2023 City Nature Challenge Brainstorming Event! March 9th

Logo: Courtesy of City Nature Challenge DC

Thursday, March 9, 2023
6:00 – 7:00 pm

Virtual meeting

Registration and additional information.

Fairfax Master Naturalists!
The 2023 City Nature Challenge will take place from April 28th to May 7th this year. Master Naturalists are invited to contribute their knowledge and engagement skills to engage as many people as possible with nature observation. If you’ve been thinking about how to make your own observations count, are considering leading a small group of resident observers, or supporting a local classroom, inspiring friends and neighbors to try out iNaturalist, or you’d like to use the City Nature Challenge to bring attention to biodiversity in your favorite park or neighborhood, then this meeting is for you! Join this meeting to brainstorm new activities and share past adventures, on Thursday, March 9th from 6:00 – 7:00 pm.

City Nature Challenge activities will qualify for service hours: C260 City Nature Challenge – Capital Nature


Tree Rescue Time

Cover photo: Jerry Nissley

Plant NOVA Trees needs help with their Tree Rescuers Program. At this time, they need volunteers to distribute door hangers designed to inform residents about invasive plant species that cause tree failure. Flyers could be handed out at your local HOA meeting, Friends Of group, or Neighborhood Citizens meeting. At the link below there are also short videos that could be shown at your organization’s meeting or the link could be sent to your constituency.
Interested volunteers may learn more about the program here:
At the bottom of their page click the ‘Contact Us Here’ link. In the comment field tell them you would like to distribute flyers.
Time spent distributing flyers or any general support to Native Nova Trees is approved for certification hours:
S861 Plant NoVA Trees – – VA Department of Forestry

Volunteer Opportunities: Raising Mealworms and Rehabilitating Wildlife

Kita’s backyard

Article and photos by FMN Janet Quinn

Wildlife habitat indoors

Kristina (Kita) Andersonhas high hopes as a wildlife rehabilitator. Her home, on one-and-a-half acres in Burke, is a sanctuary oasis in the suburbs. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has permitted her to work with a sponsor and care for migratory birds, squirrels and reptiles and RVS (rabies vector species.). In addition, she has a full migratory bird permit (until 2027) with the federal Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. She hopes to some day create a run to treat foxes with mange and has habitat cages in a spare bedroom and in her backyard.

The biggest expense for bird rehabbers is mealworms, especially in “baby season”,

Mealworm close up

which runs from March to August. Rehabbers pay for their own food and equipment. Kita has an electric heater surrounded by plastic bins of mealworms in various stages. The beetles lay eggs, the eggs hatch into larvae, which need moisture, humidity, and food, then transform into pupae, which become beetles. This cycle requires daily maintenance. Kita uses the mealworms for the wildlife she cares for, which need them live, and gives them to other rehabbers as well.

Mealworm habitat

If you are interested in raising mealworms for animals recovering from trauma, contact Kita at [email protected] and include Mealworms in the subject line. She will provide you with a starter colony and “as much coaching as you can stand.”

The DWR permitting process includes a category for Care Provider, who “may provide direct care for, and may come in direct contact with, wildlife at the facility” of a (higher level permittee) when direct supervision is not available at that facility. For example, a Category II goes on vacation and needs someone to provide care to the animals at their facility. The Category IV Care Provider would be qualified to provide this assistance.

Kita has a full-time job as a journalist and some of the animals she rehabs require care every few hours. For example, she would like to care for ducks and goslings, but they cannot be left alone. Only three rehabbers are permitted to care for these migratory birds in 2023. Without Care Providers, Kita will not be able to take these animals. Last year there were more than 50-60 migratory birds rehabilitated across four or five rehabbers in Virginia.

Squirrels can arrive to a rehabber as “pinkies” (furless babies) or “juvies,” which are two to three weeks old. Kita won’t do “pinkies” this year but would like to accept “juvies” who still need hand feeding every four hours and constant warmth. Kita has lent her small incubator to another rehabber who will be doing the “pinkies.” They will then pass them to her when they are a little stronger and start to have some fur.

