William Ramsay Science Night

 Cover photo – Jerry Nissley

William Ramsay Elementary in Alexandria is an interesting facility, housing the school, a recreation center, and the Buddie Ford Nature Center. Hosting the first annual Science Night was a natural neighborhood outreach for the school. They were indeed a gracious host too providing dinner, signage, and setup assistance for all the volunteers.

FMN’s connection to the event is Peter Jones, an FMN member and EL teacher at William Ramsay. FMN responded to Peter’s call for volunteers with two nature related topics.

FMN Tom Blackburn with Audubon display – Photo Peter Jones

Tom Blackburn donned his Audubon hat and provided a colorful interactive presentation on “Birds and Beaks”. Jerry Nissley was there with “Turtle Talk”, a fun-fact-filled show and tell display focused on Woodland Box turtles.
The event was set up in the rec-center gym and included tables on a myriad of environmental topics such as Energy Concepts, Water Cycle, Climate Action, and Air Quality Technologies. On the nature side, Buddie Ford Nature Center, Geology and Minerals, Entomology (drawers of awesome bugs from USDA collection housed at Natural History Museum), Pollinators, Spotted Lantern Fly, and the aforementioned Birds and Turtles all had tables.

FMN Jerry Nissley talkin turtles – Photo Peter Jones

Vesta Nelson, Science Coach at Ramsay followed up with a message to the volunteers saying, “WOW! We had over 300 visitors last night.  We weren’t getting a lot of feedback about kids attending, so I really didn’t think it was going to be that big.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Words cannot express how thankful I am because you all really did an AMAZING JOB! The kids learned a lot!  I couldn’t believe what they remembered. We do shout outs at our school and the 4th and 5th graders gave us a lot of shout outs! WOO HOO! I’m so pleased with how it turned out.”

Ethnobotany and Floral Folklore with Alonso Abugattas, May 16

Photos by Alonso Abugattas

Thursday, May 16, 2024
7:00 – 8:00 PM

Virtual Seminar
ASNV Member ticket: $15 (Non-member ticket: $25)

Registration required!

Ethnobotany is the study of how people relate to and use plants in their lives, be it for food, medicine, tools, and many other ways. Learn about plant folklore and how people here used locally native and commonly available plants in the past. Alonso Abugattas will review the natural history of various plants, and provide some tips and references for finding out more about the various native plants.

Alonso Abugattas (The Capital Naturalist) is a well-known local naturalist, environmental educator, and storyteller in the Washington, DC area. He is the Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks and the long-time Co-Chair for the Beltway Chapter of Region 2 of the National Association for Interpretation, the professional association for naturalists, historians, and docents. He is a former officer with the Virginia Native Plant Society, including past president of the Potowmack Chapter. He was awarded their Regional Outstanding Interpretive Manager Award in 2018 and the national Master Interpretive Manager in 2018.

Clean the Bay Day, June 1st

Saturday, June 1, 2024
9 am-12 pm
Various locations.
More information here.

This short, three-hour annual event has a massive cumulative impact. Since it began in 1989, this Virginia tradition has engaged more than 170,066 volunteers who have removed approximately 7.30 million pounds of debris from more than 8,595 miles of shoreline.

Each year, on the first Saturday of June, thousands of Virginians simultaneously descend on the rivers, streams, beaches, and inland parks of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to remove harmful litter and debris. Clean the Bay Day has been a staple for Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay community since its inception more than three decades ago. A true Virginian tradition, it is an annual opportunity for individuals, families, military installations, businesses, clubs, civic and church groups to give back to their local waterways.


Common Plant Family Identification Workshop, June 15th

Image: Courtesy of the Clifton Institute

Saturday, June 15, 2024
10:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Cost: FREE

Registration is REQUIRED.

If you’re learning to identify plants, learning the common families can really help narrow down your options when you’re faced with an unfamiliar specimen. If you already know a few plants, learning their families can provide a useful framework to help organize all the species rattling around in your brain. Whatever level you’re at, learning to identify the plant families around us is a really fun way to get to know the natural world. In this program, Managing Director Eleanor Harris will give a brief talk on the ways to identify the most common plant families in Virginia. Then she will lead a short walk in the Institue’s fields to practice your plant family identification skills!



