The Message is Simple

All photos provided by Annie Palermo

According to the inimitable Steve Irwin, “The message is simple: love and conserve our wildlife”. Annie Palermo (FMN Fall 2021) passionately lives this message on a daily basis as a volunteer wildlife rehabilitator with the Wildlife Rescue League (WRL).


Wildlife Rehabilitators are individuals, organizations, or animal hospitals that have obtained state and or federal permits, to care for injured, ill, and/or orphaned wildlife with the ultimate goal of successfully releasing them back into the wild. Migratory bird rehabilitation requires a federal permit.

Each year in Virginia, rehabilitators work tirelessly to provide thousands of animals a second chance at life, taking special care to raise them in a safe and natural environment.


Annie has recorded 250+ hours to S081 Animal Wildlife Rescue League by providing valuable wildlife rehabilitation services to about 25 animals over the course of the year. Her passion and caring spirit was evident in her voice as we talked. You quickly realize she has a real heart for the animals in her care. Annie has been a rehabilitator for 3 years, personally providing rehabilitation services to fawns, squirrels, cottontail bunnies, and raccoons. Others in the network provide services to opossums, foxes, turtles, and a myriad of other animals. She said, “25 animals a year may not sound like many but consider that most babies need to be fed every 2 hours in their early stages of development, it becomes quite time consuming – but time well spent”.

The Wildlife Rescue League (WRL) provides licensed rehabilitators throughout Northern Virginia and surrounding areas. It works with a network of volunteers, wildlife centers, animal shelters, humane societies, nature centers and veterinary hospitals to provide life-saving work for wildlife in need. Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is the permitting agency for WRL.

Annie feeding an orphaned squirrel

The busiest season for rehabilitators is February through October, but some animals must be over-wintered. Most rehabilitators work from home on a volunteer basis, personally paying for housing, supplies, medication, and species-specific nutritional requirements.

Annie encourages that if you, or anyone you know, has a passion for wildlife animals and is interested in volunteering on a helpline, as a transporter, caregiver, or rehabilitator please contact one of the organizations below who will be happy to talk to you about starting a highly rewarding journey.






Wildlife Rescue League Services –

Animal Education and Rescue Organization –

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center –

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources –


Secrets, Spies, Sputnik and Huntley, February 28th

This double ring of antennae was the first U.S. tracking station to compile data on the path of the Russian satellite Sputnik just five hours after its launch. 

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

Secrets, Spies, Sputnik and Huntley

When: Monday, 2/28/2022 2:00 pm


3701 Lockheed Blvd.
Alexandria, VA,
Map of Huntley Meadows Park

Cost: $12.00

Click here for more information or call 703-768-2525.

Register Online.

Event Description:

Huntley Meadows Park is home to a nationally significant historic house, majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands bursting with life. Some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area is here.  The Park we know and love today does have an intriguing history.

Take a stroll through the less-visited side of Huntley Meadows Park to uncover the history of spies, espionage and how the Cold War struggle between the US and the USSR shaped Huntley and the Fairfax County we know today. The program at Huntley Meadows Park runs from 2 to 4 p.m. The cost is $12 per person. Meet at the South Kings Highway entrance. The program includes a 2.4-mile walk over flat terrain.

Virtual Winter Lecture-Lift Ev’ry Voice, February 20th

Photo: Courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority (Green Spring Park)

Virtual Winter Lecture-Lift Ev’ry Voice

When: Sunday, 2/20/2022 1:30 pm

Where: Green Spring Gardens

4603 Green Spring Rd.
Alexandria, VA, 22312

Cost: $10.00

Click here for activity details or call 703-642-5173.

Registration is online.

Event Description:

From sea to shining sea, Black people have made rich contributions to American garden history. Join horticulturalist and historian Abra Lee on this journey through the DMV and beyond as we celebrate these horticultural trailblazers. A Zoom link will be emailed before the event. This virtual program is sponsored by the Friends of Green Spring and runs from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Fairfax Regional Science and Engineering Fair – Call for Judges!

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Public Schools

Category judging will take place virtually from March 9 – 15
Grand Prize judging will take place in-person March 19
Register online here.

The 67th annual Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair is fast approaching. Each year over 250 judges are needed to evaluate over four hundred student projects in a wide variety of categories ranging from astronomy to plant sciences to robotics. It is desirable that those volunteering to serve as category judges hold an advanced degree or possess extensive academic and/or professional experience in their selected STEM category. Each Category Judge is only responsible for judging 10 – 14 projects. Chairpersons for each category and Grand Prize judges are also needed.