You can get started in either migratory birds or squirrels! Interested? Contact Kita at [email protected] and include Rehabber in the subject line. She will walk you through obtaining a Care Provider permit with DWR.

Fairfax Master Naturalists: Record service hours for either project under Community outreach – S999: DWR service projects — Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR).

For more information on the work of a Fairfax Master Naturalist Animal Rehabilitator, see our previous article here.


FMN Quarterly Chapter Meeting featuring a Presentation by Matt Bright, Executive Director of Earth Sangha, March 20th

Photo: Matt and Maeve, Provided by Matt Bright, Executive Director of Earth Sangha

Curious about the Fairfax Master Naturalist Program?

Our Quarterly Chapter meeting will be held on Monday, March 20, 2023 at 7 pm via Zoom. It will consist of a short business meeting followed by a presentation by Matt Bright, Executive Director of Earth Sangha. The title of his presentation is: The human footprint on our landscapes: What legacies of overexploitation teach us about our ability to restore and protect our natural areas. 

Please contact the Fairfax Master Naturalists at [email protected] for more information.

Matt will be speaking about the positive role we can have on the lands and waters around us.  He feels we need to rethink our current relationship to degraded natural areas from passive observers to hands-on stewards, and that the Northern Virginia region is a perfect place to begin making this transition since we’re so lucky on so many fronts: well-studied plant communities, a robust community of conservationists both professional and amateur, supportive parks systems, and access to plants and funding to make things happen, among other things.


Matt Bright serves as the Executive Director at the Earth Sangha where he has worked full-time since 2011 and where he grew up as the son of co-founders Lisa and Chris Bright. Matt enjoys teaching about native plants, how they grow in the wild, and how we can best protect them. He wrote and compiled the Earth Sangha’s Native Plant Compendium (www.earthsangha.org/compendium) to help explain how native plants occur in the wild in Northern Virginia and how we can use that information to restore them, and teaches regularly for the Arlington Regional Master Naturalist chapter. The Earth Sangha is a local non-profit dedicated to native plant conservation and restoration both in the DC area and abroad. Our keystone project is our Wild Plant Nursery located at the Cloud Drive entrance to Franconia Park in Springfield where we host regular volunteer workdays that are open to everyone regardless of experience.

Record one CE hour under Continuing Education – FMN: Chapter Meeting Presentations.

Photo: Courtesy of Joan E. Strassmann

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia presents Author Talk: Slow Birding with Joan E. Strassmann on March 7

Photo: Courtesy of Joan E. Strassmann

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
7:00 – 8:00 PM
Fee:$25 ($15 ASNV Members)

Click here for registration details.

Join this presentation for an engaging talk with author and evolutionary biologist, Joan E. Strassmann. Her book, Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in Your Own Backyard, invites us to re-examine the birds closest to home. Professor Strassmann will share stories and facts about common birds and the scientists (professional and amateur alike) who study them. She will offer advice and guidance on what to look for when slow birding, so that you can uncover clues to the reasons behind specific bird behaviors. Participants will leave with concrete bird-focused activities to do at home to practice slow birding.

Learn more about her book in this recent article in the New York Times.

Joan Strassmann has been a slow birder all her life. She is an award-winning teacher of animal behavior, first at Rice University in Houston and then at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is Charles Rebstock professor of biology. She has written more than two hundred scientific articles on behavior, ecology, and evolution of social organisms. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives with her husband in St. Louis, Missouri.

Is Your Elevator Speech Ready? *

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

How can it be ready if I don’t know what it is?  Imagine you’ve just stepped on an elevator with someone who doesn’t know you are a passionate Virginia Master Naturalist (or any volunteer service you work in).  The average attention span is just about 30 seconds before minds start wandering, so you may only have 30+ seconds to make a powerful first impression.  Think of this time as if you are going on an elevator ride from Floor 1 to Floor 5.  You have that sliver of time to open the door to educate.  It’s about being prepared to recruit new volunteers for our chapter or for your favorite service project. To recruit to our chapter, have the potential volunteer sign up for our newsletter on our website fairfaxmasternaturalists.org or write to [email protected].