Dragonfly Identification Workshop, June 14th

Image: Courtesy of the Clifton Institute

Friday, June 14, 2024
10:30 am – 12:30 pm

The Clifton Institute
6712 Blantyre Rd
Warrenton, VA 20187

Cost: FREE

Registration is REQUIRED.

Dragonflies and damselflies are some of the most mysterious and beautiful animals that live at the Clifton Institute, and June is the perfect time to search for them. Join participants for a workshop that will cover the basics of dragonfly identification and biology. They will then practice what they learned by visiting lakes, streams, and fish-free vernal pools, each of which host distinct dragonfly communities. You are welcome to bring a lunch and eat on picnic tables after the program.

Cancellation policy: If you register and can no longer attend this event, please let the Clifton Institute know as soon as possible so that they can open your spot to someone else.


Woodlands Environmental Stewardship Education Center

Drive by the new Woodlands Stewardship Education Center in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park at night and see a magical building tucked within the trees as if it grew there. The gentle glow you see could be starlight or fireflies, but it belies this architectural jewel’s significance in our park.” This lyrical observation by Jennifer Grinnell, President of the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Friends group, was enough to capture my interest … and spark my imagination.

Welcome to the Woodlands Stewardship Education center at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. This new interpretive center is designed to educate visitors on stewardship actions the Fairfax County Park Authority is taking to preserve and protect natural and cultural resources. As an exemplar to inspire visitors to engage as resource stewards, the facility is constructed of reclaimed materials, generates solar energy, collects rainwater, and has on-site wastewater treatment. The Center provides an incredible teaching platform by demonstrating technologies and processes that can reshape our individual relationship with the environment around us.

The web site further explains that the facility was designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge – an achievement attained by only a small number of projects worldwide.
“When looking at the concept for this project, we knew we wanted to raise the bar to a whole new level,” said Park Authority executive director Jai Cole. “Every aspect of this facility is an exhibit that illustrates our connection to the natural world and creates an experience that will ignite the imaginations and creativity of young people through hands-on experiences and play.”

A learning station in the play space

The total project cost was $8.8 million and included $7.2 million in park bond funding, $1.1 million in proffers, and $500,000 in financial contributions through the Fairfax County Park Foundation. General project features include an interpretive center with multipurpose spaces, kitchen and restroom; an educational kiosk and plumbing room; outdoor amphitheater and observation deck; a large STREAM (science, technology, recreation, engineering, arts and math) activity play space with connecting trails; native plantings; and related site improvements.

Jennifer Grinnell elegantly concluded, “Just as it shines through the forest at night, so too, it shines every day as a beacon of stewardship and a concrete call to action; one this community will do its best to answer.”

Volunteer Opportunities: There will soon be volunteer opportunities for FMN, both interpretive and stewardship, at the Center. Keep an eye out for postings on the FCPA volunteer main page.

You may also contact the E. C. Lawrence Volunteer Coordinator, Kristin Mahieu via park information services.

For a glimpse inside the doors and a short video, visit their Website


Thank you Kiersten Fiore, Visitor Services and Operations Manager at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, for contributing to this article.

Thank you FMN Marilyn Schroeder for the topic suggestion and initial content.

All photos curtesy of FCPA.

The Basics of Bird Anatomy with Dr. Kathleen Hunt, Webinar Rescheduled: June 17th

Image: Bird Guide Part 2, Chas. K. Reed, Public Domain

Monday, June 17th, 2024
7:00 – 8:00 PM

Virtual Seminar
ASNV Member ticket: $15 (Non-member ticket: $25)

Registration required!

Have you ever wondered what a secondary feather is, what a wishbone or a gizzard is for, how an eggshell is made, or why birds don’t have teeth? In this overview of bird anatomy, Dr. Kathleen Hunt (Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation) will explain how a bird’s body is put together and how it all works. Dr. Hunt will go over the visible features that are useful for birding identification, and then take a peek inside at some ingenious internal features like the lightweight skeleton and the avian air sac system. By the end of the class you may be envious of the birds’ design!

Kathleen E. Hunt, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. She is a physiologist and endocrinologist with a strong interest in applied conservation physiology. Most of Dr. Hunt’s research interests center on impacts of environmental and anthropogenic stress on reproduction and health of free-ranging vertebrates, with an emphasis on applications for conservation. She has studied nest timing, nest success, and the effect of environmental change on Arctic tundra birds and avian malaria on native Hawaiian birds.

