above – but will be judged separately.


  • Submitted photos must be taken within the Trust’s service area: Arlington, Caroline, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, and Stafford counties; and nearby independent cities including Alexandria, City of Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
  • Each participant may enter up to 4 photos, taken any time of year. Please do note that each photographer is only eligible for only one award per year.

General Contest Information

  • The NVCT Nearby Nature Photography Competition is open to non-professional photographers of all ages. This contest hopes to promote awareness and appreciation for all the beautiful natural wonders that are found in the small, medium, and large outdoor spaces in our communities – including our backyards, local forests, and local working lands.
  • Photographers retain all rights to photographs submitted and agree to grant NVCT the right to publish the images with or without names. Even if your photos don’t make the final cut, you may still see your images used to help promote NVCT’s conservation work online or in print materials! This growing stock of imagery is a great asset to our organization, and we greatly appreciate your contribution!

How to Enter

  • Choose or go take some awesome nature photos!
  • Download and complete the entry form and photograph release, linked here: adult form; youth form
  • Email the forms and your photos to [email protected] by midnight, Wed., Oct. 31.
  • Please put your name, the category, and the title of your photo in the subject line of the email. If submitting more than one photo you may send one email – please just label the photos.
  • Look out for our announcement of the winners in November! Judges will review the submissions for creativity, content, composition, and originality, and award the top photographs by youth and adults in each category. Youth categories may be combined.
  • Come to the showcase on January 11, 2020 so that we can thank you for your participation (optional)!

Feel free to contact our communications coordinator, Leahif you have any questions!