Your pitch can include your passion about volunteering, statistics, storytelling, and an invitation to future opportunities.  Here’s a worksheet to walk you through the process.  Answer all 8 questions and you could have the basis for your elevator speech.  Put it all together – say it out loud just to yourself.  Practice it.  Practice saying it to others.  Time yourself.  Know it.  Have it in your “volunteer recruitment  toolbox.” Be ready to talk.  One volunteer who worked in Fairfax County’s Invasive Management Area program dressed as an oak tree draped with an invasive vine and died dramatically at a Halloween Party.   They created their own “elevator” opportunity!

If you are not able to answer a question today, this is a sign that you need to do some additional preparation when that next elevator speech opportunity pops up!  We suggest that you reflect on your experiences, impact and accomplishments.  Develop several possible answers so that you have the greatest chance for turning an opportunity into a new volunteer the next time those elevator doors open.

Here are some examples of members’ elevator speeches.  Add yours to the comment section at the bottom of this article.

1) My name is Marilyn.  I am a certified Virginia Master Naturalist, currently serving as Past President of the Fairfax chapter.  I manage a volunteer corps of more than 250 members on a mission to provide natural resource education, citizen science and stewardship to protect Fairfax’ natural resources.

If I need to elaborate, I say:  We recruit, develop and enable our members so they can support the natural resource projects of our sponsors and partners.  This includes projects like invasive plant management, litter cleanups, collecting data on pollinators or birds, leading nature walks or advising hometowns on landscaping for wildlife.

2) I’m Janet. I am a Virginia Master Naturalist. I’m a volunteer who’s been trained to educate the public about nature in our area, collect data for environmental research and take care of our area’s natural resources. What do I do? I’m a floater and have done a little of everything. I counted Burrowing Owls in still photos for the Global Owl Project, counted invertebrates in streams, read stories to children at a nature center and played Mrs. Claus there, removed invasive plants, grew wild celery sea grass and planted it, served on our board, and currently monitor a Bluebird Trail. I love the variety of service I can provide to care for our planet home!

*This article is adopted from Volunteer Fairfax’s Webinar: Teaching Your Volunteers the Elevator Speech, Presentation by Susan Sanow, Volunteer Fairfax[email protected]

VMN Continuing Education Webinar: Exploring the Mineral Resources of Virginia, March 15th

Photo: Courtesy of The Smithsonian-National-Museum-of-Natural-History, Quartz-var.-amethyst, Photographer-unknown

Wednesday, March 15, 2023
12:00-1:00 pm


Pre-registration is required.

Description:  With over 430 unique mineral species, Virginia hosts a wide variety of unique mineral deposits. In this presentation you will learn more about Virginia’s unique geologic provinces and the various mineral resources and famous ore deposits found within them. Many of these historical sites were the backbone of Virginia’s economic prosperity and for decades provided mineral collectors and scientists with stunning specimens which told a story about Virginia’s geologic past. The presentation will also explore a brief history of Virginia’s key mining developments dating back hundreds of years ago to stone-tool manufacturing and all the way to modern discussions about critical minerals and the future of the state’s extractive industry. An additional goal of this presentation is to provide VMN members and leaders with the best resources and literature available about Virginia’s geology and mineral resources to aid in discussions about why minerals are essential in everyday life and global discussions on energy transitions and climate change mitigation. No presentation on Virginia’s mineral resources could be complete without an array of beautifully photographed images of some incredible mineral specimens collected here in the Commonwealth! 