FCPA Announces the Farmers Market Opening Days

Photo: FCPA Farmers Market

The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining, which means the Farmers Markets are opening up for the 2024 season!

Farmers Market Opening Days

  • Mount Vernon Farmers Market: April 17 
  • Burke Farmers Market: April 20 
  • Reston Farmers Market: April 27
  • Oakmont Farmers Market: May 1
  • Wakefield Farmers Market: May 1 
  • Annandale Farmers Market: May 2
  • Herndon Farmers Market: May 2 
  • McLean Farmers Market: May 3 
  • Kingstowne Farmers Market: May 3
  • Lorton Farmers Market: May 5

Please click here for more information about the Farmers Market Schedules and locations.   

Earth Sangha’s Spring Open House and Native Plant Sale, May 5th

Image: Courtesy of Earth Sangha

Sunday, May 5th, 2024
9:00AM – 1:00PM

Earth Sangha Wild Plant Nursery
6100 Cloud Dr.
Springfield, VA 22150


About the Wild Plant Nursery

The Wild Plant Nursery is a unique resource for ecological restoration in the greater Washington, DC, area. Established in 2001 in Springfield, Virginia, under an agreement with the Fairfax County Park Authority, the nursery is the region’s most comprehensive source of local, wild native-plant material (“local ecotypes”). The use of local ecotypes is a standard best practice in ecological restoration because that helps to safeguard genetic diversity and local adaptation in the species planted. The nursery is currently working with about 340 species, some uncommon or rare in the wild in this region. For many of these species, their nursery is the DC area’s only source of production — local ecotype or otherwise. All plants are grown from seed (or spores) that they themselves collect, from over 50 local natural areas. (They collect only with permission.) The nursery serves their own planting programs, as well as those of area governments, schools, businesses, and other conservation nonprofits. They rely on volunteers to run the nursery! To join them, check the Volunteer page for our Field SchedulePlease note that their nursery and office addresses are different. The Wild Plant Nursery is located at 6100 Cloud Dr. in Grove Point Park (formerly known as Franconia Park), Springfield. Our office is located in Annandale but is not open for plant sales.

Earth Sangha’s Wild Plant Nursery Species List




Stream Monitoring Citizen Science & Training Opportunities, May

Photo: FMN Janet Quinn, Hidden Pond stream monitoring

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Sugarland Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 2, 3:00-6:00pm
Where: Sugarland Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon/Sterling

This site is located near one of the largest great blue heron rookeries (breeding/nesting areas) in the eastern US. Volunteers often find plenty of newly hatched young crayfish in the spring. This is also the most accessible stream site, which can be easily reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Little Difficult Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Saturday, May 11, 1:00-4:00pm
Where: Fred Crabtree Park/Fox Mill Park, Herndon

This small stream is located in a peaceful wooded park a short hike away from the parking area. Little Difficult Run often scores very highly on the macroinvertebrate index because its watershed lies almost completely within the protected parkland. Reaching this site requires hiking through the woods and over uneven terrain. Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Quander Creek/Dyke Marsh Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 16, 9:00am-1:00pm
Where: Mount Vernon District Park, Alexandria

Volunteers monitor a small tributary of Dyke Marsh twice this spring in partnership with the Friends of Dyke Marsh. This is the District’s only muddy bottom stream, all others use the rocky bottom protocol. You will see a lot of cool crane fly larva and dragonfly larva here! Reaching this site requires walking through the woods and over uneven terrain. Space at this workshop is limited. If you’re interested in joining us, please email Ashley.

*NVSWCD Workshop*
Horsepen Run Stream Monitoring Workshop

When: Thursday, May 23, 3:00-6:00pm
Where: Horsepen Run Stream Valley Park, Herndon

This site has undergone a lot of change over the last few years! While it had become more challenging to monitor this site in the past, recent changes to the streambed have brought more riffles to monitor and we’re excited to see how this changes the macroinvertebrates we may find! This is an accessible stream site, which can be reached by wheelchair and/or other assistive tools over a paved path (there is a moderate slope). Learn more and register for this workshop and others here.


More Training and Stream Monitoring Opportunities

The NoVa Soil & Water Conservation teams are  very excited to contribute their stream data to state and national datasets. If you’d like to see data from all the NVSWCD regional stream monitoring team’s active sites, you can find our organization on the Clean Water Hub.