If you are interested in serving as a Category Judge; please register online at the following link:

They are using the ZFairs Science Fair software system for registration and have attached instructions to help guide you through the process. You will receive confirmation once you have completed your online registration. In early March, you will receive additional instructions including your category judging assignment and access to the project abstracts, videos, and project portfolios.

Questions? Contact Linda Peterson at [email protected]

Virginia Master Naturalists receive award for expanding diversity

Photo by Rich Brager

By David Fleming      21 JAN 2022

A team of Virginia Master Naturalists committed to diversity and inclusion has spent much of the year focused on finding ways to increase participation and encourage engagement between conservation volunteers and communities in the commonwealth.

For their efforts in addressing these challenges of conservation work, the program’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group was recently awarded the Outstanding Team Award from the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs.

“Our diversity and inclusion group was formed in early 2021, with the particular intention of having a team of people who reflect the diversity of the populations we want to reach with our program,” said Michelle Prysby, a Virginia Cooperative Extension faculty member in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the director of the Virginia Master Naturalist program. “Our goal has been to meet to talk about what some of the barriers are for participation in these programs and what potential actions could be taken to help reduce those barriers.”

The group, composed of master naturalists from numerous chapters of the organization, was tasked with developing a list of action items that would serve to increase diversity and inclusion across all of the organization’s programs.

“There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm among Virginia Master Naturalists to engage with communities,” said Alexis Dickerson, a member of the working group awarded the prize. “But people who aren’t naturally engaged in other communities have a hesitation about how to approach that work.”

Dickerson, a member of the Arlington Regional Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist program and an urban outreach educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, notes that the Virginia Master Naturalist program is a useful conduit to connect citizens and community groups with relevant information about natural resources.

“Many of the environmental issues we talk about or educate on are relevant to a lot of very different and diverse communities,” Dickerson explained. “Our ability to identify where those places are, and to work to be a better resource for the people who are already starting to do conservation work, or who have concerns about their natural resources, can significantly increase our service to the state of Virginia.”

The working group, which worked collaboratively during twice-monthly Zoom meetings, recently presented a webinar for all Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers. The group outlined their goals, provided actionable steps for regional chapters, and explained how increasing diversity among participants can contribute positively to the broader outreach aims of the organization.

Prysby said that while these initial steps are positive, the task of expanding access to and participating with the Virginia Master Naturalist program is a long-term challenge.

“The challenge of diversity is always a concern for people working in natural resource education,” said Prysby, who works in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “If our end goal is conservation of natural resources, that isn’t something that just happens. It requires people and communities, and for us to be effective, we need to involve all people and all communities.”

To learn more about how the Virginia Master Naturalist program fosters citizen science in the commonwealth, consider joining CNRE’s Third Thursday Lunch & Learn Webinar on Feb. 17 from 12 to 1:15 p.m.

This article is reprinted with permission from Krista Timney, Ph.D., Director of Communications, College of Natural Resources and Environmen, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The article appeared in the Virginia Tech News daily email.

Invasives Removal: Marie Butler Leven Preserve with Earth Sangha, February 2nd & 3rd

Marie Butler Leven Preserve
1501 Kirby Road, McLean, VA
Wednesday, February 2 and Thursday, February 3, 2022
10 am – 1 pm
Register to volunteer here.

Join the team for a morning of invasives removal at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve. They’ll focus on removing woody invasive species like English Ivy, Wineberry, and Porcelainberry. They’ll provide all tools and gloves. Please dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes, and bring your own water.

Why Bird-Friendly Cacao Is the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift, Webinar, February 10th

Image courtesy of American Bird Conservancy

Thursday, February 10, 2022
4 – 5 pm
Register here.

Americans are expected to buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate the week of Valentine’s Day. Production of chocolate’s main ingredient, cacao, can have a huge environmental impact, but there are ways to produce it that conserve and restore habitat for birds.

Join American Bird Conservancy to learn all about cacao production in Central America and the Caribbean, and how it impacts migratory birds. In this webinar they’ll discuss the new Bird Friendly cacao certification that will be launched this spring by Smithsonian, and show on-the-ground efforts that are helping birds and farmers.

Finally, they’ll provide some tips so when you’re buying chocolate you get the best possible for birds.

Stop Mowing, Start Growing: Native Plants for Beginners and Beyond! February 12th

Photo courtesy of Virginia Native Plant Society

Saturday, February 12, 2022
9 am – 2:30 pm
Fee: $15
Register here.