Presenter:  Thomas Hale is the president of the Friends of Mineralogy Virginia Chapter Inc., a non-profit organization established in 2020 dedicated to promoting the state’s mineral resources and working with industry and teacher associations, along with academic institutions and museums, to increase awareness around minerals in our everday life. Thomas Hale is currently a PhD student at the University of Delaware, in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences focusing on the nexus between the extractive sector and national security. His expertise in mineral diplomacy focuses on using minerals and materials as a method of exploring global challenges facing society. His research areas span the globe, with studies on Afghanistan, Central Africa, and recent work focused on legacy mining operations in Greenland.

These classes are approved FMN CE.  Record hours in Better Impact under Continuing Education > All Continuing Education.  For Approved CE Organization, choose VMN-State or Chapter offered.  In Description, include the name of the class.

Spring Ornithology Course with Dr. Chris Haney, Begins March 27th — Canceled

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Haney

Dates: March 27, 29; April 3, 5, 17, 19, 24, 26; May 1, 3, 8, 10,
Time: 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Where: Virtual
Members:  $150
Non-Members:  $175

Click here for Registration and additional details.

This 12-part online course is designed and presented at an introductory, university level, with two one-hour sessions per week over 6 weeks.

The course will cover:

  • Bird song
  • Avian diet and foraging
  • Mate selection and social behaviors
  • Breeding biology (incubation, chick-rearing, postnatal care)
  • Bird populations
  • Avian conservation and sustainable management

Instructional presentations will include PowerPoint slides, auditory or video supplements, and some in-class participatory exercises. Each Zoom session will be made available to all participants by the following day.

This course will be fully virtual. Participants are encouraged to attend at least 3 group bird walks during the 6-week period as homework. Residents of Northern Virginia are encouraged to participate in walks organized by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia or the Northern Virginia Bird Club.

Instructor: Dr. Chris Haney’s expertise in ornithology includes marine science, climate change, wildlife biology, ecosystem management, and conservation policy. His projects and scholarly work have taken him to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas, Lesser Antilles, several countries of southern Africa, and the former Soviet Union. He has authored over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and technical notes, over 150 reports, abstracts, testimony, blog communications, and other public documents, and delivered more than 150 invited seminar, conference, and workshop presentations. Chris’s knowledge and enthusiasm in the classroom consistently inspire his students!

Job postings for Green Spring Gardens

Image: Green Spring Garden, Fairfax County Park Authority
Join Green Spring Garden’s Education Team! A dynamic group, looking to inspire young learners about the wonders of nature!

Position 1: Horticulture/Nature Programming Coordinator (Adult Programs)

Location: Green Spring Gardens; 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia 22312
Schedule: Must have scheduling flexibility to allow for weekday and weekend times as well as occasional evenings.   Average 25 hours weekly.
Salary: $16.00 per hour.

Overview: Green Spring Gardens seeks a charismatic team member for immediate hire to teach and schedule horticulture and cultural history programs for adults. This position oversees scheduling, staffing, or finding staff for public and private programs. Applicants should have strong oral communication skills with the ability to present and teach to groups of varying, age, number, and cultural background. This team member will be responsible for planning programs, contracting outside presenters, developing and leading education programs, scheduling volunteers and assisting with events. Additional duties include administrative, volunteer management and customer service.

Required Qualifications: Interest and knowledge base in horticulture, gardening, history, and/or educational programming with excellent oral and written communications skills. Enthusiasm for working with people and developing program content.  Ability to present and interpret programs to diverse groups.  Some experience in customer service and administrative support. Successful candidate must be able to acquire a thorough knowledge of Recreation Dynamics point of sale system, familiarity with Microsoft Office Suite, audio visual and standard office equipment.

All newly hired employees are required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment or obtain approval of a medical or religious exemption prior to their start date. Proof of an exemption or vaccination status will be required during the pre-employment onboarding process. New employees who obtain an exemption from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons will still be subject to the weekly testing requirement. Otherwise, vaccinated employees will complete the attestation online in the first day of employment.

Preferred Qualifications: Experience in horticulture, gardening, history, and/or education or a related field. Experience with volunteer management. Undergraduate degree in a related field. Multi-lingual is a plus.