Whether you are new to native plants and what they can do for your property or you are looking for alternative landscaping ideas, this event is for you! Native plants can:

Create a beautiful yard
Save time so you can enjoy other activities
Create habitat for birds & pollinators
Save money on fertilizer & pesticides
Improve Water Quality
Curb Erosion

Keynote: Natural Plant Communities, Native Plants, and You, presented by Matt Bright of Earth Sangha. Natural Plant Communities exist all around us and are the fundamental way plant species arrange themselves in a natural setting. By understanding these arrangements and mimicking them in our own gardens and built environments we can maximize ecological value and retain a sense of place in the landscape. Matt will introduce the many resources that exist to decode the natural landscape around us including Earth Sangha’s Native Plant Compendium, Glenn Tobin’s Natural Ecological Communities of Northern Virginia, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage program and other resources for regions farther afield.

See the whole schedule, learn more or register here.

Landscaping with Nature

In the winter, as you drive across the American Legion Bridge or across many of our creeks, you may be startled to see large numbers of trees with bright white trunks and branches. You may worry that climate change has struck and left them bleached. Worry no more: those are American Sycamore trees, sometimes known as the Ghosts of the Woods, whose bark normally peels as the trees get taller, leaving a white and brown pattern that shows best once the leaves have fallen. These congregations of sycamores help us notice that our seventy or so locally native tree species are not randomly distributed throughout the woods but rather are living in natural plant communities. As our region ramps up the Plant NOVA Trees campaign, understanding natural communities can help us design our landscaped environments to better support our local ecosystem.

Sycamores and other trees that live in wet soil can survive there because their roots can tolerate low oxygen conditions. They don’t necessarily need a lot of water and can thrive in the low oxygen conditions of many of our dry, compacted lawns. Unlike non-natives, these native trees will provide food for vast numbers of caterpillars and thus for the birds and other critters that eat insects. The contributions of native trees to the food web, combined with the increasing numbers of beautiful species available for sale, are why they are the default choice in all but the harshest of our built environments. Planting any native tree is a very good way to contribute to our region’s effort to expand the tree canopy.

Having said that, though, is it possible for us to do even better by taking plant communities into account? Again, trees are not randomly distributed in the woods, and neither are the birds and other critters that depend on combinations of specific plants. It is not within our power to fully restore the ecosystems which we have destroyed, but we might at least nudge them in the right direction by grouping plant species that would naturally live together on the terrain we have occupied.

If your yard has wet or compacted soil, an American Sycamore could be a great choice. But what if you live on a dry hillside and your soil is not compacted? In that case, you might prefer to choose trees and accompanying understory plants that are more representative of a hillside natural community. For example, Mockernut Hickory, Flowering Dogwood and Maple-leafed Viburnum underplanted with Virginia Creeper and Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod would give you the start of an Acidic Oak-Hickory Forest, a very common plant community around here.

Dozens of plant communities have been identified in Northern Virginia, but only a few of them are very common. How can you tell which is most appropriate for your property? This is no easy task, even for experts, not only because it is highly technical but because humans have altered the landscape in many places beyond recognition. However, you might be able to make a reasonable guess based on the elevation of your yard in relation to the nearest creek. You can then look at a plant list for the relevant community and decide which ones you might like to add to your property, given its current light, soil and moisture conditions. Just as in nature, as your trees grow and shade out the understory, sun loving plants will give way to shade tolerant ones, providing future residents with a haven from the heat, far more useful than a sun-scorched lawn in this warming world.

Details about the plant community concept (and about how you can find someone to help you implement it) can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. Even if you have no planting plans, if you have a passing familiarity with our native trees and other plants, reading about our natural communities can add to your pleasure as you walk through our woods and notice the patterns.

Bald Eagles: A Conservation Success Story, a March 2 Talk

Photo (c) Barbara Saffir

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
7 pm
Register here to receive Zoom link.

Bald and Golden Eagles will be the focus of this presentation by Jeff Cooper, a Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wildlife biologist. Cooper will explore eagle biology, recent research, the Bald Eagle’s recovery and the importance of the Chesapeake Bay region to Bald Eagles.

For over 30 years, Cooper has worked with many bird species, such as raptors, vultures, passerines and marsh birds. He has done extensive work in Virginia on Bald and Golden Eagles, including the delisting of the Bald Eagle from the federal threatened and endangered species list. He has investigated winter ranging behavior of Golden Eagles and worked to minimize wind energy risks, among many other projects.

The sponsors of this program are the Friends of Dyke Marsh, the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, the Friends of Mason Neck Park, the Northern Virginia Bird Club and the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.