Note:  *This position is scheduled to work a minimum 1,040 hours and no more than a maximum of 1,560 hours in a calendar year. This position is eligible to receive limited benefits, including Medical/Vision/Dental Insurance Coverage, Flexible Spending Program, and Deferred Compensation.

To apply: Please send resume with two references and cover letter to [email protected]

 Position will remain open until filled.  Fairfax County is an equal opportunity employer.


Position 2: Nature Programs Assistant Instructor (for Youth and Families)

Salary: $14.50-16.00/hour*
Location:  Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia
Hours:  15-20 hours per week

Duties:  Assist with all aspects of Youth and Family Education at Green Spring Gardens.  Plan and conduct plant-based nature programs for children and families.  Develop programs, written lesson plans, and teaching aids.  Create and maintain interpretive exhibits.  Gardening and other light physical work.  Administrative duties as assigned.

Minimum Qualifications:  Experience educating children.  Working knowledge of nature and gardening.  Ability to use a personal computer, Microsoft Office Suite including Word, Excel, Outlook, and Publisher; ability to direct and coordinate the work of volunteers. Ability to lift 50lbs.

All newly hired employees are required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment or obtain approval of a medical or religious exemption prior to their start date.  Proof of an exemption or vaccination status will be required during the pre-employment onboarding process. New employees who obtain an exemption from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons will still be subject to the weekly testing requirement. Otherwise, vaccinated employees will complete the attestation online in the first day of employment.

Preferred Qualifications:  Any combination of education, training and paid or volunteer experience equivalent to the following:  Associate or Bachelor’s degree in the sciences, education, or related field, OR experience in education or related field. First Aid and CPR/AED certification. (provided on job)

Note: *This position is may not exceed 900 hours per calendar year. Individuals in these positions are not eligible to earn leave or receive holiday pay.

To apply: Send an emailed or faxed resume to Susan Eggerton, Visitor Services Manager, Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312; email: [email protected] .  Phone inquiries: 703-642-5173.

Position will be open until filled.

Fairfax County is an equal opportunity employer.

Susan Eggerton
Visitor Services Manager
Green Spring Gardens
Fairfax County Park Authority


Naturalist volunteer opportunities at Hidden Oaks!

Photo: Hidden Oaks, Fairfax County Park Authority
Share your love of nature at Hidden Oaks Nature Center!
Hidden Oaks has opportunities for program assistants this spring.  You’ll interact with kids and families doing hands-on activities, experiments, demonstrations and crafts.
As a program assistant, you work with a staff naturalist and enhance your interpretation skills.  One volunteer is needed for each of the below programs except as noted.  To volunteer, contact Kim Young or Kari Schilling, as indicated below:

Friday, March 17, 2023
4:30-5:30PM and 7:00-8:00 pm

St. Patrick’s Day Science:

(5-12 yrs.) Come and explore some green, leprechaun science that seems like magic. We will discover what those tricky leprechauns have up their sleeves, make green snow, green slime worms, and other exciting explorations- contact [email protected]

 Sunday, March 26, 2023
1:30-2:30 pm


(5-12 yrs.) Find out what’s cracking (or not) as we do various experiments with eggs and learn about their many amazing properties—contact [email protected]

Sunday, May 21,2023
12:15-3:45 pm

DinoFest in Nature Playce:

(3-9 yrs.) Learn and explore in dinoland! Compare your height and length to that of dinosaurs. Search for hidden dinosaurs and tracks. Make a fossil impression to take home. Canceled if rain. Child must be accompanied by an adult—contact [email protected]    2-3 volunteers welcome

But that’s not all! 
You can contact Hidden Oaks Volunteer Coordinator Janet Siddle, [email protected], to connect with other programs and projects that match your interests and availability.
There is an on-going need for volunteers to help lead Hidden Oaks’ many programs and camps.  In addition, there are openings for shifts at the Visitor Information Desk.  You would be talking to the public as they enter the building, directing them to their possible interests and answering their many